11 December, 2023

Top Tips For Candidates To Navigate The Current Jobs Market

Green Park's Top tips for candidates to navigate the current jobs market.

We asked our team to share some of their expert insights gained on a daily basis to provide guidance, best practice and what to be mindful of when on the look out for your next opportunity. 

Discover below the top tips from Green Park's Head of Research Kate St. John Perry (KSP), Director in our Private Sector Team Liz Walker (LZ), Civil Society and Government (CSG) Consultant Jon Morrison (JM) and CSG Delivery Consultant Laura Stuart (LS). 


What are employers consistently asking for in terms of skills?

KSP – Outside of the relevant technical skills, more important at senior or ExCo level is style of leadership which is becoming highly relevant. Everyone wants an inclusive and collaborative leader with demonstrable experience of this. We hear a lot of requirements for “High EQ and low ego”. Additionally, visible leadership and the ability to influence across all levels of the business, someone who is agile, intellectually curious and empathetic to both the commercial requirements of a business but also in terms of their leadership style. Diverse role models are becoming increasingly needed for more junior and mid-management levels to both attract and retain diverse talent.

LW - Adaptability, proactivity, transformation and an analytical and data driven approach.

JM – This is a hard one to give a definite answer. In Civil Society and Government we are increasingly being asked about finance skills and commerciality even for people who are not in finance functions – stakeholder skills alongside ability to think outside of their functional area is always important.

LS – Our clients are often looking for change management, personal resilience and stakeholder engagement, particularly managing challenging discussions in relation to change and speed of change. Understanding of financial sustainability & broad sectoral trends. Both impact and forecasting are buzzwords for at the moment.


Where a candidate has been unsuccessful at interview stage, what reasons have they been given by the employer?

KSP - We find feedback can be challenging. Some employers do not give very full feedback even when pressed, which is a huge oversight on their part, as this alienates candidates and could affect their brand representation in the marketplace. As Green Park is exceptional at providing diverse and interesting candidates at shortlist, the feedback we see is usually around potential cultural fit or someone else is just a stronger candidate.

Candidates not prepping extensively for interview and not asking strategic and relevant questions are also seen as not having the appetite for the opportunity.

LW - It can be a culture fit issue, or that the reasons / examples given in interview weren’t strong enough. Often employers are reluctant to give tangible feedback as to why candidates aren’t successful but it’s a vital component of the hiring process and helps the candidate to improve.

LS - This can vary hugely. For my candidates at present, it is often about showing strategic abilities vs operational abilities. The word ‘gravitas’ is coming up more at the moment which is not a positive sign and I think underlies the nervousness of many of our clients currently. Also candidates need to show an understanding of the organisation and a real motivation for why they that organisation specifically.


What could a candidate do to stand out more?

KSP - Prep! Really think about interesting questions to ask such as “what does success look like in this role” or “what are the real challenges in the next 12-18 months for both the business and this role”. Show you have done your homework and really thought about the opportunity and the business. If the business is going through a lot of change don’t just ask technical questions, ask about cultural change and impact. Also try to show where you could deliver change most effectively and link this back to a previous experience.

LW - It’s so basic its often overlooked : Make sure all your sales tools (CV, LinkedIn profile etc) are up to date, with no spelling / grammatical errors – make sure your contact details are clear, make sure the content of your CV / profile explains the impact of your success – this is where is data points are a great tool to quickly show how good you are.

If you’re working with search partners, build strong relationships with them, the better they know you, the easier it is for them to recommend you. Use your network, reconnect, go for coffee, remind them of your brilliance and be consistent – Rome wasn’t built in a day ! If you apply for roles directly, double up and send your application to the Head of HR / CEO, connect with them on LinkedIn, explain how keen you are to be considered for the role and follow up with them asking for a chat to get some deeper insight into the role and company.

Prepare yourself (not just by researching the company and hiring leaders) but by preparing the examples you give – it’s almost like a script – if you have 5 or 6 scenarios within your career that can be utilised for multiple examples i.e. an example of strong leadership AND / OR an example of managing a difficult scenario. By planning ahead you’ll avoid that panic of having to scroll through the filing cabinet in your mind for an example that fits and can concentrate on answering the question in a fluid but succinct way.

Don’t be afraid to ask “difficult” questions – this is as much about the candidate doing strong due diligence as it is the hiring organisation. If this is a replacement role – ask why the previous person didn’t work out. If there has been some bad press, ask what the plans are to rectify? And if you’ve heard rumours about a poor culture, challenge – nothing is perfect and for many the challenge of a turnaround is a real appeal but you need to know what you’re stepping into. It’s also good to ask what the expectations for the role are or what would determine success for them, especially if there is more than one interviewer – this is a sure way to see if there is any immediate misalignment which you can address there and then.

Be honest – there is no point promising the moon when you’re going to get found out. People appreciate honesty and whilst an interview is an opportunity to sell yourself make sure that is what you’re doing, not selling a super human fictional version of yourself.

LS - I think candidates who really deeply research the organisation. Who take the time to read the strategy documents, the annual report and are then able to utilise this information to demonstrate how they might have impact if they are appointed always really stand out to me.


How do you make yourself relevant if you are coming from a different sector?

KSP - Link your experience to the new sector. Most likely you will have transferrable skills or you won’t have made it to the stage of having a conversation with the headhunter/interviewer. Really focus on these skills with examples to back this up. For example, if you are interviewing for an insurance sector role, give examples of having worked in a regulated environment such as wider Financial Services or Utilities. Transferrable leadership skills are always good to highlight. Present an example of where you either effected change or dealt with a challenge that could work across any sector. A lot of businesses are looking out of sector in order to increase diverse hiring.

LW - It’s about finding the synergies – every organisation has people, productivity, cost issues etc. You may not have sector experience but if you come from an industry that has experienced similar challenges to the one you’re looking to break into, utilise that. There is also a huge (and well deserved) focus on diversity of thought– bringing fresh eyes to industry /sector issues equals creative thinking when it comes to solutions – coming from a different sector is a strength, as you’re not bogged down by tradition, “normal” ways of approach etc – you can be the trailblazer they’re looking for to really make a difference.

LS - Depends on the organisation you’re applying for. In charities having an understanding of differing organisational governance structures is hugely helpful. Having experience as a volunteer or trustee can support candidates in building these skills. Understanding where an organisation is in its life cycle - they are often more risk averse and less likely to select a candidate form a different sector if they’re going through significant change but a stable growth oriented organisation or one that needs to orientate in a more commercial direction may be more open minded to a candidate from another sector.

Always think about your most transferable skills – what is the agenda of the organisation and how do those skills further that agenda and vision for the future. Making it about them over what the move can do for you. Self-awareness of the learning curve and an openness to learning from more junior members of the team.


Proportion wise, how would they split up their resume i.e. 10% personal profile, 60% experience, 30% education etc.

KSP - 15% Personal profile, including a section on achievements in roles, demonstrating budget responsibilities, leadership, team reporting size and geographies covered. 65% experience. Make it impactful! Also make it clear what each business where you have worked, actually does if it is not a well branded business. 20% Education. I don’t find personal interests garners much attention so best to leave this off if it isn’t something outstanding.

LS - Very difficult to say as varies hugely sector to sector and different nationalities have different expectations – eg. in the US many people have a photo on their CV – here it’s often not encouraged or taken seriously. Sector difference if huge, eg. in a higher education a professorial CV might have 40 pages of their research history, whereas in a commercial organisation they might focus more on profitability and be only 2 pages long. There are no hard and fast rules that covers everyone.

Best practice for me, you want the CV to be no more than 3 pages at the executive level. Under 10% education and it should always be at the end of the CV. Personal profile should be limited to no more than 2-3 sentences. Descriptions under the role titles should include no more than 6 bullet points and should focus on facts, figures, including team size and budget and achievements over description of ‘what’ they did. We want to know how they did it and what they achieved.

If it’s a CV for a NED or Trustee role the candidate should start with a section on their non-executive or governance positions and then move into a section about their executive career, followed by their education.

LW - It really does depend on how long you’re been working for. It’s important to remember your CV is a sales document so you need a good mix of all 3 but if you’ve been working for the last 25yrs, recruiters aren’t going to be as interested as what you studied for A level vs how you transformed a function in your last 3 roles. Minimise early career detail to focus on what you have been doing more recently and use data to highlight your successes. When it comes to the personal profile piece talk about your USP – what would your colleagues, team and boss say about you ? Combine that with aspirational content about the role you want to step into to show you’ve done a big chunk of that role already just minus the job title. That is more impactful than generic language.


If you would like to continue the conversation and hear more from our team, please dont hesitate to get in touch. 

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