The recruiter, the briefcase and a powerful message for success

“I have the perfect candidate for this role,” recruiter Peter said. And with that he carefully placed his briefcase on my desk, unlocked the latches, and gently opened it. It was then I saw something that has stayed with me ever since. It seduced me then, and does so 20 years later. This is what he had in that briefcase.

Actually, he had nothing in it. Nothing.

Except one CV – of that ‘perfect candidate’. And that was the magic of the moment. It made me feel that that one CV was absolutely gold… it stood alone, and was a prized asset.

I could not wait to get my hands on it. But Peter made me wait. He’d half pick it up. Then gently place it down in the briefcase again, and tell me more about why the candidate was perfect. Then begin to pick it up… here it comes! And then place it down. Torture. Eventually, it came, we hired, and the rest is history as they say. But here’s the point. The magic of that moment was simply this.

Presentation counts.

It really, really, really does. Peter Salt does not even recall that moment when he gave me that CV. But I do – vividly.

Whatever you do in life and in business, think about how you present… whether it is a document, a reception area, a board room for a meeting, a table for a dinner, your desk at work, your car, and critically, the way you dress.

And I fail so often at this

One of my few and most powerful regrets in my life is that for 20 years I have struggled to find clothes that fit me. So I hate shopping, and persist in wearing out a very small wardrobe of ill-fitting rags. It’s such a frustration, because I do love fashion, and get so much pleasure out of wearing great stuff, and in seeing well dressed, well presented people.

I know my weight makes me look like a middle aged ‘has been rapidly going to seed’. It has to. Those who know me hopefully still believe that’s not the case, but I ‘present’ badly. It is not good for my brand (or health). I let myself down.

Do the ‘double check’ test

My mentor, colleague and friend from my Hong Kong days in the 1980s, Paula Gaber, used to talk about ‘the oracle of the obvious’. Making something very simple and straightforward (advice to clients usually) seem like a brain wave, rocket science insight. This really does sum up my next point. But take it to heart! Please.

Before you send something to a client, or have a meeting, or leave home in the morning, pause a moment and ‘double check.’ Are you ‘presenting’ yourself, your work or your agency in the very best possible light?’ Be critical. Pay attention.

‘Presentation’ sells. It counts. Don’t blame me, but every one of us does indeed judge a book by its cover. You know it’s true. Agree?


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