By Ned Welc, CCM, CCE
When private club Search Committees meet with candidates for high-level club positions like General Manager, CFO, COO, Director of Food and Beverage and more, they already have a good amount of candidate information on hand. After all, it’s our job as executive recruitment professionals who specialize in private club placements to provide extensive background information, including resumes, background checks and so on.
If you as a job candidate get the opportunity to meet personally with a Search Committee, its members are impressed enough to invest their time in gaining a sense of who you really are as a professional and a person, beyond the resume.
I’ve spent 40 years in the private club industry as a GM, consultant and Partner with GSI Executive Search. In that time, I’ve sat in on countless interviews, and as a search consultant, I prepare candidates for their big moments in front of Search Committees. While some candidates can gain a sense of how their interview went based on spoken or unspoken cues from Committee members during the encounter, true feelings emerge after candidates leave the room—and the intra-Committee dialogue really gets going.
So if you’re a candidate for a private club job, what is the Search Committee discussing about you after you say your goodbyes? Generally, conversation revolves around several areas:
Your presence. Always answer questions directly—never with a short story that eventually seems to you like you’ve answered a question, even though it really doesn’t. When you answer a question, make eye contact with everyone, not just the person asking the question. Also, try hard to avoid “fog” moments—i.e., moments when you try to remember something, and you’ve temporarily “zoned out.” These are awkward, and Search Committees remember them afterward.
The information you relay. You’ve already submitted a cover letter and a detailed resume. The interview now offers an opportunity to expand on this information with rich detail and perspectives that demonstrate your strengths, abilities and experience. Committee members want to hear what you can do for their club; they’re eager for your ideas and insights. This is not the time to simply rehash what already appears on your resume and relive past accomplishments. Search Committee members are smart, accomplished people; in cases where I’ve seen candidates recite details off their resumes, Committee members almost always have commented negatively after the interview. “He/She spent too much time talking about themselves, and not enough time talking about our club,” is a fairly common sentiment. The lesson here: Use your resume (and if necessary, your cover letter) as a talking points guide to help build your value and demonstrate your vision for their club in the eyes of Committee members.
Your focus. Lose the “I” in everything that you say. No matter what you say to Committee members, starting everything with “I” conveys a lack of team orientation, and casts serious doubt about your ability to empower your staff at their club.
Your accuracy. Get Committee members’ names right! No skill is more important in the club industry than remembering names and faces. Remember Committee members and use their names when you can as you answer questions and engage in dialogue.
Your social activity. We live in a social world, and your social media preference is a big deal to Search Committees. It’s OK to have a social media presence on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more; but curate your social media presence carefully, because it’s reflective of you in the eyes of the club and its members—certainly beyond what appears on your resume. For more on social media do’s and don’ts for private club professionals, read Dan Farrell’s recent blog.
Lastly, Search Committees won’t comment on this after you leave – it’s too early – but always, and without exception, send a thank you note after the interview. I have seen candidates move to the next level because of the notes they sent, while other candidates were dismissed because they did not commit the time or effort to this crucial step.
First impressions have a lasting influence on how private club Search Committees will eventually judge you. Be professional, relaxed, comfortably confident, and take the advice in this blog to heart—by doing so, you’ll give Committee members lots of positive things to say after the interview concludes.