Job-Hunting Tips for Executives

By Cicarelli, James | Management Review, June 1991 | Go to article overview

Job-Hunting Tips for Executives


Cicarelli, James, Management Review


By definition, a senior executive is well-established and not actively looking for another job. In today's rapidly changing business environment, however, a hostile takeover, corporate downsizing, or simply the desire for a new career can precipitate a job search even among the most tenured manager.

The process of finding a new job can be extremely stressfull, especially for the executive who has been with one company for some time. As trying as the exercise can be, job hunting need not be lifethreatening. Here are a few pointers that should reduce the strain.

First, if it has been five years or longer since you've changed positions, you should begin your search by reading one of the myriad books targeted toward the job hunter. Although most of these books are well-written, thoroughly researched, and full of good advice, there is no doubt that much of the material covered will be familiar. Still, a systematic review of common sense do's and don'ts is the first place to start your quest.

As useful as these books might be, use them cautiously. Much of what they have to say is aimed at the first-time job seeker, not the seasoned executive. For instance, most books on job hunting suggest that the cover letter be short and to the point. This makes good sense for someone at the entry level who doesn't have much to write about.

For experienced executives, however, the cover letter is as important as the resume. In it, tell your story in your voice. Save the detailed information on education and experience for the resume. Use the cover letter to reveal your attitudes, values and other aspects of your character that truly determine if you are the right person for the job. A TIGHT FIT

When filling a senior position, fit is everything. This means matching the employee's skills and idiosyncrasies with the needs of the organization, and vice versa. Fit is less crucial when hiring entry-level personnel, because inexperienced managers have yet to develop a management style, and they'll probably leave before their values clash with those of the organization.

The hiring of a mature executive is viewed by the employer and employee alike as a permanent arrangement. For instance, an executive with strong "pro-life" sentiments would be ill-advised to accept a managerial position with Planned Parenthood. Sooner or later, the mismatch of principles would take its toll. The difference between you and a perspective employer may not be that sharp, yet any fundamental gap in values will eventually warp the fit, if in fact one ever existed.

The cover letter also is where you can show off your ability to communicate. Unlike the resume which is, by design, a collection of incomplete sentences and dangling participles, the cover letter is the place where you can dazzle the reader with your command of the written word. Be distinctive, but always in good taste.

Recently I received an application with a newly-minted, crisp one dollar bill taped at the top of the cover letter followed by the words, "Let me buy you a cup of coffee. While you're drinking it, consider my application for..." However creative, most recruiters are likely to find this approach crass and manipulative. The idea in the cover letter is to be creative, not crazy.

Once you have the outlines of a boffo cover letter-the particulars should be tailored for each position applied for-consider next the resume. Again, a "how to" book will help if used judiciously.

In constructing a resume, you are limited basically to one of two types: A chronological resume summarizes education, employment and accomplishments in order, starting with the most recent experiences; a functional resume catalogs your most important skills, then illustrates how you acquired and honed them. The chronological is the more common, but a functional resume may be more appropriate, especially if you have a unique talent that you wish to showcase. …

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