If you haven’t been actively looking for an executive job for several years, you need an executive job search toolkit for the new world of search.
Otherwise, 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.
Today’s Executive Job Search Toolkit
Landing an executive job today 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:
Guide on executive job search best practices
The rundown below will give you a general idea, but every executive job search toolkit needs an overall guide, with all the ins and outs.
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
Your career target and a list of 15-20 (or more) target companies
Narrow down to select employers 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 so-called hidden jobs. More about this coming up.
Research on 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 keywords and phrases to use in your career marketing materials, and help you with due diligence in assessing companies.
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.
Personal branding designed to resonate with your target companies
You’ve gotten a good start with your executive job search toolkit.
The next step, personal branding, is no longer optional. The branding work helps you get your personality into all your job search materials and actions.
Branding helps you 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.
Branded career documents
Of course you’ll need the following:
- An updated executive resume that you’ll customize for each kind of job you’re seeking
- Your career brand biography focusing on career stories relevant to your target employers
- Cover letters highly customized around your good-fit qualities for specific jobs and specific employers
And, depending on your situation, you may need things like a project management report, 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.
Your 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 all kinds of people who can help you meet your career goals.
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.
Job boards strategy
Obviously, responding to job postings is one way to use job boards. Allot some of your time to this strategy.
Customize your resume as much as possible for each posting, using the relevant keywords and phrases you see in job descriptions.
But don’t stop there.
Did you know that many executive jobs never make it to job boards? They’re never advertised anywhere.
Instead, they exist in that nebulous “hidden job market” that you’ll only access through purposeful networking.
According to an article written by 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.
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.
Here’s the roadmap:
- Re-connect with the executive 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
- Check out Forbes Best Executive Recruiting Firms for a list of the big firms
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.
A reference list should not be hastily put together. You need to put thought into who goes on your list.
Weak, or in any way negative, references can kill your chances of being made an offer. They can turn around that employer’s previous glowing impression of you.
Online brand-building communications plan
Work on building relevant, diverse, on-brand results that consistently support your credibility.
In-person and online networking strategy
Your ultimate goal is to networking towards hiring decision makers at your target companies. Use your list from the fourth item 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.
Prepare and rehearse your answers to expected questions. And be ready with the questions YOU should ask, based on your company and industry research.
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.
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. It’s been around for a long time and continues to be recommended by many experts.