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November 20, 2010
Dear Candidate: Here's Why You Didn't Get the Job

Dear Candidate,

After 20 years in search and the disruptive nature of business 2009, we would like to share a few observations about what talented people do to be the winner in the sweepstakes of new opportunities.

It may surprise you, but 90 percent of our clients tell us the following:

The candidate never expressed real, passionate interest in our project.

The candidate did not share relevant examples of their strategic thinking, brand development opportunities and leadership in driving a brand forward.

When we then ask: What did they talk about? They say they talked about their résumé. I read it before and I knew it. I would have much preferred they made parallels, cited examples, which showed they understood our needs.

When I asked, why are you here? They said the recruiter asked me to meet you. That is not what they wanted or needed to hear. They want to hear that you are here because you have admired this company, like what I see you doing and I want to be a part of the success of this brand. Cite the skills you bring and why you think you feel you can help them to achieve their goals. Everyone wants to be wanted.

Before you go into the meeting, put yourself on the other side of the desk. You have read the job description, the company information, know the brand -- what would you be looking for in a candidate?

The key thing is to engage in a conversation, not a sales pitch of what you have done and what you will do for them. It should be seamless and your presentation of your brand, yourself, should be interesting, lively, and compelling. It should be a dialogue, not a monologue.

Hopefully, you have visited the stores, gone online, looked at all points of distribution. You should have a well developed idea to discuss about where the 'white space' in today's brave new world exists. It is oldand it is tired but everyone at Nike knows how 'just do it' translates into their function and role.

Please be a good listener, be yourself, but be self aware enough to realize the company has a challenge and seeks someone who gets it and will be another pillar upon which to build the business.

On a last issue where candidates fall apart is the issue of not being successful in a role or a company. Blaming the CEO, the owner, the team, the company culture, or the investors is counterproductive.

It is best just to say, I went here to do (whatever your goal was). In hindsight, what I should have, could have, or would have done was understand (fill in the blank). I have learned from this experience and this disappointment. It has made me more clear on the drivers, the key issues, and the leadership required for successful brand renovation and growth. You will find your own way to say, but it should be a small part and not a big part. Avoiding the subject makes it a big part. Far too many people, obsess and speak defensively way too long on what didn't work rather than what has been learned and why I am right for this.

Show imagination, creativity, and strategic thinking in leading a team, in driving a business. We all want to work with smart, interesting, and passionate people who open our world to new possibilities. Put yourself in his or her shoes and see if what you bring will satisfy this person's needs.

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A founding member of Martens & Heads!, Kate Benson brings more than 15 years of industry experience and executive search expertise. She focuses on senior-level placements within the lifestyle practice and specializes in general management, sales, marketing, human resources, and operations. Her clients include global iconic brands as well as entrepreneurial startups.

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