The TWELVE Myths of Executive Job Search

Many executives subscribe to the notions contained in the job search myths which follow. Failure to effectively understand and avoid this thinking can damage short- and long-term income and result in other career mistakes ranging from the merely inconvenient to the profoundly negative.

Job Search Myth 1 

The Feel Good School"

The Feel Good School" tops the list of search myths and is characterized by statements such as:

  •  “The market is active, I know I’ll get something soon” OR,
  • I’m working on several leads and I'm sure they'll want to see me” OR,
  • I have a couple of interviews coming up and it shouldn't take long to get to an offer” OR,
  • "I am among the finalists, I’m confident I'll get the offer.”

These thoughts may be comforting but they create a false sense of security and reinforce self-deception.

Intuitive feelings about securing a job offer are generally fictitious and always detrimental. The truth is that the competition is tougher than it has ever been. If your interview does not translate into an offer, you will have delayed securing a job by weeks, if not longer. Time lost erodes your financial stability and reduces your choices. Moreover, multiple rejections can lead to depression. Depression retards your ability to effectively carry on your search.

So, what do you do to make sure you really are a finalist and get the offer?


Job Search Myth 2

"I'll be recruited, like I always have in the past."

"I've never had to look for a job. Jobs have always found me." This is not necessarily true — even in today's economy. A recent position we are aware of — a CFO job for a major Fortune 1000 company — received 225 resumes from highly qualified applicants, followed by 50 initial telephone screenings, 10 final phone screenings and 2 final face-to-face finalists flown to their corporate headquarters.

This daunting math and the lessons of Myth 1 demonstrate why today it is essential that you understand the market, master the skills of job search and be proactive in pursuit of your career goals.


Job Search Myth 3

“I always receive the offer.”

"All I need is a chance to get in front of the interviewer because when I do, I always get an offer." Faced with the stiff competition in today’s senior level job market, do you really believe that you will eliminate all of the other highly-qualified candidates and receive the final offer? At the $100k+ executive level, we've interviewed thousands of candidates. The surprise learning is that most executives still think that interviewing is just about interviewing. It is not! It is also about eliminating the competition. Just because you get an interview and present your case does NOT mean you know how to interview. We have proven this to be true for more than 20 years!

What is your strategy to eliminate your competition during the interview process?


Job Search Myth 4

"I feel great, I can ignore my age."

Maybe you can ignore your age but prospective employers won't. Age discrimination is real and it will eliminate you from certain positions if not handled properly. Experience tells us that after leaving a company, many executives find their careers seriously stalled because prospective employers know little or nothing about them except a guess at their age. If age is an issue for you, how do you package and brand yourself to enhance your chances of securing interviews, getting through the interview process and receiving an offer? And, what will you do to eliminate the younger MBAs whose key attributes include that they are more energetic, more flexible and willing to work for a lower compensation? This is serious competition. 

What are you doing, right now, to position yourself to overcome these competitors during the selection process?

Job Search Myth 5

Promises, Promises.

"I just spoke to a company who says they'll get me a job in 12 weeks and if I am not employed, they will redo my campaign." We hear this daily. We recommend avoiding anyone claiming such nonsense. 

In reality, firms promising quick results in your job search have absolutely no control over who a company hires or how fast they move to do so. ExecuNet, a national executive job search consortium confirmed this in an article stating that corporate hiring decisions now take longer. Companies are so concerned about the economy and its impact on their  growth plans and hiring decisions that sometimes they even change the specifications for a position right in the middle of the search process! Common sense should tell you that guarantees of a job offer under such conditions are ludicrous. Further, why would you want them to re-do a campaign that didn't deliver the first time? 

If a career marketing company tells you that they can guarantee you an executive position in twelve weeks or less run away! The only thing they're actually good at is taking your money.


Job Search Myth 6

"More is better"

Many career marketing companies offer resume blasting services or large direct mail programs in an attempt to lure job seekers into thinking that by contacting 500 or 1,000 companies in a shotgun approach (and just what do they mean by "contact?"), you will increase your chances of success. Have you ever interviewed someone whose resume was submitted through a resume blasting service? The weakness in resume blasting is that companies are looking for a specific kind of person to fill a specific need. A general resume has little likelihood of meeting what the company is looking for when they hire above the $100k level.

If you understand the importance of target marketing, why would you blast your resume all over the place without consideration for targeted results? If your marketing team had proposed this for a product would you accept that strategy? Why accept similar behavior that directly affects your own job search or career?

The shotgun approach to a career move is not your friend and it wastes precious time and money. Direct mailing (in which 1% effectiveness is considered outstanding) to hundreds or even thousands of unknown companies or recruiters usually delivers no positive results. The rifle approach is far superior. It targets known companies, and decision makers within those companies that are in sync with your specific career objectives and goals. 

What marketing plan are you using and is it yielding multiple interviews and significant offers?


Job Search Myth 7

"I've got a recruiter working on some interviews for me."

Wrong. They're not working for you! They're working for the corporate clients who pay their fee. Consider this: Recruiters only have the clients they have. Their clients only have the openings they have. If a recruiting firm is any good, they will have the assignment on an exclusive basis, meaning they will source all the candidates for the job. As a result, they are 'revenue neutral' (i.e. don't care) which candidate takes the offer. The odds that 

1) a recruiter is working to fill an opening that closely matches your target position,

2) that that recruiter will find you,

3) that you will be among the eight-or-so top candidates the recruiter will refer to the client

4) and that you will get the offer

are exceedingly low.

The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that about 10% of executive jobs are filled by recruiters. So, recruiters are a necessary part of your job search because you can't afford to ignore the 10% of opportunities they represent. But in themselves, they are not sufficient for a successful search outcome. 

Job Search Myth 8 

"This isn't my first rodeo, I understand the job search market."

The nature of the executive job search market and the challenges it presents to the job seeker change all the time. Resume writing protocols, interviewing techniques, the role and importance of social media and a host of other factors are constantly evolving. The problem job seekers is that they didn't  monitor these changes during the normal (i.e. employed) course of their career. And no one explains the changes once you decide to get back into the market. 

Whatever instincts, procedures and appoaches you can recall from past searches, don't automatically assume they still apply. Understanding the market as it operates today saves precious time and money. 

Job Search Myth 9

"It's OK, they know I'm looking."

Famous last words. The decision to search for a new position while continuing to work is almost always the right decision. It maintains an uninterrupted cash flow and provides a stronger base from which to negotiate a future offer.  Telling your company or even just your boss that you are looking is very risky and is almost always the wrong decision. Our experience confirms that executives are rarely correct when they assume that telling anyone at work that they are looking will have no negative impact on their job, their ongoing work relationships or their tenure. There's almost no upside to doing it and the downside is a minefield.

Nevertheless, conducting a 'stealth' campaign is tricky in today's social media-driven marketplace and it will double your workload for the duration of the campaign because looking for a job is a full time job! Do you have a plan to manage this?


Job Search Myth 10

"I'm networking to find my next job."

Networking is a powerful and effective process for finding your next career opportunity. However, in our experience, the problem is that most executives think they know how to network effectively, but in reality, they don't. They think "networking" means 'call 20 friends, tell them you're looking for a new position and then sit back and wait for the phone to ring'. It rarely does.

Here's a simple test: If your list of contacts is continually growing week-after-week, you're probably networking correctly. If it isn't, you probably aren't. 

Job Search Myth 11

"I have access to a ton of databases. Finding my next job should be easy."

Job databases are another necessary-but-not-sufficient component of an effective job search campaign. The fact is, the higher your role in the corporate structure, the less likely that your target position will be on a public job database. And the number of job seekers that patrol the databases daily usually outstrips the number of opportunites available at the senior level. 

Additionally, if you rely significantly on databases as a means of securing interview opportunities, you are really not in control of your search.

Job Search Myth 12 

"A J.O.B is a career move."

Smart executives manage their careers; the rest accept an offer and take a job. Anyone can find a J.O.B. But, there is a big difference between finding a job and securing the right position. 

Five elements contribute to a well-balanced career move:

  1. Fit
  2. Challenge
  3. Happy Factor
  4. Geography, and
  5. A Great Financial Package.

Making a career move that is an ideal balance of all five is difficult to achieve. It often requires securing the right assistance for the specific mix/balance that supports (or optimizes) your professional/personal goals.

Companies seek excellent executive talent and the corporate pyramid gets smaller the closer you get to the top. This means that the number of executive positions is limited and as you progress in your career, you will face increasingly stronger competition from other highly qualified people. Companies make offers to the person who is the best fit and will bring significant value to the company. Hiring authorities must feel that your value-add proposition will more than justify each dollar the company pays for your executive talent. If they draw this conclusion, you are magic. If not, they will hire someone else.

Call Principal, Executive Managing Director Chuck McConnell to discuss your next career move. We've been helping high-tier executives successfully advance up the corporate ladder for 25 years. There's very little upside to tackling this climb on your own!

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