• Shayne Leslie

Why didn't I get the job? - CEO Application and Interview Feedback

After applications and interviews are done, I often get requests for feedback from applicants who missed out.

To get honest feedback, it is best to approach a professional resume writer and receive coaching on your interview technique.

However, here’s a quick post of things I noticed generally after successfully recruiting for The Beach Club, Collaroy and Rowers on Cooks River (St George Rowers) recently.


The resume is the number one entry way into proving you can write and spell. Second to that, proving you can write about yourself in a self-aware and interesting way.

Being a boutique recruiter, I scan every resume with my eyes. There is no machinery looking for key words. That means less is more.


A summary introduction about what you’re known for, both business side and human side, should be no more than 70 words. This is where knowing your DiSC leadership style is very helpful. Here is my summary.

Shayne is an energetic, naturally intuitive, and generous leader.

Shayne is known as a confident change-agent helping boards, CEOs, and management teams create winning and efficient strategy. This is achieved through director and executive education, improving recruitment, and establishing ambitious goals.

Shayne enjoys a great reputation for taking the lead and driving complex projects. She is also well-regarded as a knowledgeable and engaging facilitator of governance, strategy, marketing, and leadership.

Chronological History

The dot points under the title heading, company, and dates (including month and year) should NOT be a job description. Phrase it to include $, %s and numbers where you can to give the reader an accurate picture of what you were ACHIEVING in the role.

A phrase I saw a lot of in various formats was; Responsible for operational focus of the venue, including human resources, marketing, financial, and gaming.

This would have more impact written as;

  • Led 75 staff including 3 FT C-suite direct reports, 8 FT senior managers, 13 PPT and casual duty managers, and 51 PPT and casual staff, maintaining overall wages% at 26%.

  • Marketing budget of $1.8mill managed through a team of 4 reports; Advertising $500k, Entertainment $250k; Marketing $720k (including member benefits); and Promotions $330k.

  • Revenue growth of 11% and 15% from 2014- 2015 and 2015-2016 respectively with a net contribution increase of 60% and 13%, and operating cash% of 18% and 22% (up from 9%) in the same period.

  • Compliance and profitability of 220 EGMs, increasing return from $110 to $177 per machine per day from 2014 to current through improved promotions, service standards, procurement, and VIP tiering.

If achievements are not written like this, it appears that you don’t have anything to report. If you can’t write results like this because you don’t have any results like this, then you know you’ve got to do some work!

Other basics for resume writing is covered on this post, and you can google for ideas as well.

Cover Letter

If you are requested to answer criteria or specific question in your cover letter, then ANSWER THE CRITERIA.

If you don’t, you tell the recruiter:

  • I have not read your ad

  • I have read your ad but don’t comprehend what I am reading

  • I have read your ad and decided to do my own thing anyway

  • I have read your ad, and can’t answer your criteria, but will lob my resume into the black hole of resume oblivion because you never know…

None of these are good. 9 times out of 10, I will hit the ‘unsuitable’ button in the Seek engine. If you can’t follow instructions, you’re probably not going to be a fabulous CEO for my client!


If the recruiter asks you to prepare something or analyse something for the interview, THEN DO IT.

I set two financial tasks; one a basic spreadsheet and the other based on annual reports. Failure to prepare for these tasks means that you probably can’t understand financial concepts to the level required for the position.

I also set a strategy question, governance question, and some general ability questions.

If you can’t do the tasks, then you may need to pull out of the interview process and learn these skills, particularly financial skills, before attempting a CEO position again. You can’t be a CEO if you can’t do the numbers.

I would also suggest mixing up your answers between business example and people examples. Before interview as part of your preparation, list out 1-2 achievements across all operational areas – gaming, bar, restaurant, functions, and other. Then 2-3 achievements with people, divided into senior management, and ordinary staff, and 1-2 board achievements.

If you lack experience in one area, then see where you can create achievements in your current position or through work experience. I’ve written about stepping up to CEO here.

The recruiter can also tell a million miles away if you’re ‘winging it’ and have done no interview prep.

Social Media

This isn’t true in every case, but recruiters will often check out your social media accounts including LinkedIn and Facebook.

One question asked is, does this person present themselves as a future leader of our organisation?

Another question answered is about security. Too much security on LinkedIn is not great for recruitment, and too little on Facebook shows you may not understand technology (e.g. privacy settings).

No profiles may indicate something different again.

Google your name and see what comes up to check your digital footprint (including images).

Task complete, yet…

Completed all these tasks and still didn’t get the job? There can only be one CEO for the job. Accept the board’s decision with grace and it will put you in good stead for the next time.

Why all these tasks?

I have one of the most rigorous recruitment process that I know of in any industry. Every element of my process is marked (like a school teacher) so I am not swayed by bias and the priority areas of the organisation are matched with the ability of the applicant. This creates as fair a system as possible for the board, the organisation, the recruiter, and the applicant.

The other reason is, like other job hunters, I get exhausted applying for jobs when I don’t really know what they want. I suspect they don’t either, so recruiters or the recruitment committee cast a wide, wide net and hope the right person comes in. My belief is that doesn’t serve the organisation well, nor the applicants.

DISCLAIMER: This is not based on any particular person's presentation or situaiton. It is feedback only and independent advice should be sought for your circumstance.


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