As a recruitment expert, I often work with leaders who haven’t looked for a new role in a decade or longer. They are more used to being head-hunted then searching themselves.
These days if you’re lucky, you may just land the perfect executive job without having a stressful job search. But if you’re like most leaders, that’s not happening.
The job market has changed dramatically in recent years and old strategies no longer work in today’s competitive job market.
If you are looking for your next leadership role, here are six great steps to streamline your executive job search.
Define your target market
This includes not only the industries or verticals you want to work in but also the specific employers. In other words, you want to get clear on what you want – and don’t want – in your next company and role.
You may resist targeting select employers because you don’t want to limit your search.
We get the temptation. You want to be open to all opportunities & cast your net wide.
But here’s one of the problems with this approach – when you’re writing your resume, LinkedIn profile, etc. you won’t know who you’re writing for and what specific experience, strengths, qualities, and qualifications to highlight. Being generic in these personal marketing materials, makes you appear generic.
Targeting is also important for your own due diligence. You need to assess target employers to be sure they’re the right kind of company, culture and fit for you.
The following are a few questions to get you started in identifying your target market and role.
- What is your target industry?
- Where do you want to be located?
- What size company do you thrive in?
- What level of role do you prefer?
Develop your personal brand and unique value proposition
Executives need to reframe the job search as something they work on regularly, even when they are not activity in market for a new role.
It needs to be a bout building your personal brand and networking with influencers in your target employers or industry regularly, over time, not just when you are looking for a job.
Spruce up or refine your personal brand messaging to better resonate with your target employers. Personal branding is the personality part of your marketing materials and communications. The stuff that generates chemistry and interest, and influences people to reach out to you, to learn more about you.
What are the character traits, passions, and strengths you possess that define who you are, what you’re like to work with, and how you accomplish great things? All of this, and more, goes into defining your personal brand.
It’s also important to clarify your unique value proposition (UVP) as an executive. What is it that you, more than others, are uniquely positioned to do for these employers? What does the ‘brand of you’ represent that they can’t get from someone else?
Practice and refine this until you can succinctly and effectively articulate it both in conversations and in writing.
If you perfect both your personal brand and UVP – your resume, LinkedIn profile and all the rest will make you stand out in the best way.
Educate yourself on the “hidden job market”
Many open senior leadership roles are never marketed publicly.
Executive positions tend to be much less visible to the job seeker, with very few openings being advertised as job postings; the vast majority are filled through networking by current and past company executives, board members, investors, and/or executive search agencies.
While the reasons for the discretion in publicizing these positions vary, normally it will be down to recruiting prior to press release. Examples can include recruiting executives prior to a company launching into a new market, an important replacement role to be filled prior to a step-down announcement.
This hidden job market is one reason we highly recommend keeping your LinkedIn profile updated and optimized.
Prepare for the interview process
Executive clients often navigate a multi-step – and multi-month – interview process that requires meetings with not only the hiring manager and executive peers, but also direct reports, cross-functional stakeholders, and other important decision-makers.
They are also frequently asked to participate in one or more interview presentations.
Succeeding as an executive requires the ability to navigate ambiguity. Consequently, interviewers are looking for answers that illuminate how you have approached situations throughout your leadership career, as well as your overall vision and strategy.
Start by reviewing your initial targeting, so you’ll be at-the-ready with plenty of details about the company you’re interviewing with. Make sure you know what issues and challenges your industry is facing. Determine who the subject matter experts and key thought leaders are.
You want to be prepared to ask intelligent questions about the company. Beyond the intelligence you’ll gain with your questions, many interviewers are not very proficient at interviewing. Be ready to fill in awkward gaps in the conversation with information you really need them to know about you.
Build a positive online presence
Google “your name” right now and see what recruiters and hiring professionals will see when they’re assessing you as a candidate.
Many job seekers still don’t understand that these people search online to source and assess candidates.
Candidates who have a more vibrant, diverse online footprint are typically viewed as more desirable. Savvy job seekers know they want to have at least some relevant search results for “their name” on the first page of results. Your LinkedIn profile, if it’s robust, could be one of them. But you’ll need to work on building up more search results. The more things people find about you through search, in the early stages of hiring, the easier you make it for them to see your good-fit qualities.
Make it a practice to self-Google regularly, so you can run damage control if you find negative search results about you.
Invest in professional help
Because of the various steps involved with job searching, interviewing, and negotiating your salary at the executive level, ask yourself if it makes sense to partner with a career coach to support you through the process.
You want to identify and work with a coach who is experienced in supporting senior leaders throughout their job search and interview process. This is particularly true if you’re targeting your first executive role or haven’t looked for one in 5, 10, or 20+ years.
A trained career professional can make the process smoother and provide you with the confidence you need to land your next leadership position.
In addition, it’s imperative to identify and reach out to good recruiters and executive search executives in your industry. Although you shouldn’t rely entirely on recruiters to get you into a job, it’s important that you form good relationships with recruiters and work well with.