Five things executives can do to successfully navigate their next career step

Before I got into executive recruitment, I put all the responsibility for my job search on the search agency and often found myself annoyed, usually blaming the recruiter. Being on the other side of the equation has helped me understand the employment market and, each person’s marketability, much better.

So what can you do to help yourself when it comes to job search?


1. Invest in relationships

Chances are, you aren’t thinking much about headhunters until you actually need them. Some candidates ignore headhunters’ calls because they do not see the value in speaking until they are ready to make a move. I recently spoke to a lawyer who told me he would not have returned my call if he knew I was a headhunter and then hung up.

The trouble with this approach is that most people no longer have jobs for life, which means most of us will need a recruiter or a headhunter at some point. You’ll be surprised how quickly word gets around – people who have been rude or unreliable are known to all the good recruiters in the industry or at least your reputation can be easily checked.

Do yourself a favour and invest in a relationship with several headhunters – you never know when you might need their help.

2. Create a strategy

Before making a career move or accepting a role, even if it’s within your current firm, make sure it serves your ultimate purpose. What do you want to do in five years time? Ten? Which position do you want to retire from?

Now work backwards and see if the role you are about to accept takes you closer to your goal. This is where a trusted headhunter is invaluable, after all he or she may know things about the firm that you don’t and could provide you relevant with insights and advice.

Also, once you get to know a headhunter and he understands your career strategy, he will always keep in mind for roles, which will catapult you to the next level. Don’t forget to create a seamless, well-coordinated story, which connects your elevator pitch, your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Make sure you are easy to find – executive recruiters do not advertise so your only chance of being found are through your network and work profiles.

3. Get ready to interview

You’ll be surprised how often executive candidates fail to prepare for external interviews, not bothering to look at prospective employer’s website, study the job description and prepare relevant examples from to illustrate their experience.

Quite often candidates assume that if the role isn’t a 100% match that they are almost doing everyone a favour by attending the interview.

Again, this is a very shortsighted approach, which can backfire.

First of all, the role you aren’t that thrilled about might turn out to be just perfect once you actually meet the employer.

Secondly, you never know who you might meet at that interview and when you might need them again – after all, people tend to know each other in any given industry so chances of you bumping into your interviewer at a conference or at another interview a few years down the line are high.

So if you have agreed to interview, make sure that you research the firm and the industry trends and go in ready to make an impression. Remember, you can only get the job if the employer feels certain you really want it.

4. Accept coaching

Headhunters see hundreds of candidates a year and are in a better position to help you get the job you want.

Many candidates mistakenly think their skills set is unique, in reality several other candidates can fill the same role so humility is key. I have dealt with senior executives who maintained their uniqueness and refused any form of advice, only to miss out on important roles for inability to communicate their differentiating factor.

5. Get in touch right after the interview

You might think this one is a no brainer, but again, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who disappear after the interview. They usually resurface in a couple of days, although some take as long as a week, to inform that they wanted to take time out to consider their options.

Some people think that by playing hard to get they improve their negotiating position. Unfortunately, this hinders their chances of successful placement as by then another candidate would have already accepted the role or the employer withdrew his offer based on lack of interest from you.

Needless to say, you are not winning any points with your headhunter who is unlikely to work with you in the future.

As you can see, mistakes are easy to rectify and even easier to avoid and I can guarantee that a change in attitude will bring significant rewards which more than make up for the effort you put in.