Career Impact: How to Master the Executive Presentation

You are a seasoned Solutions Architect tasked with presenting a complex set of recommendations to the client’s Executive leadership.  You have thoroughly assessed the infrastructure needs, gathered support data and built a compelling deck. And now, the real work begins.

executivepresentation

IT professionals who came of age when corporate IT operated behind the visibility curtain may feel ill-prepared for today’s high profile, hybrid business/technology roles. Beyond the often unfamiliar experience of public speaking, successfully presenting to senior executives requires a crisp delivery and distilled, essential flow of information perfected in MBA programs but often overlooked in MIS curricula.

To help our IT professional community master this increasingly relevant skill, we’ve gathered the wisdom of industry experts and our own experienced Consultants:

1. Fortune Favors the Prepared

Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” Indeed, extensive practice and knowledge of the material will enable you to rise above the flowcharts to exude confidence and polish.

Rehearse your presentation with a trusted colleague or industry peer who can give you honest feedback. If possible, seek the advice of someone who understands the nuances of getting C-level buy-in for their ideas, and who can identify the opportunities to condense long-winded arguments into key data points.

2. Establish Consensus

Author and Harvard Business Review columnist Nancy Duarte believes that the most effective presentations mirror the classic storytelling structure of beginning-middle-end. Even a metrics-driven top executive will be better served by contextualizing your ideas. Duarte writes:

Start by describing life  as the audience knows it. People should be nodding their heads in recognition because you’re articulating what they already understand. This creates a bond between you and them, and opens them up to hear your ideas for change.

After you set that baseline of what is, introduce your vision of what could be. The gap between the two will throw the audience a bit off balance, and that’s a good thing — it jars them out of complacency.

3. Be Prepared to Cut to the Chase

When your audience includes C-level management, arm yourself with the “one-minute summary” version of your presentation. Top executives can be called away at a moment’s notice and your agility in these situations will stand you in good stead. As IA HR founder Mark Stelzner wrote in his LinkedIn Influencer series:

Nothing is more valuable to a CEO than their time. Ensure that you have a very detailed plan and purpose.. Have all the relevant pros and cons at your fingertips and the high level numbers and impact in tow  Fianlly, think through all the questions you’re likely to be asked and all possible courses of action so you don’t have to reschedula after you’ve “looked into that.”

4. Finish Strong

Your final words should be carefully chosen to resonate with an executive audience. Craft a strong, positive statement that aligns the value of your ideas to their strategic priorities. (Example: “With a projected ROI of 44%, this analytics tool will be a critical step toward our goal of real-time, responsive consumer marketing.”) Commit these words to memory so that you can make eye contact with key decision makers, then open the floor for discussion so that you can address any concerns directly.

Today’s IT career path intersects with senior management and grows in direct relation to your strategic influence.  Cultivating this critical skill will become the secret weapon of your professional toolkit.

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    12 Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

    Everyone knows that an interviewer will almost always ask you at the end of an interview if you have any questions for them about the job or the company. It has been a long interview, you are tired and at this point are probably just thinking about how close you are to the finish line. Or perhaps you have done all of your homework and really don’t have any questions you can think of to ask.  Regardless,  do not answer the interviewer’s query with: “No, I think I’m good, thanks.” Instead, you should always walk into every job interview with a few canned (or pre-written) questions in mind to ask the interviewer at the end.

    This is your chance to ask those burning questions you have about anything you couldn’t dig up in the job description (or on the Careers Website). This is also your chance to prove you are genuinely interested in the position, that you are inquisitive and that you are more engaged in this process than the last 5 people who just interviewed for this same position.  Need some guidance on what questions to ask? Here are a few that we think may help you make a great impression. Feel free to cherry-pick you favorites and write them down (or print this page) and bring them with you to your next interview.

    • How is success measured within this role?
    • What are the most important things I would need to accomplish within the first 6 months to be successful?
    • Is there a typical career path for this type of role?
    • How did this position become available?
    • Why do you like working for the company?
    • What does the on-boarding and job training process look like?
    • Can you share with me what the company culture is like?
    • How does work-life balance fit into your company’s philosophy?
    • Who are your top competitors? What companies do you model after or look up to?
    • Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?
    • What are the biggest challenges the company is currently facing?

    Have any questions for our recruiting team? Need more helpful hints for your next interview?  Follow our recruiting team via LinkedIn or visit our Career Resources Site at careers.howardsystems.com .

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      Demonstrating “Fit” to a Prospective Organization

      Demonstrating You are a Fit to a Prospective Organization

      It is an imperative that jobseekers demonstrate that they are a fit for the organization to which they are applying. This extends beyond what the employer will see in a cover letter or résumé but in the interview as well. This is why jobseekers are strongly encouraged to research the company before they write their cover letter and résumé. This may include browsing the company website, connecting with employees or former employees through LinkedIn, via professional organizations, and maybe even searching for employees in alumni associations or networking groups.

      Demonstrating “Fit:”
      Human resource professionals may choose any number of ways to screen candidates. Regardless of their approach, defining “job-fit” is a responsibility that begins with the jobseeker, who decides what jobs he or she will pursue.
      When a jobseeker takes a personality profile to determine their fit for a particular job, the tool is primarily assessing his or her values are and then matching them up with the business values of the target organization. Therefore, it becomes critical for jobseekers to have a clear understanding of the company values before applying for the position.

      Do Your Homework
      There are many sources available for this step including glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, the company’s website, Facebook, Industry Profile sites and even YouTube. By example, there is a video outlining the core values embraced by Bank of America.
      Would it be a surprise for you to learn that Bank of America expresses its core values as:

      Trust.
      Responsibility.
      Opportunity.

      Using this information:
      Let’s assume that the core values of the organization are neither offensive nor off-putting to a jobseeker. Assuming in fact that these are values that you can embrace then the next step is to integrate their language and it’s intent into both your cover letter and résumé.
      If asked to take a personality profile, be sure to approach it from the perspective of how the company expresses their values both in language and in action. Then respond from that perspective (again, assuming these are values which you embrace).

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        set var = “Resume”, set var = “LinkedIn” value=”Job Search”

        While Facebook and Twitter have morphed into platforms proving to be almost as important as a résumé, LinkedIn should really be your “Watson” when it comes to the job hunt. Boasting 200 million users from over 200 countries, this professional networking hub has situated itself as the preferred social space for Human Resources professionals and recruiters alike across a variety of industries.

        73% of recruiters filled positions using social media in 2012

        Everyone knows that a well-crafted résumé is the most important asset within the career search. That, coupled with an optimized LinkedIn page, can really speak volumes to a candidate’s previous experience and future potential. According to MarketingProfs, a website compiling research by renowned marketing professors and professionals, 93 percent of recruiters turn to LinkedIn for candidate searching.

        Even if you are not in the midst of a job search, a technology professional with a strong profile and a demonstrated network of similar professionals stands out as an asset and an authority in their respective area of expertise. Also, do not discount the importance of engaging in professionals groups and organizations within the LinkedIn socio-sphere. Not only does it provide access and exposure to thought-leadership in your areas of professional interest, but it demonstrates your passion for industry engagement. Of course, having a strong and complete LinkedIn profile page also has the potential to increase the chances of a professional to get noticed by potentially desirable companies.

        Unsure as to what a “strong and complete LinkedIn profile page” should include? Here’s what Howard Systems’ recruiters suggest:

        • LinkedIn users should briefly describe each position they’ve held and provide an understanding of core skills and experience gained within that role.
        • If someone has changed roles within the same organization, it is important to list the different titles held to showcase growth and movement within the company.
        • Completing the “Skills & Expertise” section of the profile provides for a stronger likelihood of appearing within LinkedIn search results.
        • When someone visually compares their own résumé to their LinkedIn profile, both should read the same. Organization names, position titles, dates of employment and duties/responsibilities should match up across both of these mediums.
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          Networking: 5 Tips to Help You Connect

          Almost every leader and leadership source will advise you to invest time in networking.  In terms of connecting, it has a substantially higher return on investment than most other approaches and creates bonds and relationships that social media alone cannot compete with. Might we suggest however that you think about networking in a slightly different way.

          Contrary to popular belief, networking is more than finding your next gig. Instead, it is about humbly and subtly making yourself better known (and more accessible) right where you are in your current job. You don’t have to devote as much time as you would think to attend organized networking events, but you do need to change your frame of mind. Do not think of it as “forced bonding” but rather as building relationships (and your brand). Try these 5 tips to make networking beneficial:

          networking_hsi

          1. Avoid setting goals.

          Can you remember a time when someone told you not to set any goals or objectives? The most worthwhile opportunities, experiences and relationships happen through purely organic conversation – conversations that can’t have a predetermined agenda or discussion points. Show up to a networking event with an open mind and open ears. It’ll take any unnecessary pressure off. A more casual interaction will translate into a more authentic one.

          2. Always a firm handshake.

          It is your first impression – and you only get one of them. Whether you are an 18-year-old young man or a polished woman mid-career, a firm handshake says a lot about who you are. It shows confidence, openness, extraversion and interest. If you tend to be so focused on nailing the handshake that you forget the name of the person you’re talking to, remember to repeat the name back. For example:

          • “Hello, I’m John.”
          • “Hello, John, I’m Erica. Nice to meet you.”

          This was actually a technique utilized by several past presidents. Stories have been retold of how Bill Clinton would repeat a person’s name several times upon meeting them and then be able to recall that name months later when meeting at a separate event.

          3. Listen More

          You will likely leave a much better impression as a great listener rather than dominating the conversation. Besides, people love to let you listen to them talk about themselves. Avoid thinking of responses in your head as the other person is talking to you. If you do, then you will miss out on the most important details of the story being told. When you take a deep breath and quiet your thoughts, you’ll be able to listen intently and respond organically.

          4. Networking isn’t all about you.

          This isn’t about what this event can do for you. Networking should be about “What information can you share” or “what can you provide to the person you’re connecting with that will actually benefit them”? If you’re truly genuine and helpful, people you meet here will not be able to forget you.

          5. Show your personal brand.

          Don’t sell it. Ever wonder why some people try so hard to sell something to you? They should realize that if it is a quality product, that quality would sell itself. Same applies to you. Do not quote highlights from your resume.  There is no need to try so hard to prove who you are or to show off what you can do. Simply be your true, authentic self and others will want to voluntarily learn more about you.

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            Ask the Recruiter: How Should I Format My IT Resume?

            After 35 years in IT Staffing, we’ve seen how the simplest resume snafu can undermine a job search.  Even the most accomplished architects and developers often need help distilling their work history to a cogent narrative.  Our own Kevin Mocci divulges his pet peeves and best practices for formatting the IT resume:

            Albert Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”  I, a slightly lesser known philosopher, have my own spin on that quote: “If a quality candidate has a cluttered resume, a cluttered desk need not concern him.”

            As a technical recruiter, I have analyzed thousands of resumes, looking for that gem of a candidate.  Nothing infuriates me more than a confusing mess of a resume.  True, a well formatted resume cannot save a candidate who does not have the right level of experience for a particular job. Hiring managers never say to themselves, “You know what? This person doesn’t have any of the experience that we need for the job, but gosh! can they can put a resume together.” Not going to happen.

            While sourcing extremely hard-to-fill roles, I can get frustrated when I can’t find a candidate with a resume that matches my client’s specific requirements. But that isn’t what bothers me the most. The way I look at it, your experience is what it is. Sure, there are ways to spruce it up a bit, certain phrases to use and of course ones to avoid.

            But content isn’t what eats at my soul the most. It’s the formatting! And here is why: I believe it is one thing for someone to not get a job, or even interviewed for a job because they are not the right match in terms of their experience and expertise. This happens. Not everyone is a fit for every job.

            However, to have a recruiter or a hiring manager bypass your resume because they can’t visually get to or grasp your experience, frustrates me more than anything else. I find it inconceivable to lose out on an opportunity that you are a glove fit for, just because the recruiter or hiring manager can’t make sense of what they are surveying.

            Don’t let an unreadable resume derail your career. Every few months an article emerges that exclaims the incredibly small amount of time a hiring manager spends looking at a resume. There are estimates ranging from as little as 5 seconds all the way up to one minute. This is why a well formatted resume is so vital. If a manager has 30 seconds to look at your resume and they spend half that time trying to figure out what they are looking at, that doesn’t leave much time for them to digest the content. They quicker they are able to get to reading and understanding what you can bring to the table and why they should interview you, the better.

            There dozens and dozens or resume writing tips but I am going to focus on a few simple ones that are focused specifically on formatting.

            • Keep important points to the top of your resume and to the top of each job breakdown. Within each job breakdown, what corresponds to the opportunity you are applying for is likely to vary. Make sure to customize your bullet points accordingly, placing the most relevant and vital at the top.
            • Speaking of bullet points: use them. Hiring managers are able to pick out your accomplishments if they are laid out in brief, concise bullet points as opposed to long winded paragraphs.
            • Lay out your experience in chronological order. When hiring managers and recruiters look at your resume it is not just important to know what you have done, but also when you did it. If you held a similar role with similar responsibilities to the one in which you are applying but it was 14 years ago, the client is unlikely to be impressed. However if you just recently worked in a position that mirrors the one that you are applying for, the manager and recruiter are much more likely to consider you as a viable candidate.
            • Put dates on your resume. Don’t leave a manager or recruiter guessing as to when you worked for a company. Also, by putting dates on your resume you paint a clear picture of how long you spent working for a client. By not having this information on your resume, you immediately fall behind candidates who clearly have this information displayed on their resume.

            Remember, the maximum amount of time that a manager is likely to look at your resume is 1 minute and likely much shorter.  The resume is what gets you the interview.  You get yourself the job.

            Questions on the building blocks of a strong IT resume? Email Kevin at kevin_mocci@howardsystems.com.

            Image credit: marriottschool.byu.edu

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              Resume Scrutiny: Are you who you say you are?

              I often hear recruiters complain about the poor quality of résumés that they receive. One of the biggest issues (after spelling and grammar) is the lack of credibility in many applications. As has been recently reported, there appears to be a growing problem with the degree of candor candidates use in preparing their resumes.  In an article entitled “Resume Fraud: Little White Lies Aren’t So Little Anymore “, the Lansing Business Weekly reported that “80% of all job seekers submit applications and résumes that contain intentionally misleading information.”  Career Builder issued a similar finding from a survey conducted on their behalf that revealed that as much as 58% of a series of resumes reviewed had some degree of embellishment on them.  This same study also revealed that “While employers have caught lies on resumes submitted for jobs of all types, levels and industries”, resumes in the Information Technology industry had one of the highest fraud rates at 63%.

              Given these grim statistics, and what is now translating into a very expensive problem for companies who may be fooled into hiring an ill-qualified candidate, employers are becoming more and more careful in their review process.  Employers are now for instance, taking more time looking over individual resumes.  According to the aforementioned Career Builder survey, “Forty-two percent of employers said they spend more than two minutes reviewing each resume, up from 33 percent in December”.  Candidates are now getting more thoroughly checked out.  Nothing can be worse for a recruiter or HR Professional than to be embarrassed by a bad hire: so, for recruiters, this is getting personal.

              Credibility: Part I – Quick Review

              Recruiters are trained and experienced resume viewers.  If a candidate is excited about an opportunity, it is discernible in their cover letter.  Genuine interest is hard to fake and a recruiter will pick up on this.  “Canned” and  “cut and paste” cover letters however, are easy to spot and will get you set aside just a minute or two into the review.  If you don’t want your CV and resume discarded early, take the time to create a thoughtful cover letter that speaks to the opportunity to which you are applying.  Be careful however not to speak to skills or experience which is not outlined in your resume.  The CV is designed as a vehicle to “highlight” points in your resume, not introduce new ones.  If you mention skills, experience or qualifications which are not contained and explained in your resume, it will provide the appearance that you are embellishing your qualifications.

              Also be sure your resume closely matches the requirements and skills outlined in the job description.  This may require you to re-arrange excerpts of your resume to highlight certain points of experience over others, but again, be careful not to embellish.  A bullet point which looks like it was dropped in (and does not match the feel or flow of the rest of the resume), smells phony to a trained recruiter.

              Credibility: Part IICandidate Scan

              With the high number of embellished, false and phony resumes that hiring professionals receive every day, recruiters typically do a digital scan of the candidate to try and substantiate the skills contained in a resume.  This scan of your digital footprint is going to do one of two things:

              1. Support your candidacy.
              2. Cause you to be eliminated from the candidate pool.

              Candidate Scan: What are they looking for?

              When inconsistent messages are found, it brings up questions that beg for answers: answers that most recruiters don’t have the time to seek out answers for.  Consider the following:

              Example: there is a gross overuse of the word “passion”. It goes something like this:

              Candidate Cover Letter:
              “I have a passion for project management.”
              Recruiter thinks:
              “Passion? Really?”

              • Is that the impression I will get of you find when I check you out online?
              • Is that what you talk about on LinkedIn?
              • Is that the kind of books you are reading?
              • Do you go to the PMI chapter meetings (PMI=Project Management Institute)?
              • Are you PMBOK Certified?
              • Are you following project management groups and companies on LinkedIn?  Following any on Twitter?
              • Have you contributed to project management chat rooms or forums?
              • Do you have contacts who are IT project managers?
              • Are there recommendations for your Project Management work by people in the IT world?

              If the hiring professional finds inconsistencies when you are checked out through the various online processes and channels, then you will be summarily eliminated as a candidate.  Remember that with huge numbers of job-seekers and limited resources, companies can’t afford to make a hiring mistake.

              How to survive resume scrutiny

              Want to avoid the appearance that you are “fudging” your expertise?  First off, start by thinking about what kind of job you really want.  Be specific: size and type of company, industry, small team setting, virtual team or work from home setting etc.?  Write these things down and then look at your resume and cover letter: Do they speak directly and in harmony to those attributes you covet?

              Second, check your social media accounts: do they provide a consistent message?  Do they re-enforce and speak to the attributes, skills and areas of expertise necessary for you to land in your ideal job opportunity (review step 1 as necessary)?  Review the LinkedIn profiles of several of your peers that are doing what you want to be doing in your next assignment.  Make adjustments to your own profile as necessary.

              Finally, and this is most important part: only apply to those positions that match the criteria you identified in Step 1.  Sending your credentials to any others with either appear disingenuous, or worse, will require you to “embellish” details of your resume and cover letter to try to match the opportunity.  If you are applying to an opportunity that matches what you are truly looking for, your enthusiasm will be organic, recruiter scrutiny will be minimal and your odds of achieving the elusive face-to-face interview will be greatly enhanced.

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                New York, NY: We need a Scrum Master!

                HSI seeks a Scrum Master (Agile) for a 6 month contract (plus likely extensions up to 2 years) opportunity in Manhattan

                The Scrum Master (Project Manager) will be responsible for ensuring on-time delivery of high quality projects meeting established business requirements using the Agile methodology. This Candidate will also act as the project facilitator as projects progress through the product lifecycle. In addition, he or she will provide coaching to the organization, ensuring adherence to established Agile processes and practices. The Scrum Master will be responsible for numerous tasks covering the product development lifecycle. The ideal candidate will have superior client-facing skills. He or she will need to support the team with various client communications, status reporting, coordination, internal and external meeting facilitation and management, workshop sessions, decision management documentation, and presentation and delivery (release) preparation.

                Click HERE for for more details

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                  Is your Digital Dirt costing you the job?

                  Is Digital Dirt costing you a job?

                  It is fast becoming common practice for HR Professionals and Recruiters to now to review candidates on Facebook as much or more than on LinkedIn. Why? Because they can get your professional profile from LinkedIn, but Facebook provides them insight into your character out of the workplace and it helps them gauge whether you will fit into their culture or the culture of their client.

                  HR Professionals will also often conduct an Internet search on your name. This can provide insight into perhaps online pictures of/with the prospective candidate, associations or organizations he or she may belong to, YouTube videos uploaded, blog postings etc… So it’s important to manage your online image. “Blemishes” that come up during Internet searches are called “Digital Dirt”.

                  Perhaps your Facebook profile is only visible to select friends and you think your online image is clean. Maybe; but maybe not. What if someone has tagged you in a photo and the photo can be traced back to a frat party, a casino, a politically affiliated organization or your best friend’s bachelor party? Like it or not, that could put certain negative overtones on your job application.

                  Do you have a common name? Even if someone that shares your name has some “Digital Dirt”, it is now YOUR problem too. Using your middle initial may help distinguish you from someone with a similar name. In fact, people have been forced to use their middle name during a job search to avoid just this kind of confusion.

                  Businesses and companies often have designated community managers who are responsible for the company’s image and brand through social media. Jobseekers today need to be just as diligent. Have you followed a company’s Twitter feed? Are they following you? If so, what will they find? Who are you following and what are they saying? Remember, anything there could create a negative image for you? What about Facebook? Have you “friended” any businesses where you would like to work? Are you a member of an Alumni Association Group on ANY social media platform? Be cognizant of how these seemingly harmless “likes” and “follows” could ultimately reflect on you, the jobseeker.
                  If you are engaged in social media to ANY degree, “Digital Dirt” is inescapable; therefore it is essential that you monitor and manage it.

                  Here are some suggestions on how to do so:

                  Step 1 – Research:
                  Google yourself: Perform an Internet search of yourself and be sure to try using alternate spellings of your name just in case.

                  Check any public forums you may frequent to ensure there are no derogatory pictures or verbiage that pertains to you. Remember that unflattering Amazon book review you did or the time you had poor service at a swanky downtime BBQ joint and felt compelled to let everyone on Yelp know about it? Think about how these posts reflect on you, the job candidate. If you find unwanted images or content related to you, contact the owners or admins of these sites and request that your name and images be removed.

                  Facebook: If you find pictures you believe you do not want to appear “tagged” in, follow these directions here to “untag” them.

                  Credit Cleanup:

                  Check your credit history and if there are blemishes on your report, contact the appropriate company and address them.
                  Ask the company to remove negative credit references.
                  An Internet search on “Improve my credit score” or “Repair bad credit” will also bring up several options who helping to repair credit and/or remove any mistakes you uncover.

                  Professional Branding:
                  Make sure you use an email address that is simple, clear and professional. john.doe@gmail.com looks a lot better than kegstand360@aol.com. You may even consider getting an email address that you use only for job hunting to ensure that you not only have a polished presence, but can quickly weed through the spam to identify actionable emails from prospective employers as well. Outlook.com, Gmail.com and Zoho.com are just a few sites which offer FREE email addresses which can also be linked to your smartphone for quick and easy access.

                  If responding to emails from recruiters or companies via your smartphone, be sure to change any default signature which may say “sent from my iPhone” to look like something which was sent from a desktop. You need to balance the need for quick response times with professionalism and today, too many people still equate a smartphone response as something that you couldn’t be bothered to take the time to respond to thoughtfully from your desktop. (Anyone remember the “walk and talk” episode from Seinfeld?)
                  Keep in mind when performing the above that you are not just looking for Digital Dirt about yourself, but you are also looking for any Digital Dirt associated with your name—even if it actually belongs to someone else.

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                    “WRITE YOUR OWN TICKET IN IT” — STAFFING QUOTE OF THE WEEK

                    “Every industry needs IT people. It doesn’t matter if you’re transportation or health; everyone needs IT people,” the Green Bay Press Gazette quoted Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Associate Dean Julie Ebben-Matzke.  Ebben-Matzke continued, “You can write your own ticket with IT. … That flexibility is really appealing to people.”

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