Ask The Headhunter® the insider's edge on job search & hiring™ May 3, 2011, by Nick Corcodilos
This week's Q & A: How to get noticed for a C-level job
Question: I believe I have a good, detailed resume. I am trying to make the jump from SVP/Division President to COO or CEO. How can I get noticed? I am also finding out that, in times like these, no one will talk with you unless you meet 100% of the requirements. Most of the times I meet 85%-95%, but I still get rejected. Any tips?
Nick's Reply: (with a few small edits)
Think about this. Why would you apply for a C-level job by sending your resume to an X-level personnel jockey who's working deep in the bowels of the company, far away from the C-suite? Honest, I'm just astonished at the degree to which smart, skilled managers get sucked into the bureaucratic herd mentality of corporate "recruiting" practices.
When you apply for jobs—especially top-level executive positions—by using a resume, your credentials will inevitably get matched one by one against the job description…. It used to be that someone with a brain would review a resume, read between the lines, and make an informed assessment about a candidate. …. We all know that you don't need to be a perfect match to the job description to be the perfect candidate. So, how do you avoid being judged and rejected by your resume?
It's simple: Avoid applying via resume! Withhold your resume as long as possible. Navigate your way to a member of the board of directors or to the president of the company, without applying for the job. (Even a VP can help you get in the door.)
When you want to date a girl to get to know her, the last thing you say is, "You're the perfect wife for me! Let's get together to talk about getting married!"
Gimme a break. Show some finesse. Just because [instructions on a website] tell you to follow a stupid [process] is no reason to do it.
Don't walk blind on the job hunt. Establish a personal connection first. Rather than cry about your competitors, who seem to have the inside track, get on the inside track.
With this approach, you're impressing a key decision maker or influencer with your acumen and your character—qualities that are not captured by keywords, but that are key decision factors for making a hire. Qualities that put you on the inside track.
How should you approach such top-level officers? By asking them for insight about the position that's open.
How to Say It
"I've thought about applying for this job, but I'd like to get the big picture first. What's the main challenge going to be for your next CEO? How does the new CEO need to take the position to the next level? Where do you see the industry headed, and what obstacles do you expect?"
These are all questions an exec would discuss with a peer. It's the smart way to manage, the smart way to explore a job, and the smartest way to introduce yourself.
You will be judged not by "100% of the requirements," but by how you approach the challenges the company is facing. If the discussion goes well, suggest that you'd like to meet to discuss those challenges further. (Note that I said "discuss those challenges," not "the job." Top execs can smell a job hunter a mile away. They don't want to talk about the job. They'll let HR do that, with all those applicants who crowd the pipe. Top execs want to talk shop with a peer. Be that peer.)
That's how you avoid an interview and have a friendly, peer-to-peer meeting instead. That's how you get noticed for a C-level job: by behaving like a C-level exec.
Nick Corcodilos Ask The Headhunter®