It’s a tough job market so maximising your marketability is essential. Here are some insightful ‘quick win’ ideas to boost your ability to secure contract assignments.

Challenge your approach to writing a CV

Instead of presenting your career in reverse chronological order with half a dozen bullet points underneath each job; write each contract as an evidence based case study and create a section titled Contract Portfolio. The Case Study Portfolio Approach provides the most effective framework for professional contractors to write their CV.

The Case Study Portfolio Framework: The premise of this methodology is to move away from the traditional chronological CV and to break your career down into individual pieces of work. You may identify 30 pieces of work and decide that 15 of them are up to date and relevant. Once you have identified the key pieces of work, write them as short case studies (no more than 6 lines long), ideally using the STAR methodology (Situation, Task, Actions, Result). The CV then becomes a portfolio of case studies and you are able to change the order around depending on what roles you are applying for. Of course, recruiters will still want to see your dates of employment so put a career chronology section after the case studies with the date, company name and your job title. This framework will provide you with much more flexibility and allow you to tailor the CV to the roles you are applying for in a much more effective way. For more information on how to create this style of CV, you may want to check out our seminar on February 28th 2011 in Central London – click here for more details >>

Treat an interview as a sales call

The first rule of selling is to assess your customers needs then present a solution that satisfies these needs. Do this in an interview and you will significantly improve your offer rate. Ask questions throughout the recruitment process to establish the company’s future challenges and make sure you explain how you could provide a solution – back this up with evidence of when you have done so before.

The Sales Wedge Technique: The ‘Sales Wedge Approach’ is all about asking subtle questions throughout the interview about what challenges the company will face in the coming months / years and what kind of candidate they are looking for. When asked why you are a suitable candidate for the role, you can then respond by reiterating what you have already been told e.g. “you have told me that the company will face significant challenges from an increasing number of competitors entering the industry” and then presenting a solution e.g. “you may be interested to know that I have extensive experience in creating diversification strategies. I did this at xxx Plc and generated a £10m revenue stream from scratch which negated saturation in core markets”. You would focus upon the 4 or 5 key points that you have learned throughout the interview and ensure that you have provided evidence that you can help the company to overcome its key challenges and that you have the attributes that they are looking for. For a more detailed overview of our ‘Sales Wedge Approach’ and several other advanced communication frameworks, you can attend our seminar in Central London on February 28th 2011. Click here for more details

Become a STAR and learn yourself

Most people attack the job market without really knowing themselves or the key events in their career. It’s like day one in a new sales job where you know next to nothing about the product / service you are selling. The other issue is knowing how to structure answers to competency-based interviews without rambling. The Ramble Prevention Technique provides a quick win framework for excelling in competency-based interviews.

The Ramble Prevention Technique: Whether you are a contractor or seeking permanent work, it is typical to have a competency-based interview at some stage of the recruitment process. The idea behind competency-based interviews is to investigate your softer skills (opposed to technical skills) such as leadership, handling conflict, influencing people, relationship building or managing stakeholders. These questions are designed to illicit a response based around a specific event in your career (opposed to a hypothetical scenario) e.g. give me an example of when you had to performance manage a subordinate - what was the outcome? Those on the receiving end of these interviews fall into 3 traps: firstly, they don’t prepare and rely on answering questions of the top of their head, invariably giving a poor example that didn’t have a positive outcome; secondly, they have no structure to their answer and end up waffling through an example in random fashion; and thirdly, they fail to provide a specific example, merely stating what they would do if they were in that situation. The remedy to all these issues is to use STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result). Prepare in advance (using STAR); answer your questions in a structured fashion (using STAR); and give specific examples with positive outcomes (using STAR). We are running a seminar on Feb 28th in Central London that covers STAR as well as how to write profiles, case studies and CVs, training on advanced interview technique, and how to use LinkedIn as a tool to market yourself. For more information, click here.

Maximise LinkedIn: 85% or Recruiters / Hiring Managers check LinkedIn Profiles prior to making a hiring decision. Make sure your LinkedIn Profile includes your value proposition, plenty of recommendations, and evidence that you can deliver business benefits.

Top 10 LinkedIn Tips:

  1. Connections - Only connect to those you know, like, trust or need – disconnect others. Your network reflects you, enables you, and others can use it as a way of measuring your choices in connections, network and friends. A poor choice of connection could reflect badly on you.
  2. Network expansion - Have a strategy to expand your network and consider if you want a wide network with lots of connections or a deep network with fewer connections that know you and your business well. A wide network gives you greater scope to search and find the connection you need but less ‘engaged’ at a relationship level. A deep network acts as eyes and ears for your business; they understand your offerings, your value and will be advocates for you.
  3. Ensure your profile and status is full of value - Most profiles are full of facts, which we all assume people will translate into value. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying we should all turn overt and more like our American cousins but we DO need to stop being so very British about it. Stop hiding the outcomes that we bring to our clients, the value we imbue in the businesses we work with and the changes in performance we realise. So what if you deployed SAP? But we might care if you successfully deployed SAP to 47 countries saving the business £2m and making an extra £15m of sales! Which would resonate more? Try it – it’s not about what you do – but the so what!
  4. Never use standard text for invites - Paint the picture in your head, you bump into the perfect client at a network meeting, they have budget, know of your services or products and are in urgent need. You do the right thing offering to get in touch the next day and invite them to connect on LinkedIn. You then send them a “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Wouldn’t they feel special? Well no, you’re networking to build a relationship, to invest, give and help, to make the person feel a little special and that you’re considering their needs and how you might help. Then you don’t send a personalised note – ruined!
  5. Review your home page every day and update your status - LinkedIn runs a bread crumb trail of all the activity of your closest connections right on your homepage on LinkedIn. Every network update, every status message, connection and question you ask or answer appears there, as do all your closest connections. If you do nothing else then put a message up telling everyone else what you’re up to, its value and the outcome you’re generating. If you have a little more time, check out your networks activity, what they’re up to, if they have posted about needing your services or talents or perhaps connected to the person you most want to meet.
  6. Use the advanced search - The question I get asked a lot is what is the most important bit on LinkedIn. Well, to find the people you want to meet it has to be the advanced search. LinkedIn is just like a big room full of people, well over 90 million now. LinkedIn advanced search let’s you find the person, company, group or job that you most desire using keywords, location, connection levels and more. Check it out, it will help you find the people you most want to meet.
  7. The prime contacts are second level - I think the most important people in your existing network are your level two connections. Why? Because your level ones are your closest associates, you have invested time meeting them, sharing with them the values you hold, the value your business shares with others, and vice versa. You have an understanding of them, you know how they work and vice versa. So if one of your closest colleagues popped up and said could you introduce me to xxx, you wouldn’t hesitate would you? So why aren’t you using the search to look for those people you want to meet in level two and ask your level ones to connect you? But don’t go using a standard text template now will you!?
  8. Personal brand - Less than 20% of people believe advertising but nearly 80% believe their peers. This is why LinkedIn is founded on the personal profile, the profile that represents you and what you stand for. It is your brand in the LinkedIn world, the foundation that enables you to build a great network and to exploit the platform to the full (once you have the skills). It should be packed full of your values, and the value that you have provided in your current and previous roles. Make it easy for people to find you, to engage with you, and share in the value that you share.
  9. Do unto others …., share, help, don’t sell and don’t spam - Manners and etiquette is often talked about around social media but I prefer to think of it within a room full of people. If you were to meet your closest friends and colleagues in a room, I would hope you wouldn’t leap into ‘sales mode’ pushing your benefits and trying to close, close, close. So why do it on social media? You’re only a screen and keyboard away. The best advice I can give you is don’t push sales and treat people as you want to be treated and you’ll be fine. If you want to sell the company then create a company profile together with products and services as a sales vehicle. Your profile and your relationships should enable your success. You too can sell millions within LinkedIn just as I did – just change your approach a little. Make it easy for people to buy from you.
  10. It’s a network - work it, interact, comment and engage - When you go to a network event, you work around the guests, you talk to people and you engage. So why when it comes to business social media like LinkedIn, do people expect the door to open up to commercial success just for having a profile? It’s like being on the guest list of an event, not going and wondering why no one got in touch afterwards! Like having a bike in the garage and wondering why you’re not getting fit! You have to engage with people, invest in them, share with them, and help them before they will appreciate you, your value and your efforts. Go on, invest a little, the returns are fabulous!

There are many ways that Contractor and Interim Managers can develop their LinkedIn strategy. For more information about how you can maximise your LinkedIn account, you can attend our seminar in Central London on February 28th 2011. Click here for more details:

Please note that IPSE Members get a discounted price exclusive to our media partners. This reduces the price from £185 + Vat to £148 + Vat. This price is probably somewhere between a half and a full days contract rate; for such a small investment, bearing in mind the insight that the seminar will provide, we are anticipating strong demand so make sure you don’t miss out and book your place asap.

By Matt Craven, Managing Director of The CV & Interview Advisors and James Potter, The LinkedIn Man

Marketing Yourself