Mistakes Jobhunters Make

Or, how to run a job campaign that takes too long, costs too much money, and doesn’t deliver the position you want and deserve — a failing effort, in other words. I have been coaching (and watching) job hunting senior executives–in one form or another, several hundred thousand of them–since 1984, when I wrote my first book about executive-level job hunting. I consider senior executive job hunting to be my marketing challenge/laboratory and have devoted much of my professional life to it. Would you be interested in some of what I have learned about what works and what doesn’t?

For this column, I have been compiling a list of the mistakes I see frequently (no particular order). If you have been reading my columns for a while, much of this will be familiar–

  • Running your campaign any way besides the way a CMO would run it. You are the CMO
  • Acting like a passive victim rather than a senior executive
  • Listening to/taking advice from the wrong people/sources and following it; accepting HR/outplacement strategies
  • Believing there is really nothing important to know, or that if there is anything important, you already know it
  • Embellishing your resume and overstating your compensation
  • Underestimating the competition/overestimating your status
  • Misunderstanding/underestimating the pyramidal nature of the economy and the senior executive job market
  • Believing that your resume will get you hired and/or that the most qualififed executive “wins”
  • Wasting your finite resources–time, money, and mental energy
  • Ignoring your physical condition
  • Believing that your cover letter/resume/response to postings will be treated more favorably than you’ve treated those you have received from other executives
  • Writing tired, boring, complicated letters about yourself to headhunters and CEOs; overintellectualizing your materials
  • Confusing duties with results
  • Misunderstanding the motives, hiring strategies, and consuming behavior of search consultants, CEOs, and gatekeepers
  • Awarding power and loyalty to search consultants they do not have or deserve
  • Playing too hard to get; treating search consultants in a condescending manner
  • Agreeing to foolish requirements to demonstrate your expertise; providing free consulting to companies
  • Overworking follow-up strategies and unintentionally damaging your status with search consultants and CEOs
  • Focusing on the wrong companies and search consultants
  • Settling for an “average” or “standard” effort
  • Choosing reactive strategies over proactive strategies
  • Concentrating on strategies that do not pay, or that have tiny payoffs — “milking mice”
  • Ignoring potentially productive strategies/channels and prospects; running an “undiversified” campaign
  • Fixating on the latest tech gadget or technique (“Technolust”)
  • No interview practice/rehearsal and spontaneously answering questions/falling into traps
  • Allowing interviews to become interrogations
  • Unwarranted loyalty to previous employers
  • Insufficient due diligence on your solid interviewing prospects
  • Working harder, instead of smarter…and, its inverse cousin, loafing
  • Hope trumping useful, thorough planning and execution; the “plan” is vague, unfocused, or absent altogether
  • Confusing “runner up” status with “first loser” status; accepting losing results
  • Not making enough contacts; reliance on too few prospects
  • Confusing between being able to do a job and meeting/exceeding search specifications
  • Attempting to run your campaign on lunch money or (even worse) for free
  • Failing to properly value opportunity costs as higher than out-of-pocket costs
  • Attempting to camouflage anything, but especially your age and employment breaks
  • Chasing “rainbows”–the position that doesn’t exist, and its close cousin, the position way over your head
  • Capitulating in negotiations

If it’s not yet clear there’s a lot to know about senior executive job hunting, I haven’t done my job. Any coach you select to assist you in your job campaign should be able to address most of these issues. If they cannot, you should look for a better one who can. If you do not yet have a coach, maybe you should think about finding one.

I hope this is useful to you. Please call me anytime to discuss your job campaign.

Ken