Executive Job Search Strategies for Top Leaders


Executives, once at that exclusive and illustrious level, no longer have the luxury of applying for a job through the regular means which were available to them during the earlier part of their careers: an ad in the paper, or on an online job board, or just randomly approaching target employers by mailing a CV. At senior and executive levels, individuals seeking a change need to reconsider the usual push strategy and employ a more drawn out, pull strategy and this requires a switch in mindset that they have to get acquainted with.

executive_job_searchThere is of course another more obvious reason for this change in strategy. CXO opportunities are simply not advertised or declared vacant. Roles at the C-Suite are highly sensitive, and are 99% of the time treated in complete confidentiality until a candidate is identified and the vacancy is filled. Even the transition is handled with a lot of delicate and carefully planned steps and announcements.

So how does a leader at senior or executive level go about finding his next role? The answer is pretty simple - the 3 N’s of Successful Executive Job Searching, ‘Networking, Networking, Networking’! Here are four essential steps that are designed to help executives like you get the next position or manage a career change.

Uncover your Brand!
I begin with saying “uncover”, because I guarantee that you already have a brand, whether you are aware of it or not. You need to start by understanding that without a personal brand strategy, it will be difficult to get on the radar for the ever elusive, $1 million plus income. Like all brands and products it’s a continuous set of criteria and steps that you take to travel up that income scale, while fighting for that same income with other executives who are also working on theirs.

So start with one fact. You are a brand. A successful personal branding program is based on its ability to create in the mind of your prospective customers or employers that there is no product (in this case, you, a person) in the market quite like you!

Get Connected!
If you are not already taking advantage of the burgeoning world of social media networking, you should take a serious look at how you need to implement that.

Think of it this way. Before the availability of Mass Media such as Radio, TV, and print, we did not have the ability to mass market. Now the availability and combination of Online Social Media and search engines such as Google, have given the individual the ability to promote his personal brand, on a shoestring budget. Be aware, there is the right way of going about this and the wrong way of doing the same. The wrong way may be as damaging to your career and brand, as the right way can explode your career to new heights.

Embrace Relationship Networking
Networking today has also taken on a new and different life. It has become this vague concept that applies to everything from blogging to sending a message on twitter or growing your connections on LinkedIn. What I want you to wrap your head around is targeted, relationship networking. Identifying your market niche and network within it, get connected to people, add value to their lives individually, and build a sustainable relationship with them.

Connect with a handful of CXO’s in your industry of preference and the equally relevant executive search consultants. Those are the people that will reciprocate the value that you are adding to them, when the time comes. Think of online social media as Recommender Communities. Build & grow your own networks within relevant recommender communities. I cannot stress enough how important it is for senior and executive level people to get on LinkedIn. It is an extremely powerful and completely flexible tool for your personal brand development and promotion.

A second kind of platform that you should look out for and explore is the plethora of growing online executive job boards. They tend to be just below the CXO roles, but would usually list the most senior of roles possible to list online without causing damage. Usually this will be Director level roles with some regional responsibilities and will tend to pay north of $150,000 US per annum. The system works differently there. The executive will usually pay to be listed on that database, to anonymously receive information on opportunities. But it differs with every platform. I encourage you to look at some of the following platforms, such as ExecuNet, Exec- Appointments, BlueSteps, and the like. BlueSteps can only be accessed by Executive Search Consultants registered with the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), which will give you immediate exposure to over 300 Executive Search firms with a worldwide presence.

Befriend the Headhunters
As you can imagine by now, if you are using a pull strategy, you need to be pulling people towards you. Any company that is worth its size, and that would likely pay you the top dollar you are looking to earn in a CXO role, will usually engage an Executive Search firm like Stanton Chase, and many others, to help them identify the right individual for the role that they have open. In rare cases, you may be approached directly, either formally or casually, from the would-be employer. Generally speaking, it is a fact that executives prefer to go through an executive search consultant, better known as headhunter, in order to enjoy the same level of confidentiality and due diligence that is afforded to an employer, and not jeopardize their current position.

Despite the fact that headhunters understand the role of a passive candidate using a pull strategy, we always appreciate being approached by executives. The best time for an executive or manager in a senior leadership position to approach an executive search consultant is when that executive just received an award, received a huge bonus, got a promotion etc... In brief you are on the rise, and you are just building a relationship for the future. The worse time to approach a headhunter is when you are made redundant or after you have resigned. It puts an undue amount of pressure on the headhunter to help. The executive search consultant may or may not have an opportunity to do so. Executives must understand that an executive search consultant’s ability to help in making a quick introduction to an employer is limited to the positions that they have currently open.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this approach is a drawn out, pull strategy, with a proactive relationship building combination. Needless to say, you need to start immediately, especially if you are happily and gainfully employed. It is the best time to connect. If you ever want to be considered for those Million Dollar earning opportunities, you need to be ready, branded, with the right level of exposure through the right channels and the right people.

For more tips on conducting an executive job search, click here to register for a complimentary webinar on Career Transition Planning.

This article was written by AESC Member, Wassim Karkabi.
Wassim KarkabiWassim Karkabi Managing Partner, Stanton Chase Qatar and UAE & EMEA Regional Practice Leader, Industrial. Stanton Chase is a member of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), the professional association for retained executive search consulting.

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