8 Things to Avoid in Your Executive Job Search


Louise Kursmark, a highly experienced resume writer and career coach, recently asked a number of senior executive recruiters in the AESC / BlueSteps Executive Search Network on Linkedin, ‘What are your biggest candidate turn-offs?’ Following a number of responses, read on to discover the DO’s and DON'Ts when contacting executive recruiters or headhunters, then make sure you join the conversation:

1. Do not mass email

executive_job_search_interviewDON'T: Many executives send their resume to every executive recruiter listed on the company website – letting everyone there know you are blasting your resume everywhere possible.

DO: Instead, target executive recruiters via industry, function and location – usually listed on their website, or comprehensively found in the BlueSteps International Search Firm Directory. Executive recruiters or headhunters want to deal with candidates who are focused in their job search, know where they have come from, and exactly where they want to go.

2. Read the job description

DON'T: Applying or expressing interest for a job that in no way matches your career history or path is a good way to leave a lasting bad impression with executive recruiters. Too many executives send off generic applications to every position they come across - seeing the job search as a numbers game.

DO: Only apply for executive positions that you strongly feel you are qualified for and match your career path, do not apply for every position out there as you will come across as desperate instead of a highly respected executive transitioning into the next stage of your career.

3. Attitude of entitlement

DON'T: Loiuse Kursmark rightfully mentioned this as it is a huge problem for executive recruiters and headhunters. Candidates often have the attitude that headhunters must dedicate themselves to the job seeker and find you a job. This is not the case.

DO: When dealing with senior executive level positions the executive recruiter is working for the client, not the candidate. Yes they look for great candidates, but their time is dedicated to the client and if you do not match any current executive searches they do not have the resources to find you a job. Be targeted and positive but do not expect anything.

4. Spelling / grammar mistakes

DON'T: Have you ever read an article with many spelling or grammar mistakes? What was the feeling left ? For me it demonstrates a rushed piece of writing with a lack of dedication and lack of second look – all things that should not lack in a carefully constructed CV or resume.

DO: Get a second, third or even fourth review of your resume by peers and professionals to eliminate this simple, but important problem. BlueSteps members get a free resume review after joining.

5. Not being to the point

DON'T: When contacting executive recruiters, not being extremely clear and to the point will lead your email to be passed by and forgotten.

DO: Make sure you know your elevator pitch and how to put this down on paper, and ensure that you are industry / function specific in your message.

6. Tailor / personalise

DON'T: To whom it may concern or using a company name is not acceptable when trying to establish relationships with senior executive recruiters – you would not start a relationship with anyone else this way.

DO: As related to mass emailing above, find the personal contact and tailor your message specifically to them.

7. Do not lie or exaggerate the truth

DON'T: Whether you are elaborating on minimal experience in one area or completely fabricating others, any exaggerations of professional accomplishments will soon be discovered in interviews or future discussions.

DO: Stick to your core strengths and you will soon realise exaggerating is surplus to requirement and just dilutes your professional image – we cannot and should not be experts at everything. And if you really do not meet the requirements, think twice about applying (not to discourage aspirations but you should be targeted in your job search).

8. Do not just have a functional resume – must also be chronological

DON'T: Functional resumes are used to highlight key achievements, usually in a section at the top titled ‘professional achievements’ or similar. However, executive recruiters will also need to see a chronological history of your career - omitting this suggests you may have something to hide.

DO: Once again, seek peer review and professional support to create a resume / CV that is effective at marketing you and your career achievements.

For more executive job search tips, subscribe to the Executive Career Insider newsletter.


This article was written by Christian Pielow from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

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