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Do You Have the Skills Most in Demand Today?

By David Perry

Let's face it. You know you're good at what you do but so are many other unemployed people these days. The bar for new recruits has been raised very high. Today, many employers prefer to make no decision rather than possibly make a wrong one. As an executive recruiter and placement counselor, I know how employers make hiring decisions. To stand out from the competition, you must subtly demonstrate the unwritten requirements that are now most in demand: leadership and communication skills, a bias towards action and passion.

Leadership Skills
Employers today don't need any more "team players." The past 10 years in the technology industry have shown that team players often are afraid to voice their opinions. Nobody needs another hanger-on. Every technology company right now is battling the clock trying to increase market share in the midst of a cash crunch and a dwindling capital market. Employers want leaders at every level of the organization who are capable of galvanizing the talented people they still have around ambitious goals and motivating them to succeed. You must convince an employer that you'll have a decisive influence on its ability to win and that you're an integral part of the solution. If you can't communicate your personal commitment and drive through your words and actions in the interview, you won't be its first choice.

Communication Skills
Crisp, clear and concise communication is in. Abstruse pontification is out. Save the high-level theorizing for the pub. Your demonstrated ability to direct and motivate staff is the key to interviewing success. Employers hire articulate candidates before all others. No one has the time to interpret what he or she thinks you said. Fuzzy thoughts and clumsy speaking skills aren't indicative of clear thinking. Be prepared to get into details with your interviewer. Be prepared to relate your accomplishments to the company's needs. Be prepared to say why it should hire you.

Bias Toward Action
You must demonstrate your ability to take action with limited or imperfect information. Wall Street brutally punishes companies that don't move quickly to make changes regardless of whether they had the correct information to make a decision. Learn how to consult your "gut feeling" when nothing else is available. Employees at all levels can't be afraid to make tough decisions.

Product life cycles are now measured in months, not years. The time for debate is short. Lately, investors worldwide have punished acts of indecision with dramatic sell offs. You need to be viewed as decisive because anyone else is viewed as a liability. You need to demonstrate these traits as much by what you do before the interview as by how you conduct yourself during the interview. The easiest way to research an industry is to use Hoover's Online. The site has a tool called "industry snap shots" where you can quickly get the lowdown on who's who.

Most people coast through life preferring to be safe rather than sorry in their career. However, I've had the great fortune to work with brilliant technical people who also were passionate about what they did and wanted to leave their mark on the world. These are people who have a fire in their belly, a zest for life and a sense of urgency that infects everyone around them. They challenge you to stretch and open your mind to new possibilities and to envision what's possible, not what is. For most employers, it really doesn't matter if all of your ideas are bright or even right — just that you have some and that you participate. Passionate debates lead to breakthroughs that create new industries and new wealth for all.

Because the job market is in turmoil and calls from recruiters are far less frequent, you'll need to take charge of your search. Be prepared to show employers that you possess these talents and skills. Additionally, you'll have to become adept at self-promotion. Remember, there are no restrictions on what you can do next — only those you impose on yourself.

Mr. Perry is a managing partner at Perry-Martel International Inc., an executive-search firm in Ottawa. This article has been adapted from his book "WorkInsight: A Headhunter's Guide to Finding Your Perfect Job".
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