Posts Tagged ‘resume strategy’

Have Executive Experience – Will Travel: The Interim Executive Phenomenon

December 19th, 2012

Interim management – bringing in heavyweight executives to manage an organization during a period of crisis or transition – is a staffing strategy that began in the Netherlands in the early 80s in response to stringent labour legislation that made it costly to hire and terminate permanent employees. The concept has since been adopted in the UK, Germany, Belgium, and Australia as a strategy for bridging short-term management needs, and is becoming increasingly popular in North America.

I had the chance to talk with Carmen Jeffrey, a Partner with Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions, about how Interim Executive solutions are evolving in North America. Carmen is responsible for Talent Acquisition in Knightsbridge’s Interim Management Division.


The Interim Executive Phenomenon

Have Executive Experience - Will Travel

 What Drew You to Specialize In this Field?

I’ve been in recruiting for 15 years, and have personally freelanced for almost 70% of the time, so I’ve always been a big believer in corporate freelance-for-hire. Since my early days in recruiting, I’ve seen an impressive increase in the quality of talent that is available for contract positions, and “contractor” no longer has the stigma that it once had, either for companies or for candidates. Interim management is an extension of that model. With the average tenure of permanent executive placements now being less than five years, it’s a solution that’s right for the times, and it is a substantial growth area for recruiters. 

Why the Growth in Interim Executive Solutions?

Interim management really gained traction in the UK and Europe in 2001 following the bust, when companies found it too risky to hire people full-time. North American employers started taking notice, especially when the recession hit in 2008. It took time for the business model to evolve, for Interim Management to gain credibility as a viable recruitment option at the senior levels. Demand is growing now as employers become aware of the model, and as more and more high calibre executives begin to promote themselves in the interim management market.

 What is the Typical Profile of an Interim Executive?

In my experience, great interim executives are full of a little more “spit and vinegar” than average. They are adaptable and agile, and have built a management tool kit over a varied career. Typically, they will have worked for five or six organizations over 20 or more years, and have grown professionally in that time. They have seen a lot of different business landscapes and have successfully addressed complexities and challenges such as merges & acquisitions and boom & bust cycles.

Ageism isn’t a factor in the interim market because companies are looking for experience. I would say the average age of interims is 50 to 55 years. They are senior VPs, Directors, CEOs who are looking to reinvent themselves and have a lot to offer. They can hit the ground running and be effective within the first week. A lot of project managers and program managers do well as Interims – they know how to make things happen.

 Is There a Typical Profile for the Employers?

Companies of all sizes, in all industries, are using interim executives, sometimes as a way of avoiding the cost of the golden handshake when they know they only need somebody for a fixed term. There is always a sense of urgency, maybe a project deadline, or an audit. It could be the sudden departure of the incumbent due to illness. Usually, in my experience, they also have a “skeleton” in the closet, some kind of internal pressure that means filling the positioning internally is not an option.

 How is this Different from Using Consultants or Contractors?

When a company hires on contract, the contractor is given less access to certain repositories of information. Contractors can’t attend certain meetings for confidentiality reasons. Consultants are brought in to provide advice, but don’t have decision-making authority. Senior-level Interims, on the other hand, become members of the executive decision-making team. It’s always clear that the Interim Executive has been hired with a mandate to drive change. The average tenure is about 18 months. They don’t have to partake in the politics, and are expected to be objective. They have permission, and the luxury, to be blunt – to be “outside” insiders – so it is often easier for them to execute the change agenda.

 Are There Risks/Downsides?

I haven’t personally seen any failed Interim assignments, but I’ve heard stories of interim hires that didn’t work out. Usually its because the expectations weren’t well defined by the company. Perhaps the company’s vision was “go go”, but they couldn’t accommodate the necessary horsepower, or didn’t have the infrastructure in place to support the vision.

What Does the Business Relationship Look Like?

The Interim Executive workforce is more sophisticated today than it was in the past. Typically they are incorporated individuals for hire, and we strongly recommend this. At Knightsbridge we can put them on our payroll if they aren’t incorporated, but the tax savings are almost 20% if they incorporate.

For the employer, the Interim is a line item on a budget sheet rather than a headcount. Compensation is calculated based on a per diem or annual compensation package that includes the monetary value of salaries, benefits, bonus and vacation time if they were hired full-time. At Knightsbridge we take a hands-on role in helping with these negotiations.

 How Does Interim Executive Recruitment Work?

At Knightsbridge we work on a contingency model and charge a research fee for sourcing the candidate. However it’s not often that we are competing with another recruitment firm to find an interim candidate. We are working with really short time frames – only two to five days to get the shortlist together, with the expectation that the Interim Executive will begin working within ten days. We have a database of over 6000 Interims, a pipeline that we’ve developed over 7 years and continue to feed through our work Executive Transition, Career Transition, Leadership Development and Talent Acquisition. We also go out to professional associations and headhunt net new talent.

If Somebody Wants to Get Into the Interim Exec Business, How Should They Start?

If somebody is interested in interim management as a career path, I strongly recommend that they research the landscape and become really savvy about how other Interims are marketing themselves. Hang out the shingle and advertise yourself as an Interim Executive for Hire. Have a mission statement that identifies the specific things you can do for a company, the kinds of situations you can handle.

Be proactive in getting incorporated. Two years ago Revenue Canada started audited people who were incorporated to make sure that they stated their books accurately, so it is advisable to work with an accountant to set it up.

Write your resume with Interim Executive opportunities as a target. This is no time to try and hide your age, embrace it. The value that you bring to the table is the depth and diversity of experience you have to offer. Showcase your successes with situational management, where you’ve had to roll things out under duress. Highlight executional accomplishments as opposed to day to day management. As you build a portfolio of interim engagements you can add this experience to your marketing material.

There are a growing number of executive search firms that have an Interim Management group, including Knightsbridge, the Osborne Group, Odgers Berndstson, and Atticus Management in Canada; and FTI Consulting, Boyden Interim Management, and Transition Management Consulting, Inc. in the US.

But Interim Executives should be ready to hunt down their own work. At least one day in five should be spent doing calls. Successful Interims are always networking and promoting themselves, and this has a benefit not only for their own career but for the industry as a whole. As more and more interims advertise themselves, employers are becoming increasingly aware of the interim option, and this is driving growth in demand overall.


Don’t Fill Your Resume With Sea Junk

July 30th, 2010

I am an inveterate beachcomber. One of my soul-satisfying delights when I’m on vacation is to find interesting bits of sea glass, seashells, broken pottery, and rusty something-or-others, and at the end of a seaside walk I will inevitably return with a few new treasures in my pockets. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a collection of odds and ends, which until recently have been tucked away in boxes, baskets and whatever is handy around the house. This week I decided to consolidate my collection into a single location, and was dismayed to realize exactly how extensive it was. If I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with sea junk, I needed to cull, and I needed to be ruthless in doing so.

Beachcombing Collection

Beachcombing Collection

Maintaining your resume over the years can be like that. You create a document to land a job, add bits to it as you progress through your career, until one day you realize you have six or more pages of “sea junk” and no clear idea of how to cull it down into a useful document again.

If you don’t have a clear career brand, if you don’t know who your target audience is, if you don’t understand what their buying motivators are, then it can be hard to decide what to include and what to cut out. Your resume is your career marketing document, a key component of your job search arsenal, and every word, every phrase, every formatting decision must add value from the reader’s point of view. The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be to decide what to include and what to exclude from your resume. By researching your target companies and understanding their pain points, you will be able to go through your resume with a ruthless “so what” editing pen, to ensure that what remains provides a clear and compelling picture of why you are the perfect solution to your target audience’s biggest challenge.


What Is Resume Strategy Anyway?

July 7th, 2010

Today I completed my 600th free resume critique (wild-stab-in-the-dark estimate, but my point is it’s up there). I always take the time to review each resume in detail and provide very specific advice on resume strategy (unless you’ve given me something truly horrendous, I rarely comment on format). But it occurred to me as I was typing up my comments today that I am often repeating myself. It’s not that I’m getting lazy, it’s that I see the same kinds of mistakes being made again and again. So, as a procrastination move because it’s 98 degrees out and much too hot to pack for the trip I will be taking shortly, I’ve decided to put together some of the suggestions I’ve offered this year, as a kind of who’s who on resume strategy.

Objective Statement

  • “Instead of using an objective statement, use the title of your target job. It’s okay to change it each time you send your resume out, but if you aren’t sure about the target yet, its premature to write your resume.”


  • “Consider your resume as a marketing document, you have to write with a particular audience in mind, and you have to know what it is you are selling them.”
  • “What is your ideal next company? Is it a mid-sized firm who is looking to take their enterprise infrastructure to the next level of integration and needs a Business Analyst who can bridge the language and thinking of business and technology? Is it a consulting company who helps other firms? What are you particularly good at, and who could use those skills? What ever it is, take the time to define your audience (if you have more than one, you may need different versions), and get really clear on their pain points. Then, write a summary that speaks to their pain points and demonstrates why your background and experience makes you the ideal candidate to solve their problems. In total it should take you less resume real estate to say than it did for me to explain it.”
  • “It can be tempting to try to keep your resume general so that you can use it for several different positions, but this strategy will work against you. If you have several different interests or opportunities, then tailor a different profile for each of them.”
  • “In today’s job market, everybody is describing themselves as a dynamic, problem-solving team player. It’s the equivalent of ‘new and improved’ in product marketing – nobody buys it.”


  • “Your list of skills should only include things that are directly relevant to the target job.”
  • “Put together a list of ten or twelve terms and phrases that describe your expertise – look at sample job ads to make sure you are hitting to top keywords”
  • “Make the skills focused on your target job only – somebody who is hiring an IT sales guy doesn’t care that you are good at desktop publishing unless their product or target client is related to desktop publishing.
  • You have 26 skills here, and the important stuff is getting lost. See if you can get it down to the top ten. Start by skipping the fluff, because your reader almost certainly will”


  • “Since you did a master’s degree, I’m guessing that there was a master’s project, this would be a good place to describe it (one or two bullets at most)”
  • “The fact that you are a certified reflexologist is of no relevance to your career goal as an accountant. No, it doesn’t demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning, and no, it doesn’t show that you have a lot of interests other than accounting. Get it out there.”
  • “Have your credentials, degrees and professional development in the same section, or at least close together, or a hiring manager may not notice that you have your PMP, MBA and CGA”
  • The important part here is the degree that you obtained, not the school you went to. Make sure *that’s* the thing that jumps out.

Experience (New Graduate)

  • “Instead of dividing your experience between volunteer and professional, divide it between Relevant Experience, Additional Professional Experience, and Community Involvement. For the items that fit under relevant experience, indicate whether you volunteered or were paid”

Experience (Seasoned Pro)

  • “You’ve committed a lot of resume real estate to laying out your responsibilities, but there is nothing attention-grabbing here. Your resume should tell a good story of your career. What was your mandate when you came on board, and how did it change over time? What was happening in the company when you came on board, what challenges did you have to face, what kinds of problems did you help solved. Who did you help, and why did it matter?
  • “As you consider what to write here, keep the target in mind, and ask yourself so what, because they certainly will.”
  • “No idea what this means, and that’s a bad thing. Give a brief description of what you were actually doing, emphasis on brief. All these ten bullets can be consolidated into one tightly written description – leaves room to focus on accomplishments”
  • “You held two different positions with *****. Was this a promotion? If so, its worth showcasing this point – why did they pick you?”
  • “This is not a five-verb accomplishment. By over describing it this way, you are diluting it’s impact”
  • “Read your resume out loud. Does it sound stilted when you say it? That’s the way it will be perceived by somebody else. Too many adjectives, adverbs and four-syllable power words makes it hard to read, and can come across as ostentatious. Remember, your goal is to make the reader’s job as easy as possible. “

Dated/Non-Relevant Experience

  • “This takes up a lot of resume real estate, and unless this is an area you want to get back into, you can cut the details out and summarize this into “previous experience includes four years as a ***********. This will make room for more information/accomplishments on your more recent jobs.”

IT Skills

  • “It’s going to be the rare hiring manager who cares that you’ve used Windows 95.”
  • “Go through this list with a ruthless editing pen and leave in only the software, hardware, middleware, and methodologies that are in demand for your target job – unless your target company is one with out-dated systems, in which case, leave it in.”


  • “Separate out the professional associations from the philanthropic ones.
  • “For the professional associations, did you just pay the annual membership fee, or were you actively involved. If involved, briefly describe how.”

Other Interests

  • Knitting reading gardening walks on the beach stamp collecting photography
  • “International travel: Asia, South Africa, Brazil, Eastern Europe *** this is good to keep in if your target job could require business dealings with other countries”
  • “Three-time Ironman competitor (2nd place and 4th place finishes) *** I like this. It demonstrates your drive to succeed and ability to set and achieve goals”

I will continue to provide free critiques, and I will continue to do them one by one, in detail, no template statements. But chances are that if the candidate wasn’t thinking like a marketer when they wrote their resume, my feedback will include some of the points above.


The Passion Myth

June 10th, 2010

If you google “find your passion” you will get 39,000,000 hits. Go to the self-help section of any bookstore and you will see 50 or more volumes on finding your passion, following your passion, living your passion. Every other twitter bio or LinkedIn bio has a reference to “passionate about.” Passion, as they say, is the new black.

So I was hardly surprised when a young friend came to me for career advice, and started the conversation by saying “My job sucks, I’m bored to tears. I just can’t figure out what my passion is”. She spoke as if somewhere, out there, is a single career-related purpose that, if she could but find it, would lead to eternal fulfillment. This was her fifth “it sucks” job in three years, and it was clear that she had fallen for the passion myth.

Myth # 1: I’m not making enough money, so clearly I’m not on the right path.

Reality Bite – Passion does not equate with income.
If you are lucky, you have a passionate interest that feeds your soul and gives lightness to your day. But if you look outside yourself for affirmation or compensation for your passion, you may be in for disappointment. Don’t believe me? Watch the auditions for American and Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, and you’ll see thousands of people hoping that their talents will make them a star. For all but a handful, that dream will be crushed. Many of those crushed enthusiasts will be too embarrassed to ever sing or dance again and that, to me, is tragic. If you are passionate about singing, then sing. If you are passionate about dancing, then dance. But do it because you love to sing and dance. Not because you crave the applause.

Nearly every self-help book or website mentions turning your hobby into a career. Stories abound of people who did exactly that and made millions. Less often told, but exponentially more numerous, are the stories of people who tried to turn their hobbies into an income stream and things didn’t work out the way they expected. The woodworker who stopped getting any joy out of his art because all of his commissions were boring pieces for clients with no imagination. The cooking enthusiast who never got to do any cooking because they spent 95% of their time dealing with the mundane business details involved in running a restaurant.

More practical advice would be to “Find a Job that Pays Reasonably Well So That You Can Afford to Follow Your Passions Outside of Work – but that wouldn’t be a very sexy book title.

Myth #2: ‘Following Your Passion’ is doing work that has meaning instead of being a mindless worker ant.

Reality Bite – All work has meaning – even the boring stuff.
Stop approaching passion as if it were something that you can “find”, like the perfect lifestyle accessory, or something that you “do”, like saving the world. Start thinking of passion as a way of being, a quality that you can and must cultivate.

When it comes to our work, we choose to be passionate. Or not. We choose to be actively engaged. Or not. We choose to be conscientious. Or not. We choose to treat customers and colleagues with courtesy and consideration. Or not. We choose to give more than is expected. Or not. We choose to see ourselves as part of the big picture. Or not.

People who can manage to be engaged, conscientious, courteous, considerate, giving and enthusiastic even while slinging hashbrowns or counting widgets *have* passion. And that passion gets noticed. And that notice results in new opportunities to do something more challenging and interesting. You are only a mindless worker ant if that is how you choose to see yourself.

Does That Mean I Shouldn’t Leave My Horrible Job?!??!

Of course not. But take the time to honestly figure out what makes the job horrible. If the problem is your attitude, your expectations, your need for applause, your passion myths, then chances are good that the next job you find isn’t going to be any less horrible than this one, and you are not going to be one inch closer to finding your passion.


What is Resume Strategy Anyway? An Interview with Karen Siwak

April 22nd, 2010

Ex Recruiter Paul Paris interviews Karen Siwak on what makes a resume stand out.

Listen to internet radio with The Ex Recruiter on Blog Talk Radio

Compassionate HR – An Interview With Karen Siwak

April 22nd, 2010

(Originally aired December 13, 2010)

HireFriday Founder and Compassionate HR host Margo Rose interviews Karen Siwak about the do’s and don’ts of writing a storytelling resume.

Listen to internet radio with Margo Rose on Blog Talk Radio

Anatomy of a Good Executive Resume – Advice from Recruiters

July 9th, 2009

As a Certified Résumé Strategist, I like to take the “pulse” of recruiters and HR professionals to ensure that the documents I create for my clients are going to be well received by the target audience – the people who will make decisions on which candidates will get an interview, a recommendation, an offer of employment. Ordinarily I do this as part of my week-to-week networking activities, but I decided that, in the face of a rapidly changing employment landscape, it was time to take a more broad-brush approach. Thanks to the wonders of HARO, I can share these words of wisdom from leading experts in recruitment, staffing and career services from across North America.
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Meet Karen Siwak

An award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen has crafted top calibre career transition packages for thousands of clients. Her specialty is helping people identify and articulate their unique brands and value propositions, and she is passionate about empowering clients with the tools, strategies and confidence to take control of their career search. Read more...

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