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10 job search tips for executives in transition

You are an executive who finds yourself in between career engagements. In today’s fast paced market, this situation is not uncommon.

So, how do you find your next opportunity when companies often do not post or advertise open C-suite and vice president positions? Below are 10 job search tips to navigate the process at the executive level.

1. Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are competitive and make you easy to reach

When developing a virtual resume, keep these general recommendations in mind:

  • Chronological resumes are favored
  • Although there are no page limits for executives, no one has time to read a six-page resume; keep it as concise as possible
  • Emphasize the quantitative results of your accomplishments whenever possible
  • Provide a brief description of each of your previous employers, including what the company does, annual revenue and how the company is held
  • Under each role, detail the size of your staff (direct and indirect reports), your budget and/or P&L responsibility and the reason why you were hired

If you are not already on LinkedIn, now is the time to craft your professional online presence. LinkedIn is another valuable tool for executives seeking employment. Keep these general recommendations in mind when it comes to this online social networking platform:

  • Include a brief, detailed summary of your experience and accomplishments in the “About” section
  • Update the “Advice for contacting” and “Contact” information with your email address and cell phone number
  • Ensure LinkedIn’s privacy protections are set to make your entire profile visible to all
  • Upload a professional profile picture clear of distractions
  • View this great resource for developing or enhancing your LinkedIn profile

If these resume and LinkedIn tips seem daunting, consider partnering with a professional resume/profile writer that can help take both your resume and online profile to the next level. Although third-party resources can be pricey, the objective opinion can help you stand out among other executives.

2. Practice your elevator speech and make your job search known

Draft and practice your 30-second answer to the questions, “What do you do?” and/or, “What type of opportunity are you seeking?” Develop a clear, concise speech that you can deliver in under 30 seconds to help ensure you won’t lose your audience’s attention and allow time for the listener to ask follow up questions.

Example: I am a strategic marketing specialist currently looking for a new opportunity in the biotechnology industry within the geographic location of Austin, Texas.

Tell your family, friends, peers, LinkedIn connections and past colleagues that you are seeking your next opportunity and what you are looking for. This is no time to be shy. Now is the time to get your message out. You never know who may lead you to your next job opportunity. This may require having two elevator speeches, one for business colleagues and one for family and friends who may not be as industry savvy. Be careful not to tell your life story. Share your elevator speech and wait for the next question.

3. Stay active with volunteering and contract work.

This is a great way to meet new people, build your network and enhance your resume. It also provides you with an answer to the question, “What have you been doing since you left XYZ Company?” It keeps you relevant and interesting.

4. Engage in a concerted networking effort

Make a list of all the influential business colleagues you know from within your industry and/or business function as well as other business leaders, presidents and C-suite executives you know. Reach out via phone, LinkedIn and/or email and schedule a 30-minute virtual coffee meeting. Get on the phone and get back in touch. Once a meeting is set, follow these best practices:

  • Keep the time you ask of them short (30 minutes is ideal)
  • Tell the individual about the type of opportunity you are seeking
  • Brainstorm with each individual about new contacts to whom they can introduce you
  • Ask them to keep you in mind as they hear about new roles or opportunities
  • Use LinkedIn to connect and stay in touch
  • Send thank you notes after all meetings (handwritten is best but email is acceptable)

5. Market your skills: seek out growing companies that are hiring in general as well as companies with well-defined job openings

A lead on a position that is not yet well-developed is an ideal situation. Often companies and hiring managers need help fleshing out how a role would be defined. Because of your expertise in your field, you know the questions to ask a hiring manager and can help by offering suggestions with this process. As you are meeting with the decision-maker, tell them what you’ve learned that works, what doesn’t work and why. By doing this, you’ll help the company, ingratiate yourself to your contact and may be able to customize the role to your strengths. This could be a way to find a role you never even have to interview for!

6. Be prepared to answer tough interview questions

Today’s hiring stakes are much higher, and – like it or not – hiring managers tend to be tougher on candidates who are unemployed. Make sure you can succinctly articulate your reasons for leaving your prior position(s). Think about the challenges and accomplishments you want to highlight. Google “executive level interview questions” and write out your answers to those questions. Just as attorneys who never ask questions they don’t already know the answer to, you should be fully prepared to answer any variation of executive level interview questions. Think of the questions you don’t want to be asked and prepare responses so you are not left stumbling for an answer during an interview.

7. Use executive recruiters appropriately

Whether you are employed or in between career engagements, you will quickly find that retained executive recruiters may not want to meet with you as readily as contingency recruiters do. This is because their business models are different. Retained executive recruiters are focused on finding people with very specific qualifications for their clients. If your qualifications are not a fit for a current search, the executive recruiter has no need to meet with you now.

What can you do? Email the retained executive search recruiter your resume and a brief message stating what you are looking for and ask to be included in their general database. They will call you if there is an active search for which you may be a fit. Keep the executive recruiter up to date on your search, on any contract engagements you take and with any other candidates you meet by sending them an email once a month or every six weeks. Making referrals of other potential candidates to executive recruiters will make you memorable.

You may never get a meeting with the recruiter during this search, but that doesn’t mean they won’t call you in the future. Remember you are creating relationships with your employment search efforts.

These relationships will pay off at different times. Always keep in mind that only 10% of executives are placed through retained search firms.

8. Reconsider your options

Job seekers tend to be very selective early in their search. If you’ve been searching for a while, it may be time to ask yourself whether you should expand your horizons or change your interests. The single most effective thing you can do to increase the number of job opportunities is broaden your geographic parameters. Executives engaged in national searches tend to land jobs faster than those looking regionally. Also consider alternate titles you would be willing to consider.

Often, job seekers hold out for the “perfect” position, which only prolongs their unemployment. No job is perfect and a job that you’ve been offered may well be a great next step in your career.

9. Benchmark your efforts

At regular intervals, ask yourself the following questions to diagnose potential problems or barriers that may be preventing you from securing offers. If you have a trusted colleague or mentor, ask for their input on these questions as well.

  • What’s going well in my job search?
  • What isn’t going well and needs changing?
  • Am I getting responses to my resume?
  • Am I getting first but not second interviews?
  • Am I making it to final rounds but not getting offers?

10. Pay it forward

Once you’ve found your next opportunity, let everyone know where you are and your new contact information. Thank anyone who helped you along the way. As you get down to work, don’t forget to pay forward the kindness you received during your job search. Take the networking meetings when your colleagues call. You never know what ideas could be generated or what talent you may meet!

For more information, contact the following members of the Baker Tilly Executive Search team.

Carver Smith, CPA
Partner

Kim Herlitzka
Principal

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