Today’s Executive Job Search Toolkit

by Meg Guiseppi on October 24, 2011

multiple job offers

If you haven’t been in a job search for more than 2 or 3 years, you may think that all you need to do to land a job these days is dust off your executive resume, insert any updates, post it to as many job boards as possible, then sit back and wait for the interview offers to come flooding in.

You may figure that connecting with a few executive recruiters is the only other thing you’ll need to do to make that job come to you.

The thing is, jobs aren’t as likely to just “come to you” as they did in the past. You may not be in demand with recruiters the way you were in the past. These days, such passive tactics can sabotage your job search and keep you from ever getting into a good-fit job, or prolong landing that job. You need to develop a proactive plan to uncover opportunities yourself.

Using job boards is part of the new world of executive job search, but only a very small part, and not one for you to invest much time in. Only an estimated 3-5% of jobs are filled through job boards. Most jobs are not posted anywhere.

They exist in that nebulous “hidden job market”, that is:

  • Jobs created to accommodate specific candidates, once they connected with and had dialog with companies’ hiring decision makers.
  • Existing positions in which an incumbent is replaced when someone better comes along.
  • An open slot, waiting to be filled, that isn’t advertised outside the company. Only internal people know about it.
  • Jobs that, for whatever reason, are not advertised or visible, and can only be uncovered and accessed through networking.

Landing an executive job takes work. There’s a lot to pull together before you’re ready to cast a far-reaching networking strategy. Here’s what you need to have and do, along with links to relevant blog posts I’ve written on each topic:

1. A specific career target and list of 15-20 (or more) target companies that are a mutual good fit, as far as size, location, industry, culture, and environment.

Without a clear target (type of job and industry), your resume and other career marketing materials will be too generic, and won’t help qualify you in the minds of those assessing you or attract them to you. And, if you can’t succinctly describe what kind of job you want, you won’t be able to explain to your network how they can help you.

Don’t worry that these companies may not be advertising jobs anywhere. You’re going to network your way into their hidden jobs, remember?

The Biggest Executive Resume Writing Mistake

How To Tap Into Hidden C-level Executive Jobs

2. Research each target company and the industry

This takes time, but your research will help you determine why your target companies need your help, provide you with those all-important relevant keyword phrases to use in your career marketing materials, and help you with due diligence in assessing companies.

Research Your Target Employers

3. Target contact list for networking

Determine which people at your target companies are key decision makers or close to their inner circle. Also look for employees, vendors, customers and others associated with your target companies. Find them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and follow, like, or connect with them there. Join the LinkedIn Groups they belong to and make yourself and your expertise known.

4. Personal branding designed to resonate with your target companies

Uncover and differentiate the strengths and personal attributes that make you the best-fit candidate. Create an executive brand positioning statement to be used in your career marketing materials (resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, etc.), to transform into an “elevator pitch” to introduce yourself when networking, and to answer the “Tell me about yourself” question when interviewing.

10 Steps to an Authentic, Magnetic Personal Brand

10 Things to Love About Your Executive Brand

5. Branded career documents – Executive Resume, Biography, Case Studies, Leadership Initiatives Brief and other supporting documents

Use the research on your target companies to help you create brand and ROI value messaging that will clearly differentiate your good-fit qualities and expertise over your competition.

How to Write An Irresistible C-level Executive Resume in 10 Steps

HOW TO: 8 Ways to Use Your Executive Biography

6. LinkedIn

Your 100% complete (according to LinkedIn’s criteria), branded, keyword-rich LinkedIn profile will help recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies find you on LinkedIn, as they source and assess talent. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re probably invisible to these people.

Also, LinkedIn offers all kinds of tools for networking with people who can help you with opportunities and leads, and position yourself as a subject matter expert and good-fit candidate.

LinkedIn Guide for Executive Branding and Job Search

7. Google Profile

Use your career biography and pieces of your resume to flesh out a Google profile, which has become a close second in importance to LinkedIn profiles, as a valuable page one search engine result for “your name”.

8. Recruiter relationships

Recruiters are certainly important. Source a good number of them who specialize within your niche, send them your resume, let them know what you’re looking for and stay in touch.

You can find recruiters in Kennedy Information’s Directory of Executive Recruiters, the “Red Book” which lists over 10,000 recruiters at thousands of search firms

Build Winning Relationships with Executive Recruiters

9. List of references

Be sure your references are prepped in advance to know what kind of position you’re seeking, and what information they can provide to best position you.

10. Online brand-building communications plan

Work on building relevant, diverse, on-brand results that consistently support your credibility.

Include static web pages (online profiles, personal website, etc.) and social networking/real-time content (Twitter, Google+, Facebook, blogging, writing book reviews on Amazon, etc.).

Executive Brand Online Reputation Management: Relevance, Quality, Diversity, Volume, Consistency

11. In-person and online networking strategy

Your ultimate goal is to networking towards hiring decision makers at your target companies. Use your list from #3 above, and also connect with other employees at your target companies.

If you can get a referral from an insider, you greatly improve your chances of landing a job with that company. Pull everyone you know into your network (you never know who may be able to help you), along with a good number of recruiters who specialize in your niche.

How to Build a Powerful Executive Network

12. Interview preparation

Prepare and rehearse your answers to expected questions. And be ready with the questions YOU should ask, based on your company and industry research. Be ready for the “Tell me about yourself” query and have a salary negotiation strategy.

Prepare to Ace & Brand Your C-level Executive Job Interview

13. Thank you notes

Don’t forget to follow up each time you have an interview, with each person you’ve spoken to. This gives you the opportunity to restate your interest in the company, and to stay top of mind with key decision makers. Hand-written, snail-mailed thank you notes have the most impact.

The Power of Thank You Notes

14. Job search management and tracking system

You’ll need some way to keep track of all your connections, meetings, informational interviews, etc.

JibberJobber is an excellent web-based tool that will help, and basic membership is free.

Additional resource:

My ebook will provide many more specifics on launching a successful executive job search campaign.

23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search and How Your Brand Will Help You Land . . . A practical guide to executive branding, marketing your ROI value and navigating the new world of job search

photo by o5com

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi November 11, 2011 at 8:01 am

Thanks for commenting, Dan.

You’ve made some excellent points. Two more critical steps to add to one’s executive job search toolkit.

2 Dan Eustace November 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm


Nice article. Good strong recommendations.
Where would two additional items be?
1. gap analysis to bring a job seekers skills to high performance levels by
training and extramural experience.
2 communicate with mentors to bounce ideas off of. Too often senior leaders “get stuck” or “feel they always know what is needed,” when what they need is a sanity check, and correction with perspective..

3 Meg Guiseppi October 25, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Thanks for commenting, Frank.

A Google Profile is an important web page to help you build your brand online and search results for your name, and provide more information about your job search candidacy.

I’ve added a link into my post for Google Profiles (sorry I forgot to do it before), leading you to where you can start building your own. Here’s the link again —

4 Meg Guiseppi October 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm

How kind of you to share my article, Bonnie. I hope others will find it helpful in getting a handle on all that goes into planning and managing an executive job search today.

Thanks for commenting!

5 Frank Zisa October 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

All excellent points and rather complete.
What is meant by your google profile? Is this your on line comments/ discussions that establish your knowledge?

6 Bonnie Jeffers October 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Good, thorough article, Meg.

You covered all of the important bases and there are many of them! Today’s job market requires a comprehensive approach which will include branding yourself, networking and uncover those opportunities. I will be sharing your article. Thanks for putting this together.

7 Meg Guiseppi October 24, 2011 at 7:51 am

Thanks for your lovely comment, Ed.

I’m always surprised that, for so many executives and other job seekers, the new world of job search means using job boards . . . and pretty much only that. Using that solitary strategy is what leads them to say, “There just aren’t any jobs out there”. The people who are doing the real job search work are landing good-fit jobs.


8 Ed Han October 24, 2011 at 7:21 am

I’m a fan of what I’m seeing here: excellent discussion of how the process has changed in the past few years!

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