Working with executive recruiters is one of the primary ways top executives find their next opportunity. Here are a few tips from the top retained recruiting firms that place senior executives and those seeking BOD positions.
- Make sure you match up your skills and industry with their specialty for best results – although many major recruiting firms cover most industries.
- Don’t worry about geography. Recruiters are primarily industry specialists and will have clients everywhere.
- Send them a great resume in PDF format. They may ask for a word version, or ask you to upload your resume into their database or fill out a form on their website (someone has to do it) as well. You can take a look at some of our executive resume samples here.
- Call. It takes more time to call, but your call will be worth it. Ask the person answering the phone for someone specifically or the recruiter who is in charge of your industry (e.g., the recruiter that specializes in general operations searches, or construction, or healthcare, etc.). Have what you want to say written out. Note that you should call before sending your resume if you are in a confidential or passive search.
If you have not sent your resume:
“Hi, this is ____ and I am a(n) ____. I am calling to introduce myself. I am in a (highly confidential – tell them if you are!) career transition and I wanted to reach out to you personally because I understand that you specialize in my industry. May I send you my resume? I would welcome a conversation if you feel I am a good match for any of your open searches.”
If you have sent your resume:
“Hi this is ____. I sent my resume in last week and wanted to follow up with a phone call to briefly introduce myself and to find out if you have any open searches in the ____ industry that I might be a good potential candidate for.”
If you want or need more tips on networking, phone and email scripts, I provide step-by-step templates in my online store.
- Understand what motivates recruiters to pitch you their best client company job openings.
- Have excellent marketing material and learn how to interview so they don’t have to train you.
- Act professionally on the phone and in person.
- If you say something that sounds an alarm, the client company will typically tell the recruiter. The recruiter may or may not divulge this to you, because it’s a slippery slope.
- Rehearse your interviews and understand what the right and wrong things to say are. Speak to the recruiter professionally; don’t confide, even if pressed or if you are buddies with the recruiter. They are not working for you, they are working for the company. You can find some tips on C-level interviewing here.
Here are a few highlights:
- BLS says hiring is much stronger this quarter than predicted by economists = up 75k jobs for this quarter.
- June 2016 was strong, with nearly 300,000 new jobs added.
- Professional and business services saw the greatest job growth; the industry as a whole has added more than half a million jobs over the last year.
- Health care, financial activities, leisure and hospitality also saw growth, as did government employment.
The full report is here: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
Many executives I speak to share with me that they have never had to look for a job before – the jobs came to them. And even though in recent years the market is tougher, it is still quite possible to draw opportunities to you.
Here are a few things you can do now to set yourself up for success:
Connect With Recruiters
Back when I was a recruiter, there were some executives that would actually hang up on me when I called to pitch them a job – only to call me a year or two later asking about open jobs I was working on. Unbelievable! But I know YOU are not ever going to do this, right? Right! Because today it is all about being networked so everyone can help each other.
So first things first: find the recruiters in your industry. It makes no difference if they are close to you geographically, only that they work in your industry or specialty. Call them and let them know you are happy where you are, but that you would like to invite them to call to network with you, and to keep you in mind for any particular opportunities that might be a good fit. Remind them to keep this confidential and not to send your resume to any companies without your prior consent. Do this with 5 or 6 good recruiters and you will be in good shape!
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Did you know that your Linked In profile, done correctly, can dramatically increase your weekly visitor rate? You want to pull the right eyes to your profile so that you are top of mind for networking and potential opportunities with the people you most need and want to be connected to. There is a trick to this, but it is not hard to set up if you know how. I just took a large group of executives step-by-step through how to set up their LI profile and recorded it here. This is a “must-know” for every career-minded professional.
Become a Thought Leader
How do superstars attract opportunities? By being good at what they do, yes, but many times you will find them stepping into the fullness of their potential through leadership positions outside of their companies. This includes speaking at associations and trade conferences, writing articles for associations on their area of expertise or getting involved in their local chamber of commerce for their particular business function (such as being an ambassador for their cities local manufacturing sector). This attracts people, makes networking easy, and challenges you mentally to always be the best you can be – step out and try new things using your career expertise as your springboard. Years ago I stepped up to become a thought leader in my industry, especially on the topic of tapping the hidden job market. You just have to be willing to share what you know with others. Many people struggle with the “but who am I to do that?” syndrome. In fact, most everyone does. Those feelings are a normal and a part of the progression. Acknowledge those feelings, but continue on!
Have An Outstanding Resume
Are you really serious about the edge you want in the market? A professionally written resume will wow both recruiters and companies, set you well apart from your competition, and work to secure you more interviews and offers. There is just no getting around the ROI you can experience by investing in yourself in this area. Make sure your writer is certified with a top association and an experienced writer in your industry. You can see samples of professionally written executive resumes here. Put a reminder in your calendar every 90 days to keep track of your career accomplishments, no matter how small – and try to quantify them with %% and $$ whenever possible. This small effort has a direct effect on your future salary.
Executive level jobs and C-level jobs require very specific job search strategies, and some work better than others! In this article, I am going to go over the main executive level job search strategies, including the pros and cons of each. Hopefully, this information will help you decide what job search methods are best for your particular situation.
Most C-level executives believe they are bound to recruiting firms to bring them opportunities, but this is not necessarily true. Getting your resume to the top recruiting firms can open up potential opportunities for you!
The job comes to you and there is a lot of cachet. Executives enjoy believing that they have been handpicked by a recruiter to represent them to a company. The truth is that the recruiter represents the company, not you, the candidate, no matter what they are telling you or how they are making you feel. Still, it is a “pro” that the recruiter brings the opportunity to you.
A recruiter has the company’s best interest at heart since it is the company who pays them in the end. And sometimes the recruiter is paid so much (20% to 30% of your annual compensation) that I believe it can cut into your ability to fully leverage your salary package negotiations.
Recruiters limit your opportunities because:
- C-level searches are rare and a recruiter can generally only bring you an existing search – one at a time.
- Usually the recruiter will be asked to bring in at least 3 qualified candidates – so you have built-in competition.
- You may be constrained from speaking to the company directly as the recruiter will want to mediate and many times negotiate your offer on your behalf (even though his or her loyalty is to the company).
Your Best Move?
Make sure if you do a recruiter distribution, you find someone with a good list of top recruiters (hint: I have one!). Treat the recruiter and the company with the same discernment. Don’t open up to the recruiter as if he or she is being retained by you. They are not. You need to “sell” the recruiters on the value you bring to the company just as if you were “selling” directly to the company.
Networking can open up opportunities for jobs that are not advertised. If you are well-connected – or you know how to take initiative and “make rain” – this is a viable option for you.
You can tap into hidden opportunities. Get third party endorsements from people that you know and that trust and respect you – that can be invaluable!
Networking can be tough for executives who don’t know how to do it. After all, how does an executive ask their associates if they don’t know anyone who is hiring or who might be interested in them? This is largely demeaning for a powerful executive who is used to being a leader and in control. It can also take an average of 18 months to complete your job search if all you do is “network” in the traditional sense of the word and your income is over 6 or 7 figures.
Your Best Move?
Learn how to network without asking for a job. There are executive level strategies and communication techniques that approach these conversations in more of a fact-finding and consulting spirit. You need to learn how to do it so you can network confidently. I show executives how to do this both through private coaching and through my DIY home study program, the Job Search Success System.
VENTURE CAPITAL AND PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS
Executives who are looking at management consulting or an interim position, helping turn around a poorly performing company, or are interested in a startup, may be interested in connecting with VC and PE firms.
If you are a C-level executive, it may be a pretty good move for you to send a distribution to these firms. There are companies that do this (including mine).
I have found that if you are below the C-level, distribution to these firms is less effective.
Your Best Move?
If you are a C-level executive, you can send out a VC/PE email distribution for around $300 and it might land you a handful of good leads if you sell your skills correctly. Smart move!
I personally believe that understanding how to reach out to companies directly is the most powerful strategy for success. Direct mail means sending an actual letter to the key decision maker in a company. Not an email, an actual letter – preferably on engraved stationery and high quality Cranes paper. You will invest a little money up front marketing yourself like this, but the ROI blows away any other job search strategy I know of in this job market climate.
You can identify and isolate your industry and cherry pick who you want to reach out to. You can even do this for free using Google maps. Lists are free or cheap if you know where to look.
With the power of the internet you can use Google news alerts to have information on companies or industries that are growing sent right to your inbox. Companies that are growing are often hiring.
At a salary of $250k+, over 90% of jobs are filled in the hidden job market and never advertised. That means reverse engineering your job search and going after what you want vs. waiting and waiting for the right job to come to you – and competing with dozens or hundreds of other executive job seekers for the same position – makes logical sense for executives.
Learn how to tap the hidden job market once and use this method for the rest of your career. People tap the HJM when they want to leverage themselves in the job market, command more money, minimize their competition and shorten their job search.
Your success in terms of how many interviews/offers you land is predicated on your industry, supply and demand and is hard to predict. Between 2% and 5% is average. But I have also seen executives send out 20 letters and land 5 interviews. It depends on many factors. This still beats job boards, but if you don’t understand marketing numbers this can be discouraging to you.
You must be the type of person who can take initiative and “make things happen” to successfully manage this entrepreneurial driven strategy.
These methods at the executive level generally require some help from an experienced career professional who can be your sounding board and show you the shortcuts to using HJM strategies successfully. You will have to hire some help or at least do some self-study, otherwise be prepared for some frustration and roadblocks.
Your Best Move?
I think everybody, not just executives, should learn how to find and capitalize on companies that are growing and know how to approach companies in an industry they potentially want to work for. I have seen executives grind away for a year in a fruitless job search – wasting precious time, losing confidence and often tens of thousands of dollars in income for those who were in between jobs – only to land multiple interviews in the first 30 days of refocusing their job search on the HJM (and often hiring a professional resume writer to beef up their marketing message). They all say the same thing in retrospect: my only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner for myself!
If you are a boomer executive that wants more flexibility you might want to consider your own consulting business. Management and technical consulting is one of the fastest growing industries. At 44% in 10 years, it’s grown four times faster than the workforce growth rate.
Consulting can be a nice “bridge” job and you might find the flexibility suits you. Many companies prefer hiring consultants – it’s safer for them and they can check you out first before they consider hiring you full time.
You can consult from anywhere. You don’t necessarily have to be a road warrior either. You can do much of your consulting via phone and internet (I myself have done this for years and rarely even meet my clients face to face).
You can consult in almost any field. One of our $500k+ CEO clients found businesses who could not afford to engage him full time as a CEO, but wanted his expertise. He negotiated a handful of engagements with several businesses – some one day a week, some for a few hours a week, and some for a couple days a month. He is now working fewer hours and making more than $500k per year. In one of our conversations, he remarked that he would never go back to a full-time job.
You can generally charge about two and a half to three times your hourly rate (you will have to break down your salary to get this figure).
You will have to market your business and this may or may not be something you like to do. Be prepared to invest 15% to 25% of your revenue on marketing. But of course, if it brings you business and you don’t have a lot of other overhead, this is probably a pro not a con.
Interim full-time consulting gigs can leave you scrambling for new assignments and are problematic. Avoid them and try to find a few clients who need your help part time. This is safer relative to your income streams and it’s easier to land these gigs in general. If you find 2 clients who need you just one day a week, you might find yourself making as much as you made in your past full-time job. Many companies desperately need heavy-weight talent, but can’t afford a full-time person.
Your Best Move?
If you are an executive with any kind of entrepreneurial desires, this could be an excellent move for you!
Myth: Executive level jobs are best found through recruiters and fee-based, high level job boards.
Truth: Both recruiters and fee based executive level job boards can severely limit your job search and the responses you receive.
Executive recruiters can only help you if you have the exact qualifications to help them…fill their key search assignments that is.
And fee based job boards usually yield about 1% to maybe 7% response rates. You are going to have to send out a lot of resumes to get any response at all, and of course don’t forget about the intense amount of executive competition you will face for the very same job.
Most executives are all about working smarter, not harder. Though connecting with recruiters and answering 6-figure job ads might seem like the easiest way from point A to point B, it’s actually more work on your part to market yourself thoroughly enough using only these two outlets to get you the kind of results you are hoping for. It’s counterintuitive to your objective.
Want an easier solution? Of course it depends on the industry and position but I find that executive level jobs are best found using the following system:
1. Identification of the industry(s) of interest
2. Identification of the position(s) sought
3. Launching a campaign to penetrate those industries
To be successful (and when I say successful I mean conducting a job search that results in a number of high quality interviews for opportunities you are genuinely interested in, and obtaining one or more viable job offers) you must have a clear plan, followed by a significant level of market exposure.
Here are several highly effective techniques and resources to get going in the right direction:
1. Identify your market
What industry are you interested in and why? You must have a crystal clear direction before you can formulate any sort of plan. Is the market growing, or… are you purposely targeting growing markets? Smart move on your part. I recommend you read my ezine
( my monthly articles you can sign up for on my site at www.maryeizabethbradford.com) to gain access to portals of free US market reports that include recession proof industries and all kinds of useful information for the high level job seeker.
2. Identify your position
In order to target and brand your resume you have to be clear on the type of position you are pursuing. Again, have you thought it through? Are their other emerging positions (e.g.: Chief Ethics Officer) or parallel positions that might offer more challenge, more security or more experience where you need it – that help to achieve your long term career goals? Its worth spending some time here, doing a bit of research and thinking this through.
3. Launching a campaign to penetrate your industry/position of choice
You can do this several ways including:
- Hiring a firm to research contacts and companies that fit your career parameters.
- Using a site like zoominfo.com to research your preferences yourself.
- Hire a company like mine to analyze, make recommendations and gather the initial information for you.
- Hire an administrative assistant on a project basis to take care of some of your more mundane job search tasks such as mail merging documents, sending out resumes etc… (you should make phone contacts yourself though).
- Find (and follow up on) growth opportunities (companies moving/growing/expanding) through setting up a simple tracking system on Google news or through regular checking of business and trade journals.
- Hire a company to conduct an elite direct mail program for you.
- Find executive recruiters through a high-end contact that can distribute your resume exclusively to retained search firms.
- Obtain a list of VC firms or PE firms who specialize in your industry of choice.
These are just a few ways that go way beyond fee based, 6 figure job boards. These methods, once they are set up by you – are just as turnkey as responding to a job ad
Bottom line, a combination of the right executive job search techniques can improve your results by 20%, 30% and even 40%. Questions about resources for these techniques? Just call – I am happy to answer your questions.