The Single Biggest Reason Executives Struggle To Get Hired

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Many executives and senior managers still rely solely on their networks to find their next role. In an increasingly digital age this must be amplified by a smart mix of digital personal branding tools.

Irene McConnell
4 min read

Let me give you part of the answer straight away – the problem is that many executives rely solely on their network in an increasingly digital age.

Your network, of course, is still critical – as is your executive resume. However, to achieve maximum impact, these must be amplified by a smart mix of digital personal branding tools; it can no longer be your one and only job search tool.

(Related Article: The Smart Way To Deal With Recruiters.)

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If we were to use an analogy with the world of sport, in the past, your resume could have been likened to a 100 metre sprint runner. It had the responsibility of getting you ahead of the pack and getting you over the line in a race, which culminated with an invitation to attend a job interview.

The Digital Age Radically Changed That.

Today, the rules of this game are different. The Internet has created more possibilities for a potential employer to screen you before committing to even a phone call.

This is bad news for ill-prepared candidates; it’s fantastic news for those who have put in the effort to capitalise on this shift.

Here’s what it all comes down to – in the digital age, a single job search tool (e.g., a resume) will struggle to achieve the goal of getting you a phone call from a recruiter or a potential employer.

The reason for that is the same reason you probably don’t buy an expensive item the first time that you see it.

Instead, you spend some time reading reviews, comparing prices, taking a closer look at the brand that made it, etc.

In other words, as modern consumers we’ve come to expect to be able to learn about products from a number of angles using the Internet, thus eliminating some of the risk associated with making a purchase.

You are a brand. Your brand represents a value proposition. You are competing against other brands for the attention of a time poor “buyer” with an extremely short attention span.

Most importantly, this “buyer” wants to leverage the Internet to get a feel for you before picking up the phone.


You Apply For A Job..

Let’s say that your resume ends up in the inbox of an executive recruiter. After a 20-second scan she knows that background-wise you are a good match for the position the she is looking to fill.

She immediately goes online and takes a look at your LinkedIn profile.

The good news is that your profile kicks off with a captivating story of why you do what you do and gives clues to your management style and values. The executive recruiter begins to sense that you could be a good cultural fit for her client.

(Related Article: How To Choose The Best Resume Writer).

She adds you to her “call in for an interview” shortlist.

The problem, however, is that this list already has 10 names on it and she – like most people today – is pressed for time. She needs to make some educated decisions.

She continues to cull. This is the stage where perfectly qualified candidates with weak levels of presentation miss out on opportunities.


Will It Be You?

She probes deeper into each candidate’s career and her curiosity is ignited when she discovers that you have a personal website, where you regularly publish articles that address the challenges your industry is facing; where you offer your unique perspectives for possible solutions.

Your website also links to a recent Sydney Morning Herald article, where you provide an opinion on how up-and-coming managers can succeed in your industry.

Where in this manager’s call list do you rank now? She hasn’t yet spoken to you, yet she has formed an impression of you (which you helped her arrive at) through your mix of traditional and digital personal branding assets.

She knows what you stand for, your achievements, how you operate and what you believe in.

From reading your website she knows how you think; she has evidence of you wrestling with complex problems, and she can see that you are a thought leader.

You’ve clearly demonstrated your ability to add value to the business world and she can see the possibility that you’ll be able to add this same value to her client’s brand.

The other candidates remain faceless, nameless identities buried in her screen filled with emails. She looks at that screen again, then looks at your business portrait; you look approachable, and you’re confidently smiling at her from your website.


Recruiter Picks Up The Phone..

An unexpected side benefit of having a strong mix of personal branding assets is the availability of talking points which you provide people with.

In the example of our executive recruiter, this helped put her at ease (recruiters and hiring managers have feelings and fears too, you know!), while enabling her to cut through the fluff to a familiar ground:

“I see that on your blog you’ve weighed in on the issue of China’s slowing economic growth. My client is looking to expand into Asia next year and this role would be central in executing this plan. I’d love to have a chat with you about this opportunity in detail – how is your schedule looking next week?”


Your Modern Job Search Tools.

The days of your resume getting you across the line à la lone 100-metre sprinter are long gone. The most effective way to view your job search toolbox today is as a well-trained rugby team.

No single team-member wins your game for you.

Some are responsible for kicking off the conversation with an employer, some are responsible for furthering it, while others seal the deal.

Importantly, the exact mix must be strategically designed to suit your career, and, needs to be a unique and authentic expression of what you have to offer; what you truly care about.

Together, these elements must work to achieve a single goal – that of guiding recruiters, HR leaders, board members and potential business partners through various touch points of your personal brand; each of which draws them further in by revealing a new dimension of who you are.
– Irene

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