As you embark on your executive job search, you will quickly realize the digital age has vastly altered the way in which a successful job search at the executive level is conducted. With the introduction of social media and what appears to be the ease of applying through the vast selection of job boards, you will need to execute a savvy job search to identify and ultimately land the right-fit role.
However, spending nearly 100% of your search time on job boards leads to frustration. Job boards represent less than 15% of available positions across industries, functions, and levels. Only one out of every 100 people will be hired through a job board. That’s not how executives find their best match.
Before you begin the job search process, there are a few “must do’s” to get started. These include: identifying your personal brand, modernizing your resume and career documents, maximizing your LinkedIn profile and developing your job search strategy. Many factors will affect your job search such as time of year, demand for your skills, geographic location, marketplace industry trends/issues, and compensation requirements.
Based on statistics, an executive job search can average up to six months and could take much longer, depending on how you conduct your search and how much time you devote to it. Therefore, you will want to stay organized during your job search. Carve out several hours a week for connecting with people, researching companies (and opportunities you may find), and track companies, conversations with contacts, and connections/referrals made via Excel or other application.
Identifying your brand
If you haven’t already identified your personal (career) brand, this is your opportunity to do some self-reflection. What distinguishes you? How do your colleagues and team members describe you? What achievements have you had in your current and previous roles that makes you stand out and make you marketable for the type of role you want to pursue? Once you have identified this, create your career documents (Cover Letter, Biography, Career Brief, Networking Resume, LinkedIn) to showcase your unique combination of skills, strengths, success stories, and leadership differentiators.
Identify and reach out to your professional references before you start your job search. Tell them you will be launching a job search and ask them if they are willing to speak on your behalf. Be sure they are aware of your personal brand and what types of roles you will be pursuing. You can also request written references (recommendations) on LinkedIn. Reach out to your connections to ask for a recommendation, providing some insight/pointers into what you would like them to write to help them. For example, ask the potential reference to talk about a specific project or initiative you collaborated on together. LinkedIn recommendations can be instrumental in getting contacted by an executive recruiter that is sourcing candidates.
Hopefully, as an executive you are continuously having conversations in-person and online with former colleagues and industry partners. By keeping in periodic contact with your connections and offering to be a resource to them, they will be more invested in helping you identify potential job opportunities. As you launch your job search, take time to connect with personalized emails or phone calls asking for information, advice and referrals. Refresh them on your skills; let them know what type of role you are seeking and who they suggest you reach out to or if they have contacts at your target company.
In addition, actively focus on expanding your network, rather than spending time on job boards, where few executive jobs are listed. Join local executive groups to network, volunteer your time as an industry board member or with a community organizations, and attend seminars or other educational opportunities. I’ve worked with many executives who find their best opportunities by volunteering with organizations and meeting people who can connect them to others who need their skills.
LinkedIn remains, by far, the most powerful tool online for executive-level networking. Build your network of executive recruiters and contacts at target companies and showcase your thought leadership and industry knowledge through daily updates. Join professional groups and be active in professional discussions. This will enable you to connect further with other leaders in your industry and will showcase your industry expertise with recruiters.
Your Blue Steps membership can help you tap into the “hidden job market” and confidentiality is of upmost importance to search firm recruiters, enabling you to discreetly source new opportunities.
Identify executive search consultants in your function primarily, and you can also search by industry and region. When reaching out, know your goal, recruiters are seeking candidates with highly distinct skills sets for their client search assignments.
When discussing your background and career interests with a search consultant, showcase the value you can also provide the recruiter. Build relationships and remain in contact. Offer to share your knowledge of market developments or referrals you may be able to make for their current searches. You may nor may not be a fit for their particular needs right now, but your goal is to create a positive impression, which will help you rise to the top of mind when an appropriate match becomes available. In addition, if you share your knowledge, the search consultant will likely help you with suggestions or provide you with information that will assist you with your networking and career search.
Know the story you want to tell in an interview, and storytelling is critical to being memorable in an interview process. Be prepared to answer key questions such as: why do you want to work for our company… what will you bring that sets you apart from other candidates … why are you leaving (or left) your present position … how can you help us to achieve our business goals … what compensation are you seeking … what can you tell us about yourself … what is your top achievement and why … what’s an example of a failure/set back and how did you overcome it, etc.?
Practice your responses to behavioral and situational questions prior to the interview. These responses should showcase specific results and business differentiators from your various experiences. Research the company, their products, and executive team and share your insights into ways in which you can help them reach their future goals.
Job Search Roadmap
Finally, have a written job search plan with specific strategies and tactics you will implement. List the title(s) you are seeking, function, level, ideal job description, target industry or industries (top 1 to 3), geographic preferences, target employers (start with 45) identified by industry preference, your personal brand factors, demographics of your target employer, and contacts. Include the specific challenges/issues your target industry (and hence employers) is facing, as well as the skills plus experience you have that will enable you to help resolve those challenges.
Remember… if you are the solution to their needs, they will likely hire you.