Executive Job Hunters Are Missing the Mark

I recently completed twelve months of in-depth research on the U.S. job market for managers and executives. I wasn’t surprised to learn that over 35% of this group was seriously considering switching jobs or making a career change. I was astonished to discover that over 87% of the millions of professionals wanting to make a move were still using the same old, tired job search strategies.

The puzzling part for me centers on some basic realities. Specifically, that we have a whole new set of rules that are driving the current business environment, like; a significant pull-back in our capital markets, an unpredictable economic horizon, and the continued restructuring of how organizations operate in this change-a-minute, hyper-competitive world.

Combine that information with what 300 CEO’s told me – that only 40% of their decision to hire managers and executives is based on their education and experience (versus 80% ten years ago) – and we clearly have further evidence that most executives are missing the job search mark.

So why do job seeking executives resort to the tactics they utilized ten or twenty years ago when the market forces have changed so significantly since March 2000? My research uncovered these answers;

Most managers and professionals have never had to look for a job. Positions came to them via their network, executive recruiters, and other sources.

They are very competent at their trade but are not up to speed on what new strategies are effective in this market.

It all seems to come down to this — new times demand new solutions. Successful organizations, for the most part, can not sit still and rely on doing what has always worked for them. Look at IBM, General Electric, and Wal-Mart. They have all been dedicated to continuously changing their model to be a market leader. The same is true for executives who have been successful in finding a great new position or in switching careers.

Here are the five actions they deployed to clearly differentiate themselves from the competition:


  1. Didn’t take a numbers-game approach to networking. Instead, they were very focused and strategic on whom they connected with and how and when they utilized those contacts.
  2. Didn’t consider every company as a target. They established the criteria they would judge opportunities on. It often involved only 5-10 firms.
  3. Didn’t stop with “public” research on their targets. They went below the radar screen and learned more about the company than many of the firm’s own employees knew.
  4. Didn’t rely on their education and experience. They based their approach on a value proposition enhancing idea.
  5. Didn’t prepare for an interview. Instead, they envisioned the first meeting or phone conversation as the platform to further discuss their ideas.


By challenging traditional job search strategies, executives can give themselves a competitive advantage in our volatile job market. They can change their job search brand from someone “looking for a position” to a professional who clearly understands the changing business environment and has the vision and tools to move their next employer to the top.