How to look for an executive job

Throughout the many years I have worked in executive search dealing with candidates that were looking for jobs at a very high level, I have made some observations. One is that there is no generally applicable strategy for how to look for an executive job. Another is that a lot of the guidelines for such a search are actually common sense and should be known to literally everyone. (Spoiler: that’s not the case.) And yet another is that executive search never starts with the actual search but way before that.

Know the answer to: What can I do for you?

I can’t recount the many times I have been surprised by the approach of executive candidates. It may sound obvious but you need to know what you want. I mean, not knowing that you want an executive job but knowing exactly which job and why. Be very precise about your options and targeting – I can’t stress this point enough.

You need to bring together your vision (what precisely do you want to achieve? how precisely do you want to develop what precise skills? precisely what new task are you looking for?), your expertise (precisely what do you contribute to the new company? how can you outline and proof you expertise precisely?) and your assets (what can you use in precisely what way to get there? what is your strategy?).

All this requires a thorough amount of preparation before you get your job search on the way. And it will help you to take the right steps. For example, not to ask people for things like: “when you hear something, let me know” but to ask for specific actions.

At the heart of your search is … not you

Let’s be honest: executives need a good amount of self-esteem, given the position they are in. They need that to succeed – absolutely. BUT in the context of executive search this sometimes has a side effect that can damage the result. Executive candidates tend to see themselves as the most important factor in the game. They concentrate on their skills, their expertise and their stellar track record and tend to forget the other side of the field. The future position should be the center. The strategy in looking for an executive job should always aim at the future job. What do they need? What do they do? How do they connect to me? Get to know it all, get the picture of who is connected to whom and what is going on in your future company.

Reflect on yourself

I would recommend you create a reflection surface to get a better look at yourself. Ask a coach or any sort of close source to give you honest feedback. This way you can also prepare for the challenging times that might face you in a job search and moving into a new career environment.

Ask for a job without asking for a job

You always hear and read in this context that networking is everything. And yes, these positions tend to get filled that way. But networking is not just talking to a lot of people, passing your card around and calling all headhunters. It’s about the quality of the human interaction, it's about how you follow up on leads, how you manage to instantly encourage commitment by asking for very specific things and using references at just the right time. Don’t ask for the job but put yourself in the right place for it.

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