Business in Vancouver: Getting inside the executive office; the difference that makes the difference

Mining recruitment: Andrew Pollard

Getting inside the executive office; the differences that make the difference if you want to land a top-notch job

Tapping into the executive ranks in the mining industry is no easy task, but the candidates I see who are able to climb the corporate ladder know their value and aren’t afraid to seek out opportunities.

The mining sector is an incredibly tight-knit community, where, for better or worse, everyone knows everyone else.

Those at the top tend to stay at the top (whether they are able to consistently deliver shareholder value or not), while those looking to break in to the executive ranks often find themselves stagnating in their career, waiting for the perfect opportunity to come to them.

What’s the difference between those who are able to bridge the gap to the executive ranks and those who have the desire but not the luck?

Here are four key differences between successful candidates and those who fall by the wayside.

Know your value proposition

All too often on resumés and in interviews, candidates brush past their true expertise in favour of vague generalities. Don’t expect people to pick up on your true talents.

The onus is on you to market yourself. Know your strengths: what makes you different and better suited to the position than other candidates?

Time and again, the people who are able to position their strengths for the task at hand are the ones that get job offers.

Interviews are not the place to be humble.

Know your weakness

No one is perfect and no candidate is expected to be.

More often than not, the well-rounded candidate gets passed up in favour of the person who knows precisely what they excel at and readily admits to their weaknesses.

The candidates that get serious consideration are those that not only leverage their strengths, but also address their weaknesses.

They provide a reason as to why a weakness wouldn’t stop them from excelling or a way to circumvent that weakness altogether (installing a team beneath them that excels in areas they might not, for example).

The same goes for perceived weaknesses such as age, experience level and commodity exposure.

Tackle those issues head on or you risk leaving big question marks in the heads of those making the final decision.

Also, don’t be afraid to align yourself with people who know what they are doing.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize there are a few key people in the industry who, time and again, are able to deliver tremendous shareholder value and build companies with solid fundamentals.

In a city with more than 900 mining companies, management teams like this are few and far between, making it even more important to actively seek them out. Aligning yourself with management that has a track record will not only look good on your resume, it will give you the perfect opportunity to learn the “secret sauce” that breeds successful mining companies.

Seek out opportunities and keep an open mind

When I first got started in executive search I was blown away by the calibre of executives in the industry who made a point of seeking me out.

Most were happy in their current roles, but wanted to be on my radar should an extremely compelling opportunity come across my desk.

It soon became abundantly clear that part of what made them successful along the way is that they didn’t just wait for opportunities to magically find them – they sought them out.

When you are approached with an opportunity, solicited or not, it is worthwhile to keep an open mind.

It costs nothing to hear it out, and you would likely know in less than two minutes if it’s something that warrants further attention.

I can’t count the number of times I have placed a candidate that initially said he was happy in his current job and had no desire to leave.

Break out of your comfort zone

It happens to everyone at some point in their career: they get comfortable.

They stop growing in their job and do just enough to get by.

This industry is too competitive to take your foot off of the pedal.

If you feel that your career is beginning to stagnate, maybe it’s time to broaden your skill set, forge new relationships or look for a job that will expand your horizons.

If you know where you want to end up down the line then you also need to consider the skills, relationships and know-how you will need to get there. •

Andrew Pollard is the president of the Mining Recruitment Group Ltd. (, a boutique executive search firm focused on the needs of the mining industry.

This article from Business in Vancouver December 13-19, 2011; issue 1155

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