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Authored by Lindy Kingsford

During these uncertain and unusual times, the employment market has seen an influx of job seekers as smaller businesses close and lay off employees, and larger businesses downsize to cope and adapt to the current market conditions. It’s an unsettling situation.

This includes the for-purpose space. Even though the support the sector provides is needed even more than ever, each day we hear of organisations within our network who must make difficult decisions about staffing, services, or even if they can stay open at all.

There are a lot of skilled and experienced executives who now find themselves in the job market through factors outside of their control.

If you’re an executive who has found themselves looking for their next opportunity, how you present – or market – yourself at this time amongst this sea of other talent is more important than ever.

The for-purpose sector will be needing and seeking new leaders ongoing. The candidates who will get noticed and chosen to move forward in a process will be the ones have marketed themselves well, and who have made genuine and considered applications. These are the candidates that will be noticed far more than the ones who are flooding the market with applications for anything and everything going.

So, to help you with your search for a new senior role in the sector, People for Purpose have prepared a few tips to make a difference in your applications:

  • Apply for roles thoughtfully – don’t be labelled a ‘serial applicant’.

It’s stressful – mentally and financially – to find yourself out of work due to factors outside your control.  As you search for a new job, it may appear to be a numbers game. A sense of urgency may make you want to throw your hat in the ring for any role that is even remotely interesting to you. It’s even more important in this market to take the time to craft a genuine and considered application, to apply for roles that suit your skills and experience, and look to join organisations that speak to your passion and values.

There are two mistakes that can be easy to make.

Firstly, don’t use the automatic application service offered by job search platforms. You might consider uploading your CV and a generic cover letter to a website or recruitment search engine to make automatic applications on your behalf.  Many applicants overlook the fact that their generic application for specifically titled roles will end up in a list sitting under their name in a recruiter’s database. At an executive level, generic applications are rarely taken seriously, and serial generic applicants even less so.

Secondly, apply only for roles that match your skills and experience. Look at the set of criteria an employer is asking for. Question yourself honestly on how many and how well you meet those criteria. Square pegs won’t fit into round holes no matter how much you want them to. Continually applying for roles where your skills and experience aren’t a clear or transferable fit will label you as a serial applicant, and again, your applications will end up in a list sitting under your name in a recruiter’s database – indicating that you’re a candidate that applies for anything and everything.

  • Always, always, tailor your cover letter to the role.

Read the advertisement, research the organisation and its values and culture, and ensure you respond to all requirements in the letter you submit. Cover letters that show that an applicant has made this effort really stand out from the crowd. Focus on why your skills, experience and passion make you the right fit for the role and give an explanation why you’re interested. Your cover letter doesn’t need to be extremely detailed (leave that for your CV). One to two pages should be enough. If you don’t feel confident about the layout of your letter, there are templates available online (e.g. MS Word). Keep the look professional and elegant and don’t go overboard with colours and fonts.
A quick word about being ‘quirky’ to get attention – that is, chatty, jokey left field applications. Very occasionally these can work but for the most part they fall flat. Unless you know who will be reading your application, save the big personality for friends and family.

  • Make best use of the net.

The net is another place for you to market yourself. Review and update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn provides advice and support on their site to help you make the most of that. Make sure you include a professional colour picture of yourself and that details are up to date. You might like to increase attention and traffic to your profile by publishing articles relevant to your expertise or commenting on posts. Maintaining your LinkedIn profile and online presence is also important because headhunting firms (the ones who place the roles that aren’t advertised) will continue to be looking and researching through the talent market. You want to make sure that you’re visible to them, and that what you’re displaying about yourself is professional and relevant.

  • Cultural fit is imperative.

Your job is an important part of your life. Taking a role just to have a job doesn’t work for anyone involved, particularly in the for-purpose space. As you look for your next opportunity, do the due diligence to ensure you understand the values of an organisation and how they align with yours. Organisations seek more than just skills and experience when they recruit their next leader, they want passion for their organisation and the ‘right cultural fit’. Read their website, news and social media pages to understand more about their culture.

  • Always be courteous and kind.

Now more than ever manners do matter. If you’re calling an organisation with a genuine interest for more information on a role, first make sure you’ve read the ad and position description (if there is one). Have your questions ready and be concise and clear when you call. Be sure you speak to everyone courteously; recruitment teams work together closely, callers who are initially brusque or rude are quickly noted. Recruiters are also busy people with clients and have many candidates to deal with – they’re happy to answer questions but don’t have time to chat and hear long explanations. And remember, while you might be in a hurry, a recruitment process can take many weeks, so try to be patient. Avoid making multiple calls – pestering a recruiter won’t get you noticed in a positive way.

If you are looking to transition into the for-purpose sector, we run Head & Heart workshops, which cater to ‘corporate refugees’ looking to understand more about the for-purpose sector. Additionally, if you would like to have a confidential discussion please contact us via email at [email protected]