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As a 20+ year veteran executive recruiter in the advertising/marketing niche, I’ve been fortunate to partner with hundreds of executives of various levels, assisting them in obtaining their next position.
During my tenure, I’ve worked with companies and agencies of all sizes—from global conglomerates to local boutiques. Whether the hiring company is a Fortune 500 blue-chip corporation seeking a high-profile brand builder, or a Mom n’ Pop marketing firm looking for an executive to manage the development of collateral materials for their hometown car dealership, the steps involved are basically the same.
The following insights may be beneficial in helping land your dream job, even during a soft economy:
Seek, and ye shall find
Over the course of my recruiting career, I can’t even fathom the number of times I’ve reached out to an executive about a possible new opportunity only to hear that they aren’t currently looking to make a change.
A very short, sweet conversation, right? Well, maybe, maybe not.
The first rule of recruiting is “push without being pushy.” When I hear that the potential candidate is happy in their job, I congratulate them. I then immediately switch gears and suggest that we schedule another time to get better acquainted so when the time is right, we’ll be able to hit the ground running.
It’s never a bad time to network. Regardless if you’re 100% completely satisfied in your current role, just beginning to contemplate a career transition or you’re actually in the middle of conversations with another company, keep your options open.
If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to gain some intel on what’s currently happening at the competition. It’s also a chance to network with others in the industry with no pressure. Executives who practice this philosophy tend to be more successful.
Keeping one step ahead
This may sound elementary, but in order to move forward, you need to stay ahead of the competition. To be on the shortlist of internal promotions or identified as someone who recruiters want to represent, you need to stand out in your current role.
So how does one stay relevant? The best way is to continually look for new opportunities to contribute to your current company. Obviously, you need to do the job you’re being paid to do well, but volunteer to help in other areas of growth that are of interest to you is also wise.
Also, take further education courses in those practice areas that are emerging in your industry. With night classes and online courses more readily available today is time—and money—well spent. In fact, many companies are willing to pay for continuing education for their better employees, provided they maintain a certain grade point average.
Who do you know?
As mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon for a headhunter to contact someone about a role only to find out that, for whatever reason, the person doesn’t feel the specific role discussed is the right opportunity for them. After getting to know you better and the type of positions you would be interested in hearing about, a seasoned headhunter will often ask for referrals.
Suppose you’re not interested in a role; who would you recommend that they speak with about this opportunity? Pick someone in your network. In soft economic times, paying forward is more frequent and appreciated.
Most people are enthusiastic and open to referring friends who have the necessary skills—regardless if they know their colleagues are currently looking. However, one mistake many executives make is they often only try to identify cohorts who they know for certain are looking.
This is a grave error. How many times have you been looking for a new opportunity and not told even your closest of friends? If you’re like most, many times.
So, the next time you’re asked who you would recommend for a job, share the names and contact information of those who have the skills regardless of whether they are actively seeking new opportunities. Often times, those looking for a new job may not have been interested when they’re initially contacted, yet change their minds after hearing more details about a role.
Tell me more!
How many times have you heard about an ideal role with a company you’ve always been interested in, only to be stonewalled looking for the job posting? Quite a few, I’m guessing.
Now, what would you say if I told you three out of four executive roles are filled with no job posting at all? That staggering fact is true.
Here’s another hard to believe statement: in the last 20 years, give or take, external recruiters have filled less than 10% of all executive-level jobs. We, headhunters, like to believe we fill all the critical positions. Unfortunately, that’s just not true.
The reason being, since 2003, LinkedIn has proven to be the go-to source to find personnel.
So, the question remains: how are the vast majority of these positions filled today? Believe it or not, by word of mouth.
When a critical role opens, most hiring managers tap into their own network. With email and text the most used communication tools used today, they are unquestionably the most efficient and effective means of getting the word out.
People are more likely to hire someone referred to them by someone in their inner circle they have known and respected for years. Ironically, the one method utilized less than external recruiters is—wait for it… job posting.
What makes you outshine others?
If you take nothing else from this article, remember this nugget: executives who share what they can bring to the party are much more of interest than those who are looking to just further themselves.
Too many people go into an interview armed with amazing credentials:
- a great education,
- strong accolades from previous roles,
- and solid recommendations from some other key executives.
But, to truly stand out from the clutter, be prepared to share what you can do for the new company. What makes you outshine others? Meaning, companies are looking for those who can provide solutions to what ails them the most, rather than those who only spout about their achievements from their previous employers.
Of course, it’s important to have accomplishments to share, but being able to explain how you will spearhead new avenues to increase market share or provide some areas of incremental revenue growth will resonate much better.
If you’re unsure of where they could use immediate attention, bring it up. Have a frank dialogue about where they are lacking. Be willing to brainstorm with them about ways you’d handle the situation.
Also, don’t be afraid to be proactive. Meaning, in today’s job market, everyone knows there are fewer openings today than a year or two ago. Wherever possible, stand proudly up on your soapbox and let them know why they need to hire you.
Oftentimes, companies don’t realize a need that they may actually be staring them right in the face. By showing them your value, you may be able to create a job where none previously existed.
Simply put, if you can demonstrate ways to make incrementally more money—or save revenue—your chances of landing a job are far greater. Another benefit in doing so, it’s much less likely others will be considered for that specific role since you created it.
Send a follow-up note
One of the most overlooked areas in interviewing—regardless of the level of the position—is the final step. It’s also one of the most critical.
You just walked out of the interview. With every fiber of your being, you truly believe that that interview was the best you’ve ever had. It could not have gone any better. You and the interviewer were finishing each other’s sentences, you both were continually nodding your heads in agreement, phrases like “when you meet the rest of the team…” and “part of your responsibilities will be…” were frequently shared, and finally, what was scheduled for an hour went nearly an hour and a half. You’re on Cloud 9!
A week goes by—and nothing.
You’ve heard nothing about no next steps. No feedback of any kind. What could have gone wrong? How could you possibly misread all those signs? Too many executives lose opportunities simply by not following up.
Regardless of your level, it’s imperative you send a follow-up note. At the very least, send a note expressing your sincere appreciation for the opportunity to meet with them.
However, one method has proven even more effective: Send a note that not only says how you’re genuinely interested, but it regurgitates much of the conversation. Meaning, reference a few of the areas that you were in 100% agreement with each other.
Then, in another paragraph, mention a couple of other attributes that you possess that are relevant to the role that you didn’t have the time or an ample opportunity to share. Finally, close the letter with a strong, powerful statement that leaves no doubt that you are keenly interested in the role and their company.
One area of the follow-up note that continues to get debated is, should it be handwritten and mailed via US Postal Services or an email? Many suggest it’s best to do it the old fashion way. I politely disagree. I suggest doing it via email. There are various reasons for this course:
- Less chance it will be overlooked or “lost.”
- By sending an email, if your penmanship is like mine, it will be a much easier read than a handwritten note.
- Most importantly, email programs today have spellcheck and grammar correction features.
It is absolutely imperative that the letter is flawless. If possible, have someone proofread it prior to sending it, just to make sure it’s perfect.
Utilize these steps, and hopefully, these will assist in landing your dream job. If you wish to discuss any of the content in more detail or would like to utilize my recruiting services, feel free to reach out directly.
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