Local Government Manager in Transition Tips



Based on my own experience as a “Manager in Transition” or MIT – as we say in the profession, I offer the following suggestions to local government managers who find themselves unemployed.
  • Preliminary Steps
  • Get Organized
  • Digital Organization
  • Internet Job Search
  • Headhunters
  • Prepare for the Interview How Do I Explain Being In Transition
    • Sample Questions
    • Due Diligence Questions
  • Above All, KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR!

PRELIMINARIES

  1. Register with both ICCMA and FCCMA (or your state equivalent) and acquire the job search materials they offer to an MIT.
  2. Read them thoroughly and put those strategies and suggestions to work.
  3. Remain active, attend conferences and network.
  4. Don’t wait for someone to call you, reach out to your professional colleagues via email or phone and ask for their help, send a copy of your résumé.
  5. Apply for unemployment immediately, if you are eligible, and register with Employ Florida for job searches.
  6. Register on the high ranked job sites: LinkedIn and Monster.com as well as your standard government job sites including ICCMA.
  7. Register with all the headhunters.

GET ORGANIZED

  1. Update your résumé. Save it as a PDF.
  2.  Prepare a standard Draft Cover Letter which can be individualized for each job application.
  3.  Prepare a reference list.
  4.  Acquire written letters of reference and save these as a PDF.

DIGITAL ORGANIZATION

  1. Email Applications - Use PDF files to attach to email applications.  This will make sure nothing in your word files gets inadvertently changed.
  2. Prepare a folder on your computer to store your Application package – Resume, Cover Letter, and Reference Letter. This makes it easier to add attachments for email applications.
  3.  Online Applications - Save your résumé as a text file for those jobs that require online applications.  Having a text file you can cut and paste from makes the task easier.  I have also learned that having a simplified short resume with just dates and a short summary of duties is necessary in some cases to make cutting and pasting more efficient.

INTERNET JOB SEARCH

The following sites offer the best resources for jobs that are available in our field.  Check these sites once a week and/or rely on job alerts from these sites to keep informed.
  1. For Unemployment Purposes – set up your account with Employ Florida, https://www.employflorida.com/  and set up a job search that you can use for meeting the weekly requirement of 5 job searches per week.   While this site is not job specific for government, the resources are excellent.  Use the résumé building program to identify your “occupational skills”.  Many of the online applications are now automated, using keywords to determine whether a candidate meets the minimum qualifications for a specific job.  Having your occupational skills correctly identified for automated searches is crucial to getting you to the next step in the review process.
  2. International City County Manager Association (ICMA), http://icma.org/en/icma/career_network/home -  Develop your profile FULLY on this site, with your resume and a picture so that you are visible. Set up a job alert to notify you of new positions.
  3. LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/  Linked In has become the premier site for professional resume sharing and networking. Set up an account using all the features and include your LinkedIn account as part of your signature and reference for folks.  Get ENDORSMENTS!  And Join Groups.
  4. Govtjobs.com, http://www.govtjobs.com/index.html  Set up your profile, with resume and cover letters and set up a job alert.  Sometimes jobs may be listed here that not included on ICMA site.
  5. In addition to these sites, register with GovernmentJobs.com, https://www.governmentjobs.com/.  While this site does not have as many listings as either govtjobs.com or ICMA, many cities and counties are now using this site for their online application process.  Set up your résumé and cover letters ahead of time on this site, so when you find a government that uses this site you are ready to go.
    • Note:  Some governments use this site, but fail to notify you that you are being redirected to this site for the application.  In order to avoid  confusion, use a consistent user name and password across all job site online applications.  Upon entering your user name you will find out very quickly whether you are already registered.
  6. Monster.com  if you are considering leaving the public sector.  This is the highest ranked job site on the internet.

HEADHUNTERS:

Headhunters seems to have their own territory and vary in their approaches to how they fill positions.  Register with all of these headhunters; let them know you are in the market.  Don’t wait for them to come to you!
Springsted ,  http://www.springsted.com/ 
1564 East Parham Road ,  Richmond, VA 23228 
Phone: 804-726-9748804-726-9748,  Fax: 804-726-9752
 
The Mercer Group Inc., http://www.mercergroupinc.com/ 
Address:5579 B Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite 511, Atlanta, GA 30338
Phone:770-551-0403770-551-0403,  Fax: 770-399-9749, JMercer@mercergroupinc.com
 
Slavin Management Consultants,  http://www.slavinmanagementconsultants.com/welcome.shtml
3040 Holcomb Bridge Road,  Suite A-1,  Norcross, Georgia 30071
Phone: 770-449-4656770-449-4656,  Fax: 770-416-0848,  slavin@bellsouth.net
 
Voorhees Associates LLC,  http://www.voorheesassociates.com/
500 Lake Cook Road, Suite 350,  Deerfield, IL 60015
Phone:  847-580-4246847-580-4246,  Fax:866-401-3100,  Info@VAresume.com 
 
 Strategic Government Resources,  https://www.governmentresource.com/
PO Box 1642,   Keller, TX 76244
Phone: 817-337-8581817-337-8581,  Fax: 817-796-1228,  ron@governmentresource.com
 
Colin Baenziger & Associates,  http://www.cb-asso.com/index.html
12970 Dartford Trail, Suite 8 Wellington, FL 33414 Phone: 561.707.3537561.707.3537 Colin@cb-asso.com
 
The Waters Consulting Group, http://www.watersconsulting.com/ 
5050 Quorum Dr. - Suite 625, Dallas, TX 75254 Phone: 972.481.1950972.481.1950, Phone: 800.899.1669800.899.1669, Fax: 972.481.1951, mjanes@watersconsulting.com 
 
Ralph Andersen & Associates, http://www.ralphandersen.com/about_our_firm.html
5800 Stanford Ranch Road, Suite 410, Rocklin, CA 95765
Phone: 916.630.4900916.630.4900, Fax: 916.630.4911, info@ralphandersen.com 

PREPARE FOR INTERVIEWS

There are some fairly standard questions for both the verbal interviews and the essays and it is very helpful to prepare in advance, by studying and updating my skills on various subjects and then writing my responses. This process will help you respond faster, in particular to written essay questions, with a simple “cut and paste”. In general the questions seem focus on the following areas:
  • TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
  • WHY ARE YOU INTERESTED IN WORKING FOR?
  • WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
  • MANAGEMENT STYLE
  • TEAM WORK
  • WHAT MOTIVATES YOU
  • DESCRIBE A DIFFICULT SITUATION OR A SERIOUS CHALLENGES AND HOW YOU HANDLED IT.
Finally, be prepared with a set of serious questions that you have about the employer that reflect you have done your homework.

HOW DO I EXPLAIN BEING IN TRANSITION? (OR, WHAT HAPPENED?)

  1. Really understand why you are in transition - Be sure you fully understand what action(s) led to your termination so you can better prepare yourself for the future.  It can be helpful to gain perspective by consulting a trusted third party observer familiar with the circumstances
  2. Be clear and concise - Explain exactly what happened, but keep it brief.  When discussing why you left your last job, keep your emotions out of it.  If you are still upset, you are not ready for an interview
  3. Get over it; may need professional help to do so. - The emotions you go through after being fired are similar to those a person goes through during the grief process following the death of a loved one.  When you are in a deep emotional state, it is difficult to keep the emotions out of your answers concerning your former position.  It is important to come to peace with what happened.  You may find that the help of a professional counselor is needed to help you get through the grief and/or anger stage of your job loss in order to move on
  4. Talk to someone you know and trust who can help you word a response. - Talk about how you were terminated with a good friend or adviser, one who will not hesitate to point out anything you might have done better under the circumstances.  You need to work out the emotions of the termination and put them behind you before you can move forward
  5. If the prospective employer is using an Executive Search firm, find out what they know and how they are explaining your situation. - The executive search firm will share information about your termination with potential employers.  Talk frankly with them so they understand your perspective, and find out what information they will be providing.  You want to be sure that the information you provide the potential employer is in sync with the information they've received from the search firm.  If you don't know what the executive firm has told the prospective employer, you might say, "I do not know what you've been told by the executive firm or by others, but here is my take on what happened"
  6. The interviewer likely already knows that you were fired.  They are more interested in how you answer the question than on what happened. - Keep in mind that the potential employer probably knows you were fired.  They may even know why you were fired.  The council will appreciate honesty.  They want to hear your side of the story and are looking to hear how you present it
  7. Rehearse your answer. - Practicing what you will say when asked about your job loss will help you to formulate an intelligent answer that is void of your emotion.  It will also help you to keep focused and on the point an intelligent answer that is void of your emotion.  It will also help you to keep focused and on the point
  8. If it doesn't come up in the interview, bring it up. - If the interviewer doesn't bring up the subject of your being terminated, you need to bring it up.  If they don't know now, at some point in the future, they very well may find out.  If they find out after you are hired, it will appear that you either with-held information from them or lied to them.  Don't let this happen, as it could lead to more problems down the road.  Remember to be subtle; you don't want to make too much about it.  Maybe a comment like, "I imagine you are interested in why I left my last position.  I am disappointed things turned out that way, but felt you should know as you make your final decision.  If you would like more information about the experience you could contact_____."
  9. Don't place blame; there is usually blame on both sides. - Though it is easy to place all of the blame for your job loss on your former employer and possibly former staff members, keep in mind that the blame is most likely shared in some way by both you and the employer.  Regardless, it is important to explain what happened without placing blame.  If you speak poorly about your former employer during the interview process, the prospective employer may develop concerns about what you may say about them in the future
  10. Find a third-party who can answer for you and serve as a reference.- A reference on your behalf from a member of your former council and/or another leader in the community will go a long way.
  11. Above all be open and honest with the prospective employer and yourself.
Some actual responses
  1. "There were value conflicts.  I had (insert) values and the council did not".
  2. If you were let go over a specific issue, say that.  You felt X was important; the Council did not
  3. "I serve at the pleasure of the council and I didn't establish the relationships needed with the city council”. - This is one honest answer that may explain what happened to you, particularly if you were terminated after a new council was elected who wanted a change or which had a different platform than the prior council.
  4. "I was hired by a council whose primary goal was to push for growth. I think all of them and the business community will tell you I did an outstanding job. After seven years of this, a no growth council was elected which resulted in a 3-2 council that wanted change. That became apparent so we parted company on an amicable basis".
  5. "I simply misjudged the situation. It was poor communications on my part in this particular situation. I learned a lot from this and I am confident it won't happen again."
  6. If you sense that humor may be helpful in explaining the situation: "I resigned for fatigue and health reasons. The council got sick and tired of me.... "

Sample Questions

  1. Why are you interested in becoming the next City Manager of (insert)? and how does this opportunity fit into your career goals?
  2. What is the highest number of employees that you have been responsible for and where? Explain any inordinately high or low staffing level relative to population, if any (such as operating an airport or an electric utility).
  3. What are the largest operating and capital budgets that you have managed?            Where?
  4. Describe any experiences you have comparable to managing a city like ? where growth is changing the basic nature of the community - its population, its geographical size, its tax base and its economic, social and political demographics.
  5. What successful techniques have you used to encourage a divided elected body to work together effectively?
  6. Please describe your leadership and management style with your department heads and employees?
  7. Please provide an example of a capital project you have participated in which involved separate entity stakeholders.
  8. Please describe any services you have consolidated with the other public agencies.
  9. Please describe your economic development experience and provide an example of one economic development project you moved forward for your community.  What type(s) of incentives were used?
  10. Is the resume that we have for you accurate and current?  If not, please explain any discrepancies.
  11. Are you currently employed?
  12. Have you ever been fired or resigned under pressure from a job?                  If yes, please explain.
  13. Have you ever sued an employer or been sued by an employer or employee?           If yes, please explain.
  14. Present or most recent salary:
  15. Why are you interested in working for the City of ?
  16. Describe the responsibilities of your current position? List the current services, number of full-time employees and annual budget of your current organization.
  17. Please describe in detail your experience in the management of growth and development.
  18. Please describe a situation in which you worked on an intergovernmental or interagency basis.
  19. Have you worked directly with the state and federal governments, councils of governments, and other units of local government? Please describe.
  20. How would you describe your management style? How do you get things done and make decisions?
  21. How do you approach the planning process? What system do you use to set and maintain objectives and priorities?
  22. Describe your philosophy and approach to financial managements and budget development and management.
  23. Describe your philosophy and approach to employee development, motivation, and                performance evaluation.
  24. Please describe your experience with elected officials and how you approach and successfully ensure a positive administrative relationship in a political environment.
  25. Please describe how you would acclimate yourself to the organization and how you would strategically perform and approach the required duties of City Administrator during your first six months and year of appointment.
  26. What would your supervisors describe as your strengths and areas in need of improvement?
  27. What would your employees describe as your strengths and your areas in need of improvement?
  28. Describe in detail two examples of serious challenges you have faced in your professional career and how you handle the situations.
  29. Describe your experience in preparing the following plans: capital improvement, long range infrastructure, and economic development.
  30. Why are you interested in this position and are considering a move at this time?
  31. Describe your management style. How do you get things done and make decisions?
  32. Describe the feedback you have received from those with whom you work regarding your strengths.
  33. Describe the feedback you have received from those with whom you work regarding areas where you need improvement.
  34. How would others characterize your communication style – both formal and informal?
  35. Please describe your current scope of responsibilities (include staff and budget). To whom do you report?
  36. What role do you play with the City/County management team? City Council? Citizens or citizen groups?
  37. Please describe your experience with economic development and the attraction of new business or the expansion of existing concerns.  What assets would view as key to Sanford’s future success in terms of economic development?
  38. Please describe your experience with neighborhood stabilization and revitalization efforts.
  39. What experience and successes you have had with regional and intergovernmental cooperation.
  40. Please describe your experience related to effective financial management and financial planning in a governmental environment.
  41. Please describe your experience related to working in a diverse and involved community. What techniques have served you well to build bridges and lines of communications within the community?
  42. Please describe your experience related to major capital improvements.
  43. Please describe your involvement with the development of long- and short-term strategic plans, including the integration to a city’s overall master plan.
  44. Please describe any additional areas of expertise or experiences/project involvement you have/have had that are relevant to the City Manager position.
  45. Are there any special interest groups, citizen groups, employee groups, collective bargaining groups/ unions or media organizations with which you have had adverse dealings?  Would any of these groups be prone to discredit your candidacy if your dealings with them were to come to public light?
  46. Have you posted any of your personal information on social or professional networking websites such as MySpace, Face Book, You Tube, Linked In or Twitter?
  47. Do you know of any postings of you that may have been done by others on such sites?
  48. If you or others have made postings on these sites, could any of the information be considered inappropriate to a prospective employer?
  49. If an electronic file search of print media is made regarding your professional service, what controversies might be disclosed?  What positive comments will we find regarding your service?
  50. How did you learn about the position?
  51. Are you currently interviewing with an employer and/or a finalist in any other recruitment process?
  52. Describe your background and experience.  What have been the areas of emphasis?
  53. How does your experience qualify you for this position?
  54. Have you had experience in all areas of local government service? If you have not had experience in certain field show would you approach management in these areas?
  55. What particular experience do you have 'with respect to budget preparation and finance?
  56. What particular experience do you have with respect to personnel and labor relations?
  57. How do you describe your management style?
  58. What is your experience as a supervisor? How many people have you supervised?
  59. Have you ever had to terminate an employee? What process did you follow?
  60. What are your thoughts with respect to performance evaluation? What process do you follow to set objectives and monitor performance?
  61. How will you go about assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and identifying opportunities to improve?
  62. How do you approach the planning process? What system do you use to set objectives and priorities?
  63. What is important to you in establishing effective working relations with others?
  64. How do you view the relationship between the administrator and governing body? How do you view your relationship with departmental heads and local government staff?
  65. What techniques have you found to be most successful in assisting local government officials establish and implement long- and short-range goals for the community?
  66. To what extent do you believe contact with citizens and citizen groups are important? How do you typically handle this responsibility?
  67. What experience have you had working on an intergovernmental or interagency basis? Have you worked directly with the state and federal government, councils of governments, and other units of local government?
  68. What will your first steps be upon assuming responsibility for this position? What do you hope to accomplish in the first year?
  69. From your limited vantage point what do you believe to be the challenges and opportunities facing our organization? How is this likely to change in the future?
  70. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  71. Where do you want to be five and ten years from now?
  72. Why are you interested in this position?
  73. What are your expectations with respect to compensation?

Typical Due Diligence Questions:

  1. Have you been subject to a formal charge regarding a conflict of interest, violation of ethical conduct, malfeasance or misfeasance in the performance of duties? If so, please explain the circumstances.
  2. Have you been investigated or censured by a grand jury, board of inquiry or similar body? If so, please explain the circumstances.        See above.
  3. Have you been subject to any disciplinary actions, including suspension, probation, or demotion in your adult working career? If so, please explain the circumstances.
  4. Have you been dismissed or asked to resign from a position?  If so, please explain the circumstances.
  5. Have you  been a party as a plaintiff or defendant  to a lawsuit against your current or former employer or have  been subject to a civil or criminal lawsuit  for which there was a finding of fault, an out-of-court settlement, fine or other restitution granted?  (This includes any EEO complaints, civil suits, or allegations of wrongdoing where your personal actions were the cause of a lawsuit.)
  6. Have you been the subject of an EEO, sexual harassment or discrimination complaint?  If so, what was the outcome of the complaint review process?
  7. Have you been convicted of a felony offense?
  8. Have you been subject to a bankruptcy or adverse financial circumstances that would limit your ability to be bonded or placed in a position of fiduciary responsibility?
  9. Is there anything about your professional or personal conduct that could be potentially embarrassing to your employer or could impair your ability to perform your work, if it were learned at a later time?  If so, please explain the circumstances.
  10. Do you understand that if reliable information arises contrary to your above responses, it could be disqualifying?
ABOVE ALL, KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR!
A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road.  Henry Ward Beecher




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