Comment & Analysis

Bring yourself to life on paper - stand out from the crowd

Bring yourself to life on paper - stand out from the crowd

I was delighted to be asked last week by Women on Boards ( to join one of their webinars, entitled “Meet the Headhunters”. The format was to allow current and prospective non-executive directors with an opportunity to showcase elevator pitches in a quickfire, speed-dating type environment to four headhunters (including me), who specialise in NED recruitment.

So, by the power of Zoom, I was transported into a room with 8 to 10 of these would-be NED’s, switching to another room after only a few minutes.  Each candidate gave a 90 second pitch on his/her background, capabilities, value-add to a board, and a few managed to squeeze in a little insight to his/her character.  In general, I was impressed with the quality of the individuals, their presentations and the energy and enthusiasm with which they expressed themselves.

Following four of these sessions, we four headhunters were Zoomed back together for a wrap up.  All four of us agreed that the prospective NED’s had been a very strong cohort of individuals, who had taken the opportunity to present themselves in the best light.  We gave some feedback accordingly, which was well received, and then we left the call and continued with our day.

The prospective NED’s had been a very strong cohort of individuals, who had taken the opportunity to present themselves in the best light.

After the event I was invited by numerous candidates to connect with them on LinkedIn.  This was when I was, frankly surprised: some of the candidates were hard to recognise.  On paper they looked to have little in common with the person giving the upbeat, content rich presentation earlier in the day.  Instead I found many LinkedIn profiles to be lengthy, missing some of the really relevant information and, in truth, more than a little dry.

There is a lesson here.  For example, the personal statement at the start of a resume or application is an opportunity – the opportunity– to make an impact: something telling, something that captures the essence of the person.  The opening 4-5 lines of a book will win the reader (or not!); and so it is with a CV or a LinkedIn profile: they must tell the reader what kind of a person you are, why you stand out, what you would be like to work with, what skills you bring and why you would make a difference. Alas, instead there’s too much lazy, cliched, adjective heavy guff.

The personal statement at the start of a resume or application is an opportunity– "the opportunity" – to make an impact

So, the next time you put your resume together or update your LinkedIn profile, record yourself first.  Make a tape of yourself giving the 90 second pitch. This is the real, concise, on-point version of you. Then capture it in the opening paragraph.  It might not be easy.  It won’t be easy. Crafting a sentence should take time.  Crafting a paragraph deserves time, especially one that sums you up perfectly.  So take that time and get it right.

Landing a NED role is increasingly tough and the first one is the toughest.  Give yourself the best chance and stand out from the crowd.


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