Tips for Executives Re-entering the Job Market
The challenges of returning to the workforce after an absence.
Today’s environment is not always welcoming for even the most successful, passionate, capable and proven individuals. There’s a frustrating disconnect between candidates’ expectations and actual employment opportunities.
To be competitive, returnees have some unique challenges – the least of which is the gap in their employment history.
Challenge 1: Automated Screening
The first challenge is often getting past computerized or human gatekeepers. One of the reasons why re-entry candidates face a daunting job search is that companies and search firms use automated candidate screening and recruitment processes to triage applications and resume submissions. These computerized systems don’t accommodate for and can’t appreciate exceptions. For this reason, re-entry prospects may be eliminated before any human actually evaluates their application. Given the obvious employment gap, re-entry candidates may be excluded automatically at this stage.
Your strategy? Bypass automation.
An effective technique for boosting a candidate’s potential is having an inside contact at the company personally usher a candidate through the corporate maze. The prospective employee needs to convey his or her unique value contribution to this intermediary and encourage this contact to champion the candidate up the ladder to a hiring decision maker, not just HR. A personal recommendation goes a long way to grab attention. Then it is incumbent on the candidate to follow up personally and interact directly to nurture a relationship with the hiring authority to develop trust and prove ability.
- Show, don’t tell. Persuade decision makers by unmistakably proving that you meet their criteria. Voluntarily prepare presentations, write white papers and garner support from references. Increase visibility and credibility: publish work, comment on blogs, post on listservs and forums, and attend and present at conferences.
- Specialize a niche expertise to attract more attention. Trying to be something to everyone often results in being nothing to anyone. Illustrate capabilities with concrete solution examples. Support extraordinary skills and talent with compelling achievements that overcame sizable challenges.
- Put skin in the game. Show confidence in your anticipated ability to deliver with a heavy portion of performance-dependent compensation.
- Communicate your value with consistent messaging. Your resumes, bios, online profiles and quotes must all tell employers about your potential contribution, reinforce your trustworthiness and highlight your strengths. Demonstrate that you are the first-choice, go-to expert.
- Think positively. A job search is a marathon, not a sprint. Candidates should be screening prospective challenges as carefully as employers investigate new team members.
Challenge 2: Dry Networks
Returnees may find their networks, once the source of lucrative offers and discreet networking inquiries, are not delivering good leads like they used to.
How will you get from where you are now to where you want to be next? The preferred job search method is the same as ever: connections. Networking is the means to a swift, successful landing. However, your once-reliable contacts have lost their value or left the field. Freshly minted re-entry candidates rarely fit the perfect candidate descriptions listed in advertised job postings. Rarely are these under-the-radar candidates sought out by search consultants or recruiters to fill openings for exacting corporate clients.
Your strategy? Connect with decision makers.
Jumpstarting your search campaign requires designing and purposefully creating a new network of relationships. In today’s competitive and risk-adverse job market, networking purposefully is the way to find a new position that matches your requirements for personal, professional and financial rewards. The critical element for success is getting attention now and then being remembered later by hiring managers and decision makers affiliated with appropriate opportunities. Candidates must carve a direct path to senior management and then present a remarkable and memorable value proposition that fosters a meaningful dialogue about mutual interests.
For candidates with a break on their resumes, personalized introductions explain unusual circumstances and pave the way for meaningful dialogues with prospective employers.
After getting comfortable with a candidate’s abilities, the employer may decide that the formerly imperfect prospect can be a great employee for an opening, or the company may create a new job just for this individual. Notably, the ideal candidate and the ideal employee may be different. Only the hiring decision-maker can bend the requirements, reorganize resources and do what it takes to make an offer. That’s why connecting with the appropriate inside authority is key to generating a new career opportunity, whether a job is advertised or part of the hidden job market.
- Target employers within a specific industry niche. These companies are more likely to appreciate your background and recognize your qualifications.
- Initiate contacts and stay connected. Identify key players; obtain recommendations about who you need to know; research speakers, trade publications and online resources to connect with current industry thought leaders. Cultivate relationships that are likely to generate job leads, increase credibility and provide future mentoring opportunities.
- Connect with “insiders” affiliated with target employers. This is the best way to be one of the first to learn about and be presented for unadvertised opportunities.
- Be bold, be persistent. Network Purposefully to make new contacts in your search. Networking is about relationships, not single-use transactions.
- Give back. Make introductions when you see synergy. Contribute advice, help others and provide counsel before being asked. Networking is not just for job searching.
- Initiate contact directly with hiring decision-makers. Call outside typical business hours. Use snail mail creatively to attract attention. Leave enticing voice-mail messages communicating what is in it for the employer. Leave them thinking that not returning the call would be a mistake.
- Follow up on connections. Be courteous and respectful while pursuing leads to new opportunities. If you are not persistent, someone who does follow through is likely to get the job offer that is perfect for you.
For re-entry candidates, these tips can accelerate your job hunt progress.