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Many of us have heard the aphorism, “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.” This bit of wisdom holds true for many aspects of life — but when it comes to an executive job search, how you start has a significant impact on where you finish.

No matter why you’re heading back out into the job market, it is prudent to do your homework before diving in. Here are some of the most important things you need to know before beginning your executive job search:

1. Companies Want Unique Talent

Competition is high for executive roles, so employers can afford to be choosy. It’s about more than just your experience when it comes to vying for an executive job: Employers will also consider the specific value you can bring to the role. This is where your personal branding enters the picture. Companies should clearly understand what you stand for, what hard skills and soft skills you have, and what unique value you bring to the table.

Personal branding can feel awkward at first. That’s totally normal. To get the ball rolling, sit down and make a list of the things you’ve done, what you’re known for, and what you are best at. Armed with this information, it will be much easier to identify your brand and articulate it to the world.

2. Most Job Openings Are Hidden

The first step in your search should not be scouring the online job boards. While they may host some legitimate executive openings, many of the ads will be outdated, illegitimate, or invalid. Plus, companies receive hundreds of resumes through online job boards every day. Your chances of sticking out in that flood are slim.

Instead, tap into the hidden job market, which includes the 80 percent of jobs that never get advertised to the public — including most executive roles. Getting into the hidden market typically involves a lot of networking. This could mean attending local events, reaching out to your connections on LinkedIn, touching base with past coworkers, and more. This is how you’ll really find the right roles for you.

3. Hiring Managers Will Check Social Media

Every hiring manager is going to look at your social media accounts to identify any potential problems or uncover any disqualifying details. If hired as an executive, you will be a public representative of the company. Make sure your social media presence is clean, compelling, and free of any troubling information before you embark on a job search.

4. A Complete LinkedIn Profile Is More Visible

As you are filling out your LinkedIn profile, the status bar on the page will tell you how much you have completed. Follow the steps to hit 100 percent. Profiles that are totally complete get more visibility on LinkedIn, particularly in the search results of recruiters and employers.

(Note: It’s okay if you only end up at 85-95 percent. Don’t add some random college job to your profile just because LinkedIn wants you to.)

In addition to being more visible, complete profiles are also more attractive to recruiters. People want to see an up-to-date, interesting, and engaging LinkedIn profile. If yours is only half-finished, the recruiter won’t be very eager to reach out to you.

5. Recruiters Don’t Search for Titles — They Search for Skills

When working on your LinkedIn profile, you will want to incorporate keywords and buzzwords relevant to your desired role and industry. This is how you show up in the search results of recruiters who are looking for talent like you.

One secret I’ve learned is that recruiters don’t usually search for job titles, since titles for the same role often vary from company to company. Instead, recruiters search for specific skills and expertise. Therefore, you want your profile to focus on displaying your skills. Of course, you also want to make sure the text in your profile flows naturally.

6. Keep Developing Your LinkedIn Profile

Once your profile is 100 percent complete, that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily done. You should always be looking for ways to enhance and improve it.

This doesn’t mean you need to regularly overhaul your profile — just that you need to stay active on the platform, especially when you’re in the middle of a job search. Try to log in at least once a week. Join relevant groups and make connections with the members.

Once you do find a job, keep coming back to your profile. Stay engaged and active. You don’t want to neglect your network — you want to nurture it.

It is important for executive candidates — and, indeed, all job seekers of all levels — to understand the job market landscape before proceeding. One minor mistake or omission can derail your entire search, so follow these tips to ensure all of your bases are covered.

Erin Kennedy, MCD, CMRW, CPRW, CERW, CEMC, is a certified professional resume writer, career consultant, and the president of Professional Resume Services.



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