Cake or Candles? Emphasizing What Matters in Your Career

It’s hard to play down the importance of first impressions. That initial handshake, a colleague’s recommendation, the first glance at a resume—these things are all critical to capturing the face time that can lead to a career change. But when the time comes for a company to entrust a new person with a part of its future, that decision is based on traits found at a much deeper level.

Think of a birthday cake. The sight of one at the office generally raises excitement, even among those who would rather slam their heads under the lid of the copier than listen to their colleagues sing. For most, a tastily decorated dessert in the middle of the day is something to look forward to. After it’s gone, though, no one thinks much of how it looked. While the taste may linger on the drive home, few will remember the color of the candles it once held (or, hopefully, their number.) In a sense, the hiring process is the same way.

Leaders remember the traits of job candidates that extend inside the outer layer of presentation and courtesy. Degrees, past positions and professional accomplishments will attract a company’s attention, but a successful hiring manager will want to know more about the person who achieved them. It’s important for those seeking new positions to keep themselves from becoming distracted by the minutia of resume formatting and networking strategies. That’s just icing. Once the interview begins, they’ll need to show the strengths and values within them that can lend trust and confidence to their potential employers. They’ll need to be ready to demonstrate their character and their attitude. They’ll be challenged to outline their knowledge and unique experience in their field. And throughout the process, candidates will be given the chance to demonstrate their judgment, drive and perseverance.

Like the candles on a cake, people soon forget the superficial parts of a job application. But it’s the good stuff inside that executives remember and that candidates should make the focus of their careers.

For more than 25 years, Christopher Frederick has helped companies find executives with the inward traits that demonstrate leadership and potential. To learn more about how we can enhance your next executive search, contact firm principal Chris Hingle at Or visit our website at

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