Few situations can be as maddening, or as detrimental to your self-esteem, as a job search that isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps it’s because so much of our identity is wrapped up in what we do, but it can really be tempting to draw grand conclusions about our shortcomings when the phone isn’t ringing. Many of the executives I work with come in believing that there’s some fundamental lack in their qualifications that’s keeping them from landing interviews. It’s that startup position that sputtered out after a year that’s throwing up a red flag. Or it’s a case of not enough forward progression within their past few roles. Some think it’s an issue with age, others lack of experience. And while these are all valid concerns that require addressing within your resume, most of the time the culprit is an ineffective job search strategy.
Executives can’t hunt for jobs in the same way others can. In this post I’ll explain why and offer an alternate strategy that’s more effective.
Step 1: Stop Using Online Job Postings
Ok, maybe stop is too extreme. But if you’re spending more than 20% of your total job search efforts replying to online job postings, you’re wasting your time. Most companies have highly specific criteria when it comes to selecting a candidate for an executive position, and these criteria are rarely-if-ever mentioned on job postings. Which means that every time you reply to one you are essentially taking a shot in the dark.
For example: a company advertises for an open CFO position, and people start responding. But they’re not just looking for anyone who’s worked in this capacity, but someone who’s managed financial operations at a certain scale, and has experience handling their current challenges. Without understanding where they’re coming from, and making sure your resume and cover letter addresses these points, there is almost no way you are going to be able to make a strong case for yourself.
So how can we shift this dynamic so that you’re operating from a place of knowledge?
Step 2: Create a Master List of Companies You’d Be An Excellent Fit For, and Initiate Contact
Now that you’ve stepped off the job posting merry-go-round, there should be a large chunk of time in your day that’s unaccounted for. Fill it with research into the top 10-20 companies you’d most like to work for. Develop a broad strokes picture of what their biggest challenges are, and how your experience and expertise can be of service. Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For and Glassdoor.com are both excellent places to get started. Now cross-reference these companies with your personal network, and see who’s in a position to help you. A shocking number of positions are filled this way, through simply initiating contact with a colleague or friend who comes to serve as the bridge between you and a hiring agent at a targeted company. If you don’t have an existing contact, you can often look up contact information for HR personnel on a company’s website.
It’s important to remember that even in this day and age of massive online job boards, an estimated 80% of jobs go unadvertised. Employers hew to human nature when it comes to hiring; they’d much rather feel like they discovered an amazing executive, as opposed to having been sold on one. To help in this discovery process, it’s important to execute the next step…
Step 3: Develop a Strong Platform on LinkedIn
If you’re serious about implementing this strategy, being discoverable is essential. LinkedIn has in many ways become the modern-day Rolodex for recruiters and hiring professionals, who will often seek out qualified candidates through searches on the site. Like with your resume, it’s important that your LinkedIn Profile be up-to-date when it comes to your career, and do a good job of communicating your personal brand.
Here are 2 tips that will help you:
-Be sure to include a personal email address within your LinkedIn Profile where you can reached. This simple step has been shown to yield results in encouraging off-line relationships. The latter should be your ultimate goal: meeting face-to-face with someone who is interested in bringing you on-board at one of your target companies.
-Blog about your area of expertise and thoughts on your industry. By sharing your professional views, you not only increase your visibility on LinkedIn but enhance your professional profile, and that has enduring value long after the job search is over.
Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Founder of ResumeOrbit.com, a consulting firm that specializes in Resume Development, LinkedIn Profile Development and Executive Bio Letter Development for Executives & C-Level professionals.