16 Deadly Executive Job Search Mistakes

by Meg Guiseppi on March 11, 2010


I see it all too often with my c-suite executive clients.

Many of them are baby boomers who come to me never having needed a resume (or any career documents) to land jobs over their 30+ year careers.

Some haven’t been faced with job search for 5 or 10 years, or longer. In the past, jobs fell into their laps before they were even considering a career move. They were hot commodities, pursued by recruiters, and could pick and choose between opportunities. They easily slid into new jobs.

Many don’t have a vibrant network in place because, securely employed (or so they thought!), they didn’t think they needed these advocates.

Even those who have experienced proactive job search in the past, may be ill-prepared to tackle the new world of executive job search. Deeply impacted by the digital age and today’s anemic job market, an effective job search campaign today doesn’t look like it did even a year or two ago.

Do you see yourself in any of these job search mistakes?

1. Not getting clear on where you’re going next.

executive-job-targetKnow what kind of work you want to do and determine which organizations will fulfill your needs. Work from a target list of employers and key decision makers within them. Customize your career marketing communications to resonate with your target. A generic resume, or other documents, trying to cover too many bases won’t hit home.

2. Sitting in front of your computer all day, burying your nose in the job boards.

They’re addictive and it’s easy to convince yourself that blasting your resume to every relevant opening that “pops up” is an effective way to find a job. A dismal 3-5% of jobs are landed through job boards. Something like 80-85% of jobs are landed through networking. It’s clear which one offers the better ROI for your time.

3. Not researching your target companies and industries.

Start your search with market intelligence for due diligence, to uncover hiring decision makers, and to perform well in interviews. You need to answer questions intelligently and ASK questions intelligently. Spend a part of each “work” day researching – I don’t mean on job boards.

4. Failing to re-connect and engage your neglected network while proactively reaching out to fresh faces.

Give value to get value, and work on building trust to get others to feed you leads and inform you of opportunities.

5. Not treating your job search like it’s a full-time job.

Your job search is a sales and marketing campaign to promote your company of one — Brand You. You need a strategic business plan, just like any company does. Your “9 to 5” job is to find a job.

6. Failing to set achievable daily goals.

Of course, the benefits are twofold – you accomplish something important to your search and you feel invigorated because of it.

7. Not developing benchmarks and metrics to measure progress.

Determine what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your approach accordingly.

brand-you-20108. Missing the opportunity to move to the front of the pack with personal branding and a strategic brand communications plan.

Develop on-brand career marketing communications targeting your companies/organizations of interest. Defining your brand will also build confidence within you for the unique promise of value you offer potential employers and energize you for the job search.

9. Failing to build a strong digital footprint.

On-brand online information about you needs to be easily found by recruiters and hiring decision makers who source and assess candidates by what they find (or don’t find) about them online.

10. Neglecting social media to promote your executive brand and value proposition. Specifically:

  • Not fully leveraging LinkedIn. Slapping up a perfunctory LI profile and then forgetting about LI and all it has to offer.
  • Ignoring the power of Twitter to position yourself as a subject matter expert and get on the radar of your target decision makers.
  • Failing to join the blogosphere. You don’t have to start a blog, although it’s a good idea. Consistently commenting on relevant blogs, and striving to be the first-responder, can have a powerful impact on its own. Guest blogging is another viable alternative.
  • Conversely, spending too much time networking online. It can be intoxicating. It’s easy to squander an hour or two flitting about Twitter, with little to show for it. Create a time-limiting plan and stick to it.

11. Not balancing virtual with real-life networking.

networkingOnline social networks are a terrific place to connect, but nothing builds trust like reaching out and sending an email, or better yet, picking up the phone from time to time. And find networking events and job search support groups you can attend in person.

12. Blatantly self-promoting when you’re networking, online or real-life.

You want to stay top of mind with people, but you don’t want to be memorable in a negative way. Networking is about giving value to your connections.

13. Being unprepared to interview well, specifically:

  • Not having a personal brand positioning statement – your 30-second elevator pitch – to handle the sticky “Tell me about yourself” query.
  • Not having several well-rehearsed CARs (Challenge – Actions – Results) achievement “stories” in your back pocket to get into the conversation to handle behavioral-based questions. “Describe a time when you . . .”

14. Not getting real about how long executive job search can take these days.

You may land a job quickly, but don’t expect to. Be prepared to survive an 8-10 month search. Even though you’re bound to get discouraged, work on staying focused and persisitent. Budget and cut back expenses, if necessary.

15. Not turning to job search support groups to commiserate, share experiences and resources, and bolster each other.

Check out Job-Hunt’s Directory of Networking and Job Search Support by State. Can’t find one in your area? Think about starting one yourself.

16. Being too stubborn to seek help from a career professional.

With so much going on in today’s job search, navigating it alone may prolong your search and make you miserable.

Related posts:

Stalled Executive Job Search? Get Busy on LinkedIn and Twitter

10 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand Online Without a Blog

How to Build a Powerful Executive Network

10 Steps to an Authentic, Magnetic Personal Brand

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi April 15, 2010 at 9:23 am

Thanks for your comments, Peggy.

It never ceases to amaze me how many executives who come to me are still ignoring LinkedIn, or worse yet, don’t even know about it! Given all the good information out there and solid results people achieve when they use it correctly, it’s kind of a no-brainer.


2 Sales Recruiter April 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

Meg, I like these tips. They’re all about being proactive, and using the tools available today that certainly weren’t there a few years ago but are essential now. LinkedIn is an especially good way to research companies, and you can also use it to contact hiring managers directly about job opportunities, rather than just sending a resume to HR.

Best of Luck,
Peggy McKee

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