How hiring a CEO is the same as hiring anyone else

11 December 2017 Reading Time: 3 minutes

I can start off by confessing something: I am not a company executive. So I was as surprised as anyone that a chat with someone who hires executives for a living could teach me practical tips for getting hired. By the end, I turned to the nearest CEO saying “we’re not so different you and I.”

Our CEO Dimitar just sort of shrugged and said “yeah, I know.” But that’s beside the point. Some things about hiring are universal and Cydnee Dubrof, managing director of The Dubrof Group executive search and talent consulting firm, taught me that. Here’s how.

“You want to have a bespoke resume”

One thing that came up early in our conversation was that Dubrof had encountered an Enhancv resume before. She didn’t mince words about what happened: “I recently presented a candidate who had one of your resumes… it was not well received by my client. She found it too distracting. I agreed and also didn’t like it because it did not show her complete professional history. My clients hire me to show a complete picture.”

Now at this moment, it would have been easy to get defensive. But I wanted to focus more on what the lesson was. After some back and forth, Dubrof said something illuminating. “Sexy, fun resumes are appropriate if you’re in an industry that’s graphically intense. I just helped the daughter of a friend who’s an artist and wants to be a dog walker so we put images of her art on her resume. But on a traditional executive’s resume graphics should take a back seat to data. Each resume should be curated or tailored to the person and the opportunity. You want to have a bespoke resume.”

Suddenly, what could have easily turned into an argument over whether color and design elements mean you’re not serious turned into a discussion of what a resume should be. In fact, this matched perfectly with what my colleague Tatiana found in a recent experiment: that different audiences reacted differently to resumes with more personality. Specifically, she found that recruiters were far more conservative than CEOs.

“… but it has to be thoughtful color.”

In so many words, unlike the way hiring works for nearly everyone else, I’ve learned that executive recruiters have far more than six seconds to review a resume. They’re not just willing to parse through a half dozen or more detailed pages, it’s essential to ensure they’re hiring the right candidate.

So using a 5+ page resume full of detail to apply for a mid-level salesperson job just doesn’t make sense. Just in the same way, using a breezy one page summary resume for that CEO job is probably not going to get a good reaction. If real estate is about “location, location, location” then resumes are about “audience, audience, audience”. Still, there are other elements that Dubrof says every resume can and should have.

As she put it: “trust me, if I get a resume that has a little more color I’m happy to see it because they can get monotonous, but it has to be thoughtful color.” Dubrof essentially argues that shorter isn’t always better, more personal isn’t always better, but more thoughtfully tailored to its audience is always a better approach for a resume regardless of the seniority of the position.

Enhancv How hiring a CEO is the same as hiring anyone else

LinkedIn is essential, but not enough

Dubrof didn’t mince words about one of the quickest way to get crossed off her list: “LinkedIn is huge for me. I augment it with other research, but if a candidate doesn’t have a professional headshot and a coherent biography, s/he will get discounted quite frankly… And I will tell you a picture is worth a thousand words. You might be an absolutely fabulous executive, but if you pose for a headshot in a wifebeater or full disco makeup, I question your judgement.”

Still, in spite of the importance that both AHA Foundation Executive Director George Zarubin and Dubrof ascribe to the platform, “LinkedIn is not enough. LinkedIn is simple one of your tools. I coach mid-career executives that are seeking to make a change that in addition to a professional LinkedIn profile they must have a polished resume, engaging cover letter, crisp elevator pitch and compelling career narrative.”

Questions we all need to start asking

In the end, most of us don’t apply for jobs the way CEO’s do. But Dubrof makes it clear that we can and should think about the job application process the way they do. That means considering every aspect of how we present ourselves from the perspective of the person who might be hiring us. What are they looking for? How much time do they have to consider me? How can I make choosing me as easy as possible?

Whatever job you’re applying for, answering these questions is the first step towards success.

Eric D. Halsey

A writer with a passionate belief in the power of peer to peer learning and storytelling to change lives. Wants nothing more than to spend a day cooking, reading books, playing board games, and discussing history and politics with friends. Also always up for an adventure!

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