What Is Your Executive Job Search Strategy?

executive job search strategyDo you have a step-by-step strategy for your executive search? If not, how do you know you have enough targets to conduct an effective search? How do you know which of the 5 executive job search tactics you should use (and how)? How will you keep your search momentum over the months it will likely endure?

One of my favorite job search-related quotes comes from Laura DeCarlo, President of Career Directors International.  To paraphrase, she declares that a newly minted resume, even one that has been written by an expert, is useless without a matching job search strategy. In fact, she compares such a resume to a Mercedes without an engine – it will look good in your driveway but it won’t take you anywhere. Love that – it’s so true.

A resume, after all, is just a tool. An important one, but just a self-marketing tool. Its job is to open doors and win you interviews. But if you don’t know how to use this tool, it will not serve you effectively.

Your overall job search strategy guides your use of all of your career communications tools, from your resume and LinkedIn profile to your executive bio, cover letter, or marketing brief. Once you know which job search tactics to engage in, this automatically clarifies which tools your search will need to leverage be effective.

But before I go any further, let’s first define what I mean by “job search strategy.” A job search strategy is a plan of action that undergirds and guides your hunt for a new role. This strategy defines your targets, delineates how you will communicate with those targets, and guides your execution of key career search action steps.

I recommend a 4-step approach to devising an effective search strategy. First, define your career targets. This is more detailed than most seekers realize.

Consider that a job search is really a bit of a numbers game. It takes an average of 7 interviews to produce 1 job offer and an average of 200-300 targets to generate even 1 of those interviews. Hence, your job search needs to begin with a minimum of 200-300 targets if it’s going to have any chance of producing the interviews you want.

If you’re already in a search or contemplating one, do you have that many targets in mind? Chances are you don’t. But you need them or your search will likely be in vain or take you much, much longer (as in months to 1-2 years longer) than you expect.

Second, clarify which of the primary executive search tactics are right for you to leverage. There are 5 (recruiters, job boards, targeted companies, LinkedIn, and networking) but not all of them work for all situations. And, depending on whether you are conducting a part-time or full-time search, you may not be able to utilize all 5 in the time you have available. Lastly, which tactics you use depends in part on your targets – if you need to avoid relocation, for example, then some of these strategies will be more critical to employ or to avoid in order to remain in your preferred geographic area.

Third, develop a strategy for each search tactic you employ. If you’re going to approach executive recruiters, say, how will you do so? How will you develop the list of recruiters you’ll need for the search? How will you bring your candidacy to the attention of recruiters? How many recruiters should you target? What about networking – how big is yours? Which parts of it will you engage in your networking? How will you build or extend your network to help you penetrate the Hidden Job Market? What specific kinds of information requests will you make of your network and with what frequency? As I hope is evident, there are myriad questions and decisions to resolve for each tactic you pursue.

Fourth, roadmap each search tactic and distill your plan into realistic weekly action steps. This is especially critical for part-time job seekers who are trying to hold down a full-time job while they search. There simply isn’t enough time in most job seeker schedules to do everything that needs to be done. So how do you prioritize your search tactics and your time? How can you avoid wasting time on unimportant activities and ensure you complete the make-it-or-break-it actions that will get you the results you want?

Every week I see a news story about the long-term unemployed. While there are different reasons for why someone might be unable to land a job quickly, it generally comes to down to just a few problems, one of which is the lack of an effective job search strategy (another is poor execution thereof). The single most important reason my clients typically land their new jobs in 2 to 8 months rather than the 12-24 month average is strategy – by knowing what you want, determining how you’re going to get it, and aligning your career communications tools and weekly actions with your plan, your success is assured. Avoid this approach and a long drawn-out search is assured. Which would you rather have?


  1. Edward Foster says:

    Love your blog. You have great advice. Sorry I can’t be more detailed, just wanted to let you know how much I admire your column.

    • Cheryl Lynch Simpson says:

      Thank you Edward — I’m delighted to hear you’re finding it helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

      Best wishes,