Unless you’re extremely lucky and interviews are flooding in, you’ll need to do a lot of work to get more executive job interviews.
Getting things in order to present yourself in the right way to attract more opportunities should be foremost in your job search to-do list.
Too often the executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles I see do little to nothing to differentiate those candidates. Mostly, their LinkedIn profiles have very little content. And what’s there is anemic and could apply to almost anyone like them.
Too many executive job seekers don’t have a handle on the strategies needed to master the new world of job search. No wonder they have a hard time getting a foot in the door.
How to Get More Executive Job Interviews (pretty much in this order):
1. Do the Critical Initial Targeting and Research Work
You need to determine which companies and/or organizations you’re targeting, what current needs they have that you are qualified to help them problem-solve, and what makes you a good hiring choice.
Without knowing those things, you can’t:
- Know which people are best to ask for help.
- Clearly communicate what specific kind of job you want, in which companies, so people can help you meet your career goals.
- Tell people specifically how you can help the companies you want to work for.
According to job search and career expert Alison Doyle, the time spent targeting and researching will pay off:
“The time you spend upfront investigating companies will benefit you in the long run because you won’t be spending energy applying to companies that aren’t a good fit.
By applying for jobs at companies where you know you would like to work, you’ll avoid getting deep into the interview process only to realize the company is a poor fit.
Another advantage of having a list of target companies is that once you know where you want to work, you can try to network with current or former employees who can potentially refer you for a position at the company.”
Build your list of target companies
Here are 3 tips to build your target list of companies:
- Narrow your options by location(s) first.
- Brainstorm with friends, family and those in your closest professional network. People you can trust, especially if you need to keep your search under cover.
- Check out Forbes, Fortune and other reputable publishers’ various lists of “best” companies to work for.
Do the research
And some things to look for in your research:
- Company overviews and history
- Primary market
- Products and services
- Historical financials
Idealist.org suggests some criteria for your research, to confirm that an employer is a good fit for you:
- You like the culture and feel that you would be a good fit.
- Its mission aligns with your ethics and areas of interest.
- It meets your more practical requirements for a potential employer, such as size, location, and benefits.
- You have researched key leaders of the organization and are interested in working with them (even indirectly).
- You see opportunities for growth.
- You have attended (and enjoyed) an event hosted by the organization.
- You volunteered at the organization and enjoyed your experience. What made it enjoyable?
- You can identify ways in which you can bring your expertise to the table to further the organization’s mission, even if there is no job currently available.
2. Identify the Right Relevant Keywords and Phrases
As you research your target companies, make note of the skills sets, areas of expertise and other qualifications that you find most frequently for each company.
These “keywords” will help you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for any content about you that you put online.
Here’s how SEO works in general and in job search specifically:
Google and other search engines strive to deliver the most relevant, helpful search results, when you enter words and phrases in a browser.
One of the many factors they use to prioritize search results is on-topic content with substance, that includes the words and phrases being searched (that is, relevant keywords).
When people look online to find people to meet their various needs, they search certain words and see what comes up.
You know this, if you’ve ever searched online for a professional to help you with home repairs, or other services, or if you’re researching various topics.
You search for, say, “heating contractor, city, state” and begin the process of assessment and selection, based on what you find.
It works pretty much the same way in job search.
How SEO works in job search
If recruiters and other hiring professionals are already considering you as a candidate, they’ll search on “your name”.
If they’re sourcing candidates, they’ll search on keywords relevant to the kinds of candidates they’re seeking, such as “Information Technology Executive, Enterprise Business Systems’.
Working from this understanding, you need to determine which are the right keywords for your particular job search.
Then you need to place those keywords in the right places in your LinkedIn profile and any other online content you create.
And your keywords need to be in your resume and any documents that will go through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), that parse documents for keywords.
The content needs to strike a good balance between personal SEO (keyword density) and personal branding (vibrant content that demonstrates your personality and character traits).
More about online presence coming up in #7.
3. Know Your Personal Brand
The beauty thing about personal branding: You already have a brand.
It’s always been with you, and it’s always been ingrained in those who know you best . . . at work, in your personal life, anywhere.
If you’ve been in the world any amount of time, you have a reputation.
Your brand is all about that reputation. We’re all known for certain things (passions, strengths, values, skills, personal attributes, etc.) that people rely on us to always deliver.
Your brand generates chemistry
Your brand is the perception of you held by everyone who comes to know you, and it helps those assessing you determine if you’re a good fit to hire, or do business with, or even be friends with.
When you’re in job search mode, your brand needs to be wrapped around the qualities and qualifications you have that the employers you’re targeting are looking for in candidates.
Based on your research of your target companies, you need to link your hard skills (functional areas of expertise or keywords) with “softer” skills (your key personal attributes, passions, values, and other character traits).
This helps you generate chemistry as a candidate and differentiate your ROI over your competitors for jobs.
In other words, when you’re networking, be prepared to communicate your unique value proposition and best-fit qualities for your target companies.
4. Make Your LinkedIn Profile SEO-friendly
Put your relevant keywords and phrases from #2 above into play throughout your LinkedIn profile (and other online profiles), but especially put the most important keywords in these sections:
- Your name (add relevant certifications, accreditations)
- Professional headline
- About (or Summary) section
- Job titles
When you’re writing your personal marketing materials, start with your LinkedIn profile, so you can get it working for you first.
5. Write a Highly Targeted Executive Resume
Your resume is the place to zero in on and customize the content for each specific company you’re targeting, if their needs and the value you offer them vary from one to the other.
Think about it. The purpose of a resume is to qualify you as a potential candidate – both in personal character and in skill sets – and to make people reading about you feel compelled to want to meet you and learn more.
Recruiters and hiring decision makers assessing you through your resume don’t have time to sift through irrelevant information.
They need to quickly and clearly see your ROI to their company. The hiring process is costly to them. They want to avoid hiring people who won’t be right for them.
Nothing in your resume should be arbitrary. Everything in it needs to position you as the right fit for the employers reading it.
Your resume needs to speak to and market your promise of value to specific employers, so that they can picture you there, positively impacting the company. If necessary, tweak your resume to customize it for each company.
6. Network with Purpose into the Hidden Job Market
What is the hidden executive job market?
According to executive talent agent Debra Feldman, jobs that are never advertised include ones that:
- Have a budget but, for whatever reason, have not yet been announced.
- Only internal people know about because they won’t be created until internal processes are in place.
- Depend on an incumbent leaving, which the company doesn’t want the public to know about.
- Are newly-created to accommodate a specific person because of their potential value to the company.
And she says the only way you’ll learn about and have access to these jobs is through strategic networking:
- Identify and network your way towards hiring decision makers and their inner circle at your target companies, and stay top-of-mind with them.
- Get people within the company to recommend you to hiring managers.
- Find out about and pursue good-fit opportunities early in the recruiting process.
Based on your initial company research, you should have identified key people at your target companies to directly network with, or network your way to.
As noted earlier, many companies have employee referral programs to reward internal people who bring in good hires. It’s in their best interest to introduce you to hiring decision makers at their company.
7. Be Visible Online
LinkedIn is the most important place for you to be found online and network, but don’t stop there.
Most recruiters and employers will Google “your name” before deciding whether or not to bring you in for an interview.
They’re looking for diverse, accurate information about you and “social proof” online to back up the claims you’ve made in your personal marketing content.
A solid online footprint may be one of the most important ways to get more executive job interviews. It demonstrates that you’re social media savvy and up to date with today’s technology, making you a more attractive candidate.
Build your online presence
Here are a few ways to build your online presence:
- Get busy on LinkedIn – Updates, Groups, Commenting/reacting to other’s updates, publishing articles
- Get busy on other social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
- Create personal branding videos and upload them to YouTube
- Get involved with blogging in some way – blog yourself and/or comment on other people’s blogs
- Write book reviews on Amazon and other online book sellers
- Join and participate in professional associations
Don’t forget the 5 online reputation management keys
As you’re doing these things, always be mindful of the 5 online reputation management keys:
- Relevance – Stay on-brand and relevant while being visible to your target employers.
- Quality – Self-Google regularly to monitor and fix (when possible) what people will see when they Google “your name”.
- Diverse Content – Build a good mix of static profiles or web pages and vibrant real-time content. Establish yourself with at least, say, 5-6 static web pages about you and regularly post to your social media platforms. Experiment with your mix, adding more static pages when you can, and see what gets more attention and engagement.
- Volume – Work on continuously building more and more search results for your name, and increase your number of diverse and accurate results on the first few pages.
- Consistency – Express the same personal brand message, designed to resonate with your target audience, across all communications channels you decide to use.
8. Self-Google to Monitor for Digital Dirt
The vast majority of recruiters use social recruiting to source and assess candidates.
They scrutinize potential candidates’ social networks and social media activity to qualify or rule them out.
And they may dig deep, doing advanced searches and reviewing many pages of search results.
Anything posted on social media accounts and elsewhere online that is open to the public will be visible to them, and they’ll take it all into account when deciding whether someone is a viable candidate.
Protect your online reputation by keeping an eye on what people will find when they Google your name.
Do a search yourself on your name, say once a week or so, to see what you find:
- Do you “own” the first several search results?
- Or does it take several pages of results before you get to anything related to you?
- If you have a common first and last name, are you distinguishable from the others with your name?
- What information will people find about you when they click on those search results?
- Is it what you need them to know about you and your potential value to the companies or organizations you want to work for?
If digital dirt arises, see if the content can be taken down. If not, work to build up positive search results to push down the negative ones.
9. Cultivate Relationships with Several Executive Recruiters in your Niche
Here are some places to find the right recruiters:
- Re-connect with the executive recruiters you’ve used in the past
- Ask your network(s) for recommendations
- Search LinkedIn for them
- Check your trade or industry associations for referrals
- Check out Forbes “Best Executive Recruiting Firms” for a list of the big firms
- Try the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC)
Stay in touch with them, offer them leads on companies and candidates, but don’t hound them, and don’t rely on them entirely. Put more effort into directly networking your way into your target companies.
10. Limit Your Time on Job Boards
Job boards are not very good at helping people land good-fit jobs for several reasons, including:
- Jobs posted may not be legitimate openings.
- Job descriptions may not truly represent the job.
- Even if jobs are no longer open, they may still linger on the job board.
- Your resume can easily be lost in the black hole that is Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
- You may not be able to delete your resume from their database once you land a job. This makes you forever appear as an active job-hunter and can jeopardize future jobs.
Yes, some legitimate jobs do land on job boards but – especially at the c-suite and senior-executive level – most jobs by far are found through networking.
Instead of languishing on the boards responding to job postings, go to them for company and industry research purposes.
Find job descriptions that look like a mutual good fit in terms of qualifications — whether or not the location or the actual company itself is a good fit.