Many executive job seekers don’t understand that job search doesn’t look or work quite the way it used to.
If it’s been several years since you were job hunting, things may have changed.
Of course the pandemic has had a huge impact, but that’s not all.
In the past, you may have been able to be more passive in your approach.
Maybe all it took was reaching out to a few recruiters and relying on them to connect you to a job.
Or maybe a recruiter or other hiring professional reached out to you cold, and you moved into a great new job.
You got lucky. But you can’t count on that this time around.
Whether you’re getting ready for a career move or stuck in a protracted, daunting job search, being proactive and getting on the right track is critical.
Something to remember: The new ways are not always the best ways. In some cases, the tried and true old ways to land a job still work best.
7 Things Successful Executive Job Seekers Know
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1. Writing or updating your executive resume is NOT step one.
Of course you DO need a dynamite resume, but you shouldn’t dive into that first.
And you need to understand that a great resume alone probably won’t get you into your next great gig.
Your paper/digital resume will probably NOT be your first introduction to recruiters and hiring decision makers.
They will probably see your LinkedIn and other online presence before you ever send them your resume.
The biggest mistake executive job seekers make is writing their resume with no clear career targeting. That is to say, they don’t determine at the start of their job search which companies offer them a mutual good fit.
Think about the purpose of a resume.
It serves to qualify you as a potential candidate – both in personal character and in skill sets. Your resume should 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 (or LinkedIn profile and other personal marketing materials) don’t have time to sift through irrelevant information. They need to quickly and clearly see your ROI and good-fit qualities for them.
How can you write about what makes you a good fit for an employer, if you haven’t chosen target companies, don’t know what challenges they’re facing right now, and can’t align your qualifications with their pressing needs?
Step one in executive job search is targeting several companies and researching what you can do for them right now to meet their needs.
Then you’ll be ready to work on personal branding and creating a resume that’s a knockout.
2. Relying entirely on executive recruiters limits your possibilities.
They may be recruiting for your target companies or know about opportunities that will be a good fit for you.
However, remember that recruiters work for the client companies that pay them, not job seekers. They don’t match opportunities to your qualifications. They match job seekers to job opportunities.
Don’t wait for recruiters to reach out to you. Instead set things in motion to easily be found by them and then cultivate relationships with several of them:
- Re-connect with the recruiters you’ve used in the past
- Ask your network(s) for recommendations
- Search LinkedIn for executive recruiters
- Check your trade or industry associations for referrals
Once you identify the right recruiters for you:
- Reach out to them via email or LinkedIn InMail.
- Send them your nicely formatted Word doc resume, and be sure to also send your ATS-friendly resume (or text version) for their database.
- To get all the details on how to do this and avoid the typical emailing blunders too many executive job seekers make, read my post How To Get Executive Recruiters’ Attention With The Right Email Messages.
3. Personal branding helps you land.
Make no mistake. In today’s job search landscape, personal branding is required . . . It is no longer optional.
The wise job seeker knows that the more clearly and compellingly they can describe their overall good fit for the job and the employer, the better their chances to be noticed and contacted for interviews.
That means they need to clearly communicate to hiring professionals and their network(s) how their hard and soft skills are in sync, and how this combination of skills and personal qualities make them a good hiring choice.
And that’s what personal branding is all about.
By digging deep and defining your unique combination of key personal attributes, passions, strengths, talents and values, personal branding helps you communicate your good fit BEYOND your target employers’ basic qualifications.
Employers likely have their pick of the cream of the crop. So many others like you may fit all their requirements.
Communicating only how you offer the same, full range of expertise as everyone else doesn’t distinguish you and give you an advantage.
Sameness doesn’t sell you. Differentiating the value you offer OVER your competitors is an imperative in today’s job search. Branding helps you differentiate yourself.
4. LinkedIn, other social media and online presence are also no longer optional.
To be part of today’s global marketplace, you need to be at least somewhat active with social media. Being social media savvy can be a qualifying skill set, especially if you’re trying to overcome age bias.
Social recruiting is the now the norm.
Recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies use social media to connect with their network and source candidates.
They’re hanging out on sites like LinkedIn (most especially), Twitter, Facebook and others. If you’re not there, you may not connect with them. And your activity on social media provides them social proof that you are who you say you are.
People will Google your name to assess your fit as a candidate. If they find little to no search results for you, they may pass you over in favor of those with a stronger online footprint.
Job search success means showing up . . . on Google. Get visible online to be found.
Work on creating a realistic social media routine, that includes regularly self-Googling, to monitor the search results the world is finding for “your name”.
Do things to stand out online in a good way, like using personal branding video.
5. Job boards are mostly a waste of time. Networking gets the job.
Are you spending hours every day, posting your executive resume on job boards? If so, cut it out!
Although job boards do serve a purpose, I hesitate suggesting you use them at all.
In my experience, too many executive job seekers get sucked in once there, spending way too much time responding to job postings.
They’re just 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.
- 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.
But one thing job boards are good for is research. So make use of them in that way.
Trolling the job boards, and posting your resume to as many as possible is not a very successful job search tactic. A very small percentage of executive job seekers − especially those at the senior and top executive level − land jobs through the job boards.
Networking is one evergreen job search strategy that still gets the job better than anything else. Something like 80-90% of executive jobs come through networking.
Networking to connect with hiring decision makers at your target companies, leads you into the “hidden” job market. These jobs are never advertised, and are only accessed by networking your way into the company.
It’s all about becoming at least somewhat known within the companies you’re targeting. Hiring managers are more likely to hire people they know, even if only a little, over complete strangers.
6. Treat your job search like you’re running a company of one.
Do you realize how much successful executive job search is like running a successful small business?
If you’ve been in a job search for a while, and not much is happening, you’d be wise to re-jig your strategy, and start thinking of running your job search like it’s a business.
That’s what wise job seekers do.
They know that, when you’re job hunting, you’re essentially a solopreneur . . . a company of one.
Whether or not you actually set up a consulting business to hire yourself out — which may be a great option for you — your job search is a full time sales and marketing job for BRAND YOU.
You need to create a solid game plan to promote your business (that is, BRAND YOU) in the digital age, and hold yourself accountable to carry out daily goals.
Part of your job, in finding a job, is to learn about the new job search itself, so you’re prepared to understand all that needs to be done.
7. Avoid employment gaps by volunteering.
If you’re not already volunteering (either locally or virtually) for an organization that’s meaningful to you, think about getting involved.
Savvy business leaders like you have so much to offer organizations that are a good fit for your talents, skills and sensibilities.
Executive job search can take a long time. Close gaps in your LinkedIn profile and resume by showing that you’ve been actively engaged in relevant work.
Work is work . . . whether or not you’re paid for it.
And guess what? Along with helping a worthwhile organization, the benefits to you can be immeasurable, whether or not you’re paid for your efforts:
- Volunteering affords some terrific networking opportunities
- Volunteering builds your credibility and reinforces you as a subject matter expert in your field
- Never underestimate the good YOU get from sharing your expertise as a volunteer
- Your volunteer efforts may open you to new career directions that you had never considered before
Make it a career-long habit to volunteer and stay involved with your favorite non-profits and charities, providing support in your areas of expertise. Everyone wins!