Insights From a Consultant Recruiter: How to Stand Out in Any Market

Posted by Norm Barnett on 6/30/15 12:36 PM

Insights From a Consultant Recruiter: How to Stand Out in Any Market

After a pivotal Game 5 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James was asked if he felt pressure to overcome the 3-2 series deficit.   LeBron simply responded, “Nah, I feel confident because I am the best player in the world, it’s that simple”.  

Hold the phones. That is a bold statement! 

Bold, but true.   LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player in the world. Tact and delivery aside, we can all learn an important lesson from the (self-proclaimed) best in the world: it is imperative to have unwavering confidence in your professional experience and capabilities.

As a professional consultant recruiter for over 20-years, I am a firm believer that confidence is a catalyst for career growth and gaining the competitive advantage over other candidates.   In the profound words of tennis great, Arthur Ashe:

"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation."  

If you are looking to jump start your career, it is imperative that you put in the preparation and research to:

  1. Understand the market.
  2. Target the right potential employers.
  3. Develop your personal brand.

By focusing on these three key areas, your confidence will grow, the market will recognize your value, and doors will open.   Trust and believe in your own knowledge, experience, and the value you bring to the table.   

Earlier this month, we produced a webinar called “Secrets from a Consultant Recruiter: How to Stand out in any Market”, geared specifically towards professionals looking to gain a professional edge and accelerate their careers. We received interesting information from the webinar attendees and wanted to share our insights along with the survey data in this blog post.      

The following are 3 powerful insights from our webinar:


1)     Poll Results: What type of market are we in now?

What type of market are we in now? 

I found it interesting that 80% of the people polled believe we are in an Employer market.  The current national unemployment rate of 5.5% suggests differently. You have probably heard the phrases "it's a buyer's market" or "it's a seller's market" and with the unemployment rate reaching as high as 10% in October 2009, it is clear the pendulum has swung in favor of employees. This employment landscape suggests that companies need to pay attention to turnover and retention issues.  If they do not, companies will continue to encounter challenges regarding the retention of current employees and stiff competition winning over new recruits. 


2)     Poll Results: What is your top non-negotiable? 

What is your top non-negotiable?

Non-negotiables are decisions that are made based upon a person’s values, beliefs and convictions and typically do not change. Your non-negotiables are deal breakers, or, the lines you will not cross. If you don’t know what your deal breakers are, then don’t be surprised if you find yourself in an unsatisfactory position.

If you have ever felt like you are settling or becoming content, I believe it’s because you have not settled on your non-negotiables.  Non-negotiables help you claim the job you know you want.   Non-negotiables are simply reference points for someone to use to verify that you are making the correct choice when thinking of taking a new position or staying in your current one.  Everyone’s non-negotiables are different but without knowing your own you can end up making the wrong choice. 

The top non-negotiables from our poll are Salary, Location and Company Culture.  Let’s examine these further and determine what is really negotiable. Through your research you can easily determine if the location and company culture meet your requirements. That leaves only salary. You should determine if your prospective employer is willing to negotiate on your salary. Salaries for entry-level positions may not be negotiable but other points might be.

Consider negotiating the following benefits when you receive a job offer:

  • Flex time.
  • Vacation.
  • Healthcare coverage.
  • Retirement plan.
  • Relocation allowance.
  • Start date.
  • Signing bonus.

If salary is negotiable, do your research. Negotiating salary is best done when you have gathered information regarding the industry, the organization, its competitors, the function and specific position, and the cost of employment where the job is based. 

Consult these websites for specific information regarding salaries for particular fields: 

Personally, I believe the type of role should be most important.  This should be your main driver on all job searches, so keep an eye on career opportunities with your non-negotiables in mind.


3)     Question: What is your biggest barrier to advancing your career? 

Everyone wants to advance their careers. Some are more willing to work hard and make it happen and some are less inclined. If you are trying to advance your career there will always be barriers to overcome. To overcome these barriers you will have to take risks, don’t play it overly safe in this regard. Most companies and recruiters look for individuals that are willing to take risks, do extra work and volunteer for projects that most people don’t want.

To advance your career, you will have to face some harsh realities about your organization and yourself and make decisions that may have a negative impact on your life outside of work.  Make sure these decisions do not go against your non-negotiables and that you are making them for the right reasons. 

We collected a variety of responses to this question from our webinar attendees, and the following are the themes I noticed. What follows are a few high-level suggestions for overcoming the common barriers.  

Theme 1: Advancement to the next level.

Response: Advancing in your career requires a sense of consciousness and knowing that you are responsible for driving your own results. You may have mentors, sponsors, and a boss, but at the core of it all, you are it. You are the person navigating and investing in your career.  Do a self-assessment. Do your current skills meet the requirements of the next level? 

Ask for 360-degree feedback.  Asking for candid feedback from you peers, co-workers and leaders is a great way to understand how other people view you. This will also help you develop your network within the organization. Getting on the radar of those with influence in your organization is instrumental in advancing your career to the next level.

Theme 2: My Age.

Counter intuitively, this barrier affects new job seekers as well as seasoned job seekers.  Early in your career it may be difficult to find opportunities because of your lack of experience. But it's also a period during which you can take time to figure out ways in which your talents and skills can best be applied. Seek out positions where you can learn from others, but still be a valuable contributor. The fact that you have minimal experience may limit you to a certain type of opportunity, but it does not prevent you from becoming an expert in your area. Remember that you are the future and you have to start at the bottom and actively manage your upward mobility to make it to the top.

For seasoned job seekers, remember that you have accumulated an immense volume of knowledge and experience throughout your career. The unique know-how you bring to a position is immensely valuable. In any organization knowledge is power, and you can use it to your advantage. As you interview remind people of this and show the interviewer that you are willing to apply your knowledge when and where it is needed. 

Theme 3: Lack of opportunities in particular markets.      

Although some markets may be down e.g. Oil and Gas, there are typically other markets that require similar skill sets. For example, skills acquired in the Oil and Gas space are often transferable to markets such as utilities or renewable energy. I call this the cross over effect. Taking the skills you learned in one industry and applying them to another.

An alternative is going back to school. Whether it be trade school or your traditional educational platform, certifications and academic credentials are becoming more and more valuable. Continuing education is always a worthwhile pursuit. However keep in mind that if you pursue studies outside your current scope of work, you may have to settle for a more junior position or lower compensation to apply your new knowledge day to day.


Take the Next Step

If you are committed to taking the next step in your career, it is critically important to start developing a plan. I recommend that you start networking, meeting with colleagues, joining meet-up groups, and seeking professional mentorship.   Your time invested in networking will pay significant dividends and help you achieve new levels of success.   

Lastly, if you are looking for some other practical ideas and strategies on developing your career advancement plan, check-out our recently recorded webinar, “Secrets from a Consultant Recruiter: How To Stand Out In Any Market” available here:  

Stream Webinar Recording

I wish you luck in achieving your professional career goals, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any follow-up questions or comments, you can reach me via email at

Topics: Consultant Recruiting, Candidate Resources