By Laura Fries

You’re an executive who suddenly and unexpectedly finds yourself unemployed. In today’s fast- paced market — since the average tenure for an executive is four years — 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 roles?

Here are 10 job search tips to speed up the process for landing your next executive-level job.

Here are 10 job search tips to speed up the process for landing your next executive-level job:

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

If your finances are tight, you may not want to spend money on a professional resume writer. Spend the money — it is well worth it to have an objective third party help take your resume to the next level. Consider the following when working with that writer:

  • Chronological resumes are still best
  • Although there are no page limits for executives, remember no one has time to read a six-page resume
  • Emphasize the quantitative results of your accomplishments where possible
  • Provide a description of each of your previous employers, including what the company does, annual revenue, and how the company is held
  • Provide information about the size of your staff (direct and indirect reports), your budget and/or profit and loss responsibility, and the reason why you were hired

Don’t forget about LinkedIn! This is a valuable tool for executives seeking employment. Often the resume writer can help craft your LinkedIn profile or you can cut and paste appropriate parts of your resume into your profile. Consider the following with LinkedIn:

  • Include an introduction about the type of opportunity you are seeking and why your track record qualifies you
  • Update the “advice for contacting” and contact information with your e-mail address and cell phone number
  • Ensure LinkedIn’s privacy protections are set to make your entire profile visible to all

2. Practice your elevator speech

Work out your 30-second answer to the questions “What do you do?” and/or “What type of opportunity are you seeking?” Develop a concise and easy to understand answer. Keeping it to 30 seconds helps ensure you won’t lose your audience and allows time for the listener to ask questions.

3. Tell everyone you know 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 knows the person that may have the next opportunity for you. This may require having two elevator speeches, one for business colleagues and one for family and friends who may not be as business savvy.

4. Keep active with volunteering and contract work

This is a great way to meet new people and network. 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.

5. Engage in a concerted networking effort

Make a list of all the influential business colleagues you know from within your industry and business function and any other business leaders, presidents, and CEOs you know. Get on the phone and get back in touch, with the goal of getting together with these people. Once that meeting is set, follow these meeting best practices:

  • Keep the time you ask of them short — 20 minutes is ideal
  • Tell the individual about the type of opportunity you are seeking
  • Brainstorm with each individual for new contacts to whom they can introduce you
  • Ask them to keep you in mind as they hear about new roles or opportunities that have not been well-developed
  • Use LinkedIn to connect and stay in touch with everyone you meet
  • Send thank you notes after all meetings (handwritten is best but e-mail is acceptable)

A lead on a role 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 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 in an interview.

7. Use executive recruiters appropriately

Whether you are employed or unemployed, 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? Send the retained executive search recruiter your resume and a brief cover letter or e-mail stating what you are looking for and asking 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 search consultant up to date on your search, on any contract engagements you take, and share the names of any other candidates you meet by sending the recruiter an e-mail once a month or every six weeks. Referring 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 search for employment efforts. These relationships will pay off at different times. Always keep in mind that only 10 percent 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. Update your LinkedIn profile. 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!

Laura Fries, managing director and executive vice president of Baker Tilly’s Executive Search practice, has more than 20 years of experience serving clients in multiple industries and functional disciplines, placing C-level and vice president/director executives with firms across the U.S.
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