Making the most of every opportunity

A successful – and, indeed, award-winning – businesswoman last week told me what regularly transpires in her business, writes Liam Horan, Sli Nua Careers.

Person A walks into lobby, armed with a CV. They approach the receptionist, and ask for the manager.

Upon being told that the boss is out of the office/in a meeting/enjoying a quick spot of transcendental meditation (okay, I made that last bit up), Person A pops the CV up on the counter and asks for it to be passed on at the earliest possible opportunity.

And with barely a thanks, and certainly without any proper friendly engagement with the receptionist, Person A turns around on their heels and out the gap again.

Now, as Giles and Dunphy might say, Stop It There And See What Happens Next.

Manager returns. Receptionist hands her the CV. The manager has a quick look (for that’s all most people do with CVs – but that’s another topic, the whole idea of making your CV so eye-catching that in a two-second look the potential employer’s attention is pricked).

While she’s flicking speedily through the CV, the manager asks the receptionist about Person A. What were they like? Were they friendly? Did they engage? Did they show any interest in the business?

And, more often than not, the Receptionist answers Unimpressive, No, No, and No.

And right there and then, the prospects of Person A die a death.

Occasionally, however, a different type of candidate will enter the premises.

Their approach is much more likely to advance the matter to the point where they get an interview.

First of all, they engage properly with the receptionist. How are you? How’s business? Desperate day, that kind of thing.

They then produce their CV and hand it to the receptionist – without presuming that the receptionist is NOT the manager. They say “I have my CV here, perhaps you might take a look at it, I’m looking for work in {insert section as appropriate}.”

The receptionist says she will pass it on the manager. A final round of chit-chat, thanks very much, and out the gap again.

This time, the receptionist can sing a sweeter song for the manager. This time, the candidate gets kudos – and possibly even an interview. And that’s all a candidate can hope for in that situation: an opportunity to sit down with someone in management to show what value they can bring to the business.

Be the second type. Never treat the receptionist as ‘just the receptionist.’ In some businesses, the receptionist is the owner. But even if they’re not, they’re still somebody to respect and impress.

Show an interest in the business for those few moments. Show that you’ve got a personality.

You could spend a full day handing out CVs to, say, 50 different companies, and, come evening time, your prospects might not have progressed one inch: companies are getting droves of CVs through their doors right now and you must stand out from the pack.

The consolation is that many people are doing what Person A did above. They are going through the motions, but they are not giving themselves a fighting chance, and are possibly even becoming embittered at the lack of success.

Make those approaches pay. Know something about the company. Show an interest. Job-hunting is a form of selling – and you’re the product.

Show the product in the best possible light, particularly in these difficult economic times.



Sli Nua Careers (tel 094 95 42965 / 091 528 883, are based on Watson’s Lane, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo / Drum East, Bushy Park, Galway, and carry out CV Preparation, Interview Training, Mock Interviews and Career Direction. For your free e-book on interview & CV tips, email