How to job hunt for an executive position without going insane.
An essay based upon my 2016 job search.
For the first time in decades, I’ve had to actively job-hunt. I have, without a doubt, been extremely lucky to have been able to impress my value upon management throughout my work life. In turn I’ve been hired, had new experiences develop into skills, and been mentored by outstanding executives. The best managers/owners, will see something in you and will also mentor you. There is nothing better than that dynamic in your work.
Teaching the job board and recruitment industry any new tricks is not happening – and these folks are all too new for the market to have to worry about old dogs having to learn new tricks. They collect data, and even if their “match” brings much more to the table, they are blind to all but that one job they find a match for – in their software. How do they amend this shortcoming? They run ads for employment for entry level personnel who must have a BA and several years of relevant experience to qualify.
The following is a light-hearted look on how to handle the situation, rather than be handled.
To that end I have created the multiple resume approach. When the recruiter “finds” your professional resume and contacts you, don’t hop off your home-office chair and comfy cushion to go running in to their interview, dressed in full business-professional attire with two copies of your resume – until you go over, by phone or email how your resumes are to be used. Keep your personal chart of resumes handy. They should look something like the following.
Compensation Reference Guide for Administrative Job Seekers working with Recruiting Personnel*
Resume Z – The “under $15.00 per hour resume. (Yes, I did say ‘executive level’. You will get offers like these.)
Show no dates, list names of employers only.
Add, as bullets, only the level of skills being paid for.
$15.00 / hour gets you reception and filing work. Answer phones, take messages, give messages out, file paperwork, type letters in Word. No use of personal vehicle, no bank deposits, post office visits or other go-fer work. No expectation of weekends or evenings “as needed”. That’s for the ones being compensated at a living wage. Don’t know how to make coffee, be a tea person. If the day is 9 hours where lunch hour is unpaid, don’t expect any more work time to be added other than clock-in time to clock-out time. Tell the recruiter that the employer should not rely upon being able to reach you during your personal lunch hour. Go out. The paid for work does not include exemption, does not include management over other personnel, does not include doing more than can be accomplished during paid work hours. Nothing personal, but, nothing personal should be anticipated.
Once placed and you get your bearings, decide to either move up, or move on. This is not a permanent job to dedicate your time to. Get what you can out of it. Add a skill or software. We are not talking raise here. We’re talking appreciation. You should get a raise, but you should also get a leg-up in position. If that won’t happen, don’t move in. Leave your family photos, favorite pens and accouterments at home. Be able to walk away without scrambling; cool headed and settled.
Now, think about this: Compare Resume Z to the one you might see for the Executive Administrative Assistant – you know, the “Pepper Potts” of the world, without whom the Executive would be buried in minutia. Compare the salaries, as well. These folks often command six figure salaries or close to it. In Manhattan, six figures for someone at the level of Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO would command six figure salaries, and be able to fill in for the CEO when he’s traveling. This person knows when to act, and when to consult with the CEO, and the CEO has trust that his EAA can properly handle those decisions. Understand that you must be able to do the work, but the company must be able, and willing, to PAY for it. Although not executives, as defined, the EAA to the CEO is above many in the company hierarchy, and can use all assets (personnel) as appropriate to get the job done. In other words; personnel answers to The EAA as they command the respect that reflects the OFFICE of the Executive for whom they are working. It is a simple rule of business, and one that all business managers should have a good understanding of. You get what you pay for.
Resume Y– $31,000.00 / year job –Do the math. Anything $31,200 or under is Resume Z
Now, the REAL Resume Y – Salary over $31,200 up to S41,600 annually.
(That’s only a top figure of $20.00 per hour x 40 hours per week)
Include most of the Resume Z information. Add Excel if pay is near the $20./hr mark and this is the kind of work you can do.
Allow for trips to the bank or post office, personal errands, and staying to finish up the last minute letter that has to go out by end of day. (Not the end of a project, or anything that takes hours, just a letter; say 15 minutes or so.)
Define, up front, that personal use of your car must be reimbursed at the federal rate, and the time used to accomplish the errand is not personal time. Staying more than 15 minutes for a hot project to end is a totally different pay range. But if you want to comply, the time to spell out compensation is before it comes up. New law allows you to be paid overtime for anything over 40 hours in this pay bracket. But be careful. If you had a paid holiday or PTO that week, it makes a difference.
You can add your willingness to learn new software and functions which can be recompensed should the training contribute to adding to your responsibilities. You’re not just selling time, you’re selling skills and capability – and don’t sell yourself short. The last item on Resume Y should indicate that you are reliable and dedicated.
It’s up to you to decide the next level. You likely will acquire skills and abilities as time progresses. Make sure salary and other compensation is right for the market and that you receive regular raises. Don’t give a hoot what other’s sit still for. If your work and/or responsibilities you sell to the company have increased, but there is no increase in wages, you are selling yourself short. Start looking again. You can add or delete from this resume as you progress. For example, someone who does data entry may have to attain a speed requisite. Once you reach a certain level, that’s not only unnecessary, it’s demeaning. Remove typing or entry speed from your resume. Add new skills. Decide how high in salary you want Resume Y to reflect your services for sale. (Contract or not, that’s what they are.) To that end, let’s progress to Resume X.
Resume X – $52,000. / yr minimum
Here is where every individual’s experience will differ. The pay is at the $1,000.00 per week rate. You’ll be expected to pitch in, to put in some extra time as needed – but not hours and hours. Also – Beware the “exempt” employee. Exemption means you do not get paid for your extra time by hour, it is all included in your salary. There are new rules governing this at the Federal level, but know them well.
If you are working 40 hours you’re making $25.00 an hour. If you are working 50 hours, just an hour more a work day – you’re back to the $20.00 hour wage, and burning up your own time to do it. Keep in the overtime zone unless wages and compensation are improved. For instance, if you must put in 50 hour weeks regularly – say month’s end – request that you get PTO for those extra hours. Paid time off pays you AND you get the hours to yourself. Make sure you find a way to TAKE those PTO hours. Know the company rules about when you might LOSE them. If you are worth your $1,000 week wage, then your manager should be able to carry on this conversation with you and put it through to HR. If they refuse because it has to be directly through HR, don’t expect it. Management makes recommendations to HR. HR is just one level of separation when they will not get involved. If “go through HR” is what you get back from your boss – start looking – and use Resume A
If you have come this far, you should have acquired a complimentary suite of skills. To the software and abilities area, you should have a good command of team work, team building through to personnel management. You may have your own assistant or secondary personnel.
List everything from Resumes Z and Y, and incorporate acquired and mastered skills. It is vital that if you have stepped into management that you specify that you manage not only processes and work flow, but personnel.
Have references from others you have worked with, including those you have worked with outside the company. Keep your dates and figures straight, contact your references and make sure you have current information for them. Ask their permission to use them as references. Be ABSOLUTELY SURE that they will give you proper and pertinent references. If checked, you don’t want it to sound like you were lunch hour buddies. Rather, you want it clear that your work, and who you are at work, made a positive difference in THEIR work. It’s their opinion, but it’s nice if they can put your impact upon the company as a positive, as well as their personal approval.
You have been selected to interview – by the recruitment representative – to interview for a management position which starts at over $52,000.00 per year. First, make sure the interview is not with the recruiter – that there is an actual date, time person and company for which the interview is set. If not set, make sure it is set for a time convenient to you, and ascertain that recruiter has sent the proper resume.
In Resume A – List your work, bullet all relevant and important skills. Leave off typing speeds, and the mundane – like answering phones. It still amazes me that there are so many ads out there for bookkeepers who are also expected to “answer phones and do office filing as needed”. Smart employers don’t want the bookkeepers distracted from their work; at the very least it’s not efficient, and not cost effective, either.
Show month and year dates for each relevant position, and include your education if it is above High School or GED level. If it’s not above HS level, your experience must compensate for that. Flesh out your skills and detail some of your more notable accomplishments.
When the interview is in progress, make sure there was no bait-and-switch. If the job suddenly becomes less than what you came in to interview for – in both placement level and salary, decide immediately if it is worth your time to take the position if offered, as offered. If it’s not worth it, and you are reasonably sure you can be placed at the salary level you anticipate, then make sure the interviewer for the company understands that despite what they are offering, your personal worth for the position is what you feel is your market value for the skills. This puts them in the position of either moving immediately to the next level, or saying goodbye. A wise HR interviewer will take it all in, and relay the information to the hiring manager, allowing them to decide if there is play in the budget for your skills. There usually is – accomplished skills save companies money. Though it may remove you from the contenders, someone who knows what they are looking for and sees it in your resume above the 90% “hit” vs. requirements level, will want to see you. If you get the second interview, make sure you are ready.
As you progress from here, the job search takes on new and very different aspects. Don’t pay for executive recruitment. The good ones will find you. The others are just using a list to make money from your skills. You go to them, they look to place you from a list of participating employers – their list, and they take a cut of the overall fee from you, many times while being paid by the employer, as well. These recruiters will place you temp to perm, or contract, so they can get their ‘cut’.
When posting resumes to job boards, leave off your phone number and use a “least used” email for them. Set up a new one just for job searches if you have to. Everyone selling anything from Education to insurance will inundate your inbox – and your phone. You’ll get a few x-rated emails as well.
Four resume’s. Confirm that with the recruiter. If they want the A-list, they pay A-List salary. One thing better job boards can tell you is what salaries are out there for what you can do. Make sure your personal opinion is backed up by actual salaries. You can always negotiate – compensation has many forms. Just avoid selling yourself short.
*Footnote – I’m aware that there are some extremely professional recruiters. Most of us cannot await looking for our next position until one finds us.
Mention of “Pepper Potts” attributed to Marvel Comics