Most of the professionals I come into contact with as an executive resume writer are exceptionally talented individuals. They are master business strategists, breakthrough innovators, quality visionaries, and relentless change leaders—with the epic accomplishments to prove it. That’s why I am surprised when some of them fail to approach their executive job search with the same spirit of enterprise. When asked about their plan, they say, “I’ll pay a recruiter to find me a job” and “All I need is a strong resume.”
First of all, recruiters are paid by client companies, not the job seeker.
Secondly, placing your career in the hands of anyone other than yourself is a bad idea. You’ve learned to delegate—I get that. But this paramount undertaking is something to get support on, not parcel out.
And thirdly, although a strong resume is an absolutely critical component of any solid job search strategy, it isn’t a golden ticket to the chocolate factory. It’s a tool—and one that must be used competently or it won’t get the job done.
Here are the top 3 ways executives with stellar resumes fall short in job search execution:
1) Taking extreme care with their resume but failing to consider other career documents as equally important.
Sending a stellar resume with a poorly thought-out e-note or cover letter may mean that the resume in which you invested so much time and effort never even gets read. If you spark a quick interest in your initial communication, you increase the likelihood that your reader will look at the resume.
Similarly, having a shining resume but a LinkedIn profile that is all but abandoned, and that either duplicates the resume or falls flat, is a missed opportunity. Use your LinkedIn profile to demonstrate that you are a connected, recommendable, passionate thought leader and a great cultural fit.
2) Focusing their efforts solely on responding to job ads.
Up to 85% of hires never actually materialized from posted job ads, or if they did, it was a mere formality and a preferred candidate was already identified. The “apply and pray” approach also neglects the staggering number of jobs that are created for a specific person that an organization is eager to bring on board, in any way it can. Clearly, who you know is important, but it’s much more than that. It’s ensuring that who you know is well informed about what you bring to the table and your career goals.
Before feeling down in the dumps and thinking life isn’t fair—that nepotism rules, and that hard work and talent will get you nowhere—think about it from the business’s perspective. Hiring within an employee network makes good business sense if it dramatically reduces the talent acquisition costs, not to mention the savings from avoiding wrong-fit hires. If you are the one hired, you benefit from having insider information and real insight into the culture and true challenges facing the organization that might not come through in a job ad or interview.
3) Failing to include recruiter relationships as a critical component of lifelong networking.
Like I stated before, the recruiter works for the employer, but that doesn’t mean that being on a recruiter’s radar isn’t a good idea. If you merely reach out to dozens of recruiters when you’re in active-search mode, you’re likely to get your resume buried in a large stack. If, on the other hand, you have spent time building authentic relationships with a few key recruiters over time, when the winds of change begin to blow, you will be so much more than a sheet of paper in a stack.
Is having a brilliant resume one of the best things you can do to advance your career? Absolutely. Is it all you need? Not by a long shot.
Having a resume that not only positions you as a qualified candidate but clearly differentiates you from the sea of other qualified candidates is like putting on a pair of trusty running shoes to compete in a marathon when many of the other participants are racing in flip-flops. But you still won’t make it to the finish line without some powerful leg work that only you can do.