Do Better and the Esade Careers team sat down with Franziska von Wiedebach, Client Partner at Pedersen & Partners Executive Search, to talk about career advice, talent acquisition, and retention in times of Covid-19.
Franziska works with senior leadership teams to transform companies into high-performance organisations through cross-border talent acquisition and retention assignments.
Do Better: When switching to an online selection process, what advice would you give to candidates to have a successful interview?
Franziska von Wiedebach: The first tip would be to keep in mind that the preparation process is similar to a face-to-face job interview. Basically, you should prepare yourself and learn about the person who will be conducting the interview, the company background, and the position itself. But the most important thing is to be yourself from the very beginning.
Because if you pretend to be someone you are not, you will never be comfortable if you end up working in that company.
How is Covid-19 reshaping recruitment processes?
Some recruiters tell me that one of the most important things for them is still the first handshake. But with the current situation, more often than not, this is no longer possible. Now many details in online selection processes are examined through a camera, such as whether the candidate’s clothes are appropriate for the job or the dress code of the company, and so on. For example, before your job interview you should find out whether the company you’re applying to has a specific dress code, and if it does, make sure to wear a tie and a suit if it’s required for the position. Also, try to be natural, have a pleasing appearance and avoid wearing too much makeup.
You once mentioned at an Esade session that companies are offering more flexibility in selection processes. What exactly were you referring to?
Due to the current situation, many companies are hiring people without meeting candidates in person. This already means having more flexibility. Also, some companies are offering shorter trial periods. They can even guarantee a minimum bonus, so that candidates don't have to go from a safe job to an uncertain or insecure situation.
Is it advisable to make a career change during uncertain times?
It is important to be realistic since hiring is being limited to the absolutely necessary positions and many companies have a general hiring freeze. At the same time, a lot of restructuring has been done in companies and new opportunities could open up for new people as soon as the situation gets better. In short: Work on your personal branding and network.
It is important to be realistic since hiring is being limited to the absolutely necessary positions and many companies have a general hiring freeze
Where should we start?
Don’t underestimate professional social media channels. Every day more companies are searching for candidates through social media networks such as LinkedIn. It is important to have an updated LinkedIn profile, and use the correct keywords to seek or be found for a position. Recruiters and headhunters pay close attention to keywords. If you add a photo to your CV and/or LinkedIn profile, make sure it’s a picture where you look both professional and likeable.
Also, the competences, virtues or qualities that you add to your CV should be backed by someone, some background or fact. For example, if you claim that you are a team player, adding a team sport as a hobby is a subtle way of saying that you at least know how to act within a team.
How can candidates show recruiters that they don’t see change as a threat but rather as an opportunity to become change agents?
Although recruiters don’t often ask this question directly, it is always there. I think it is useful to prepare a short story about a situation where you have successfully led change. For instance, let the recruiter know if you efficiently implemented a software system at a company where everyone was against it at first – and then describe how your idea led to positive change. Or let them know how you helped the company achieve higher revenues, or how you helped reduce the number of errors being made.
For candidates who have permanent jobs it may not be the best time to change in the current climate
Even if the recruiter doesn’t ask this question directly, there will probably be an opportunity where you can explain your story and success leading change. It is important to demonstrate that you are not afraid of change, and that you are capable of motivating others and making them embrace change.
How do you know if a company will be a good fit?
In these difficult times with fewer opportunities for face-to-face meetings, it is especially important to try to set up video calls and speak to as many company employees as possible. This will allow you to have more possibilities to capture the company’s culture. The more people you talk to (especially if they are from different departments and levels, maybe even countries), the easier it will be to understand if you can fit in the company culture and see if there is “chemistry”.
What do we have to do now if we hope to make a change in our career?
For candidates who have permanent jobs it may not be the best time to change in the current climate, but if they are going to change, it should be with certain “guarantees.” It also depends on the sector. Right now, I personally would not think of moving to the automotive sector due to their current challenges, for example. It’s not very realistic to aspire to big changes right now. It makes more sense to stay in your industry or at least in your function and country when changing jobs.
Mistakes in job interviews show when you pretend to be someone you are not
What are common mistakes in job interviews and how can candidates improve their chances of success?
It is very important to be yourself and not pretend to be someone you are not. For example, being very ambitious can be good, but when you are too ambitious, the interviewer might feel you are after his or her job. I think a balance has to be found. Try not to be too extreme.
Mistakes show when you pretend to be someone you are not. Even if you make a mistake, say so! If, for example, you are nervous because you want a job very much, you should admit this.
It is also important to take into account eye contact. Keep the screen centred in front of you and be careful not to tilt the screen, even if you are taking notes. Virtually it is more noticeable if you’re looking at the person or not, therefore this should be controlled, as well as the position of the camera and the background. Light is also important; don’t blind your interviewer, but try not to be in a very dark space either. In general, be sure you really want the position you are interviewing for and be genuine.
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