Have Your Best Opportunities Evaporated?

During initial consultations, very high level and competent executives come to me wondering why their job search has stalled or why a particular opportunity evaporated. Upon examination, I find that during important networking meetings or with hiring executives, they have failed. They don’t fail due to skills, competency, experience or fit-they fail by making a wrong and lasting impression. Don’t be marginalized by doing one or more of the following:

Don’t demonstrate that you know better.

  • Many high level executives feel compelled to demonstrate their superior intelligence, know-how, etc. Rather than be positive and supportive of a new connection or an opportunity, they become competitive and analytical. Some offenders go as far as debating job responsibilities, reporting relationships, or company strategies while networking within their target companies or interviewing within a company.

Don”t  “turn off” the connection or opportunity either mentally or literally.

  • Some executives focus on elements that don’t work for them rather than elements that do. Their lack of enthusiasm or pessimism seeps into discussions with  networking connections and hiring entities. No one asks a business acquaintance to come work with them (or even to lunch) unless they believe there is a very high likelihood that they will  1) say “yes” to the invitation and 2) not be put on the defensive.

Don’t attempt to apply leverage in the wrong venue.

  • Senior level executives are used to the ” yes sir” or “yes ma’am” response. They falsely assume that their network will react with the same desire to please them. They are at a time of their life when they will ask for more than they will give back and their leverage outside their company just isn’t the same as inside.  They need to be gracious, complimentary and thankful.

Don’t attempt to negotiate too early.

  • Even though it is frustrating not to be in control of the hiring process, never start negotiations with a potential investor/employer/partner until you have an offer. Most executives know that compensation negotiations are appropriate at the final stages, but many falter by trying to negotiate  strategy, title, responsibilities, location, and reporting relationships too early in the process. Your best bet is to foster potential employment relationships without the potential for conflict.

Does this sound like you?

A senior executive, whose job search had stalled, was refered to me by a friend. During the initial consultation, the senior executive told me he interviewed for a Chief Technology Officer position with a highly respected global software and services company. He explained to me that during the interview, he presented his view of the appropriate responsibilities of a CTO, which were different from the CEO’s view. By the time he left, the CEO and the senior executive  had decided that he was not a fit. The interview had digressed into a debate on the role of a CTO. I asked the senior executive, ‘Did you have a copy of the job specification and did the executive recruiter brief you on the position? ” His answer was, “Yes.”  He decided to use his first interview to push his own agenda. He seemed proud that he had “rejected” such a well-respected company.

The unsatisfactory end of the story

When the senior executive left my office, and with his permission, I called the retained executive recruiter responsible for the search. After the senior executive interviewed with his client company, the CEO came back to him and asked: “Did the candidate have a job specification? Why did he waste my time if he didn’t want the job?”

During his entire search, the senior executive never saw an opportunity of that caliber come his way again.

How do you predict which relationships/opportunities will ultimately bear fruit?

It is impossible to tell. Connections that you think will help you-often don’t. Offers that you think you have in the bag-don’t transpire. Relationships that seem distant and perhaps less relevant, introduce you to your dream job. Be gracious, complimentary and thankful, even if things don’t go your way.

Who wins?

Candidates who have the best communication acumen win. They build trust and credibility-and understand that a job search relationship is just like any other relationship-it needs time to develop. Being positive and supportive is always the best course of action. If you don’t share the CEO or Board’s point of view, remain silent until the balance of power tilts in your direction.

Elements of a senior executive role often change during the company’s search process and are highly dependant upon the skills and views of the most desirable candidate.



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