By Karyl Innis
Step One: Find an Appropriate Opening
Define "appropriate" by taking a hard look at what you have to offer. Get out of your comfort zone, if necessary, in terms of industry, company size and nature, title and location.
Spend the bulk of your time networking, uncomfortable as it may be. That's how most executives find the next opportunity. Make a list of everyone you know; all of them should know that you are on the market. Don't prejudge who will, and won't, be helpful. Don't be bashful about this. Re-invigorate your activities in any organizations to which you belong – professional, industrial, social, recreational, educational, religious, civic – and include the search community. Practice how you will tell contacts what you have to offer and what is your target. Ask them how you can help since networking is a two-way street, not a “gimmie!”
Do the routine stuff, but don't spend much time in answering ads, checking job boards, sending unsolicited resumes, and so on. Statistically, your payoff will be in networking even if it isn't a well-defined, linear activity. It just works.
Step Two: Prepare
You need crisp, concise, focused, written materials starting with your resume(s), cover letters, and perhaps a biography. No one wants to read a list of your job descriptions, but most would be interested in your accomplishments, particularly if they are measurable in terms of dollars or percentages. This is not an ego trip, and the focus should be on what you have to offer a potential employer, not how great you are and what you want out of the employment relationship.
When you have located an appropriate opening, do your homework. Go online and find out all you can about the company, its executives, where it stands in its industry, its trends, and anything else that will make you a well-informed candidate. Try to find someone you know in the organization so you can verify what you have learned about it and get a feel for its culture, your potential peers, and generally how it does business.
Before you actually have that all-important, formal interview, you need to be prepared for a telephone screening interview. Check to be sure your voicemail message doesn't start out with something like "Hey dude!" accompanied by blasting music. You can easily be eliminated at this stage if your voicemail message or speaking style comes across as unprofessional. It’s critical that you are prepared to answer all questions designed to determine if you are worthy of further consideration. The person calling may ask you clarifying questions about your resume. Often the focus is on your compensation expectations. A premature, uninformed response will take you out of the running. Show flexibility and first try to find out what the employer is willing to pay.
Step Three: Ace the Interview
Okay, you are up to bat. You have a formal interview with the potential employer. You have done your homework about the company and you need to demonstrate this knowledge, once again, as appropriate. But first, with whom are you interviewing? Most likely it will be the recruiter or someone from Human Resources. This first interview can be a combination of a knockout (elimination) or a sales (selling you on the job) interview, depending on how you present yourself as a candidate. You will be eliminated and not passed along to the hiring manager if the interviewer believes you do not have the necessary qualifications for the position. On the other hand, if what you bring to the table is just what the company is looking for, the interview may switch to selling you on the company with all that it has to offer.
The most important interview will be with the hiring manager and perhaps with your potential peers. The object of this interview is to determine if you actually possess the skills and abilities to perform the position in question. Your resume will be examined in greater depth, and you may be asked to spell out how you actually accomplished what you state. You need to demonstrate not only your competency, but also your integrity by providing objective confirmation that your resume statements are accurate, factual, and devoid of fluff. Your approach should be to determine what challenges face the successful candidate, and then to demonstrate how you can meet them. Your focus is on how you can contribute to the success of the company and not on "this is what I want and this is how you can help me."
Step Four: Negotiate the Package
Congratulations! The interview went well, and you now have an offer of employment in writing. All you have to do is sign your name, right? Not so fast! The formal offer may not address many of your requests and concerns. While the actual offer may reflect exactly what you had indicated about money, it could be a low-ball attempt to get you on board, often accompanied by some vague promises. What you need are specifics. What is the base pay? The bonus arrangement? The eligibility for stock options - how many and when? How and when will your performance be evaluated, and when will you be eligible for salary review? Most important, in my opinion, is a termination agreement. In the event the position doesn't work out, is eliminated, or for some other reason your employment is terminated, you need to have in writing how many of months of severance pay and outplacement services you will receive. A new management position with a new company can be a chancy situation, so you need to be covered for all eventualities.
So there you have it. Four steps to a new position. None of them easy, but all essential to bring your re-employment campaign to a successful conclusion. As we used to say in my small Illinois hometown: "You done good."