If you're at the executive level at your company and looking for a new opportunity, searching job boards may not be your best bet. You have a very specific skill set and are at a higher pay grade, so the jobs you're best suited for might not be advertised publicly.
1. Should you work with a recruiter?
It's not necessary to work with a recruiter in your executive job search, but it may open the door to new opportunities. Many companies hand executive-level candidate searches over to an executive recruiting firm. Those suited for the job wouldn't hear about such opportunities when looking elsewhere.
2. Why are companies so secretive about hiring execs?
Opening the floodgates to applicants through job boards is tedious, especially since executive positions are hard to fill, given the very specific background that is required. That is why companies tend to work with one recruiting firm to handle finding the ideal candidate.
Other times, they are searching for a confidential replacement for a high-level position, so keeping it tight-lipped and managed by one search firm reduces the risk of others finding out until they have chosen the right candidate.
3. How can recruiters find me?
The easiest way to be found if you're seeking a new role is to update your LinkedIn profile concerning your current role. Even if you're not comfortable announcing publicly that you're looking for a new opportunity, recruiters constantly scour LinkedIn and other online channels to find potential candidates and referrals. Even if a recruiter contacts you about a position you're not interested in, you can let her know what you are looking for. When something does arise she can contact you with the appropriate opportunities.
4. How do I become more visible?
In addition to updating your profile online, make sure you're heard in your industry. Speak at conferences. Write books. Write a blog. Contribute answers on sites like Quora.com and Focus.com. Recruiters do their homework, and they will find you if you're properly branding yourself online and off.
5. Who do I need to know?
The higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the more important relationships become in helping you find your next role. Attend industry events, networking meetings, and mixers to meet other players in your industry. Then if you decide to job-search actively, you can reach out to others you've met at your target companies.
6. How do I keep my job search confidential?
Executives walk a tightrope when it comes to looking for a new job. On the one hand, you're extremely qualified, and you want to find a challenging and rewarding role. On the other, you don't want to send your current company into a panic before you're ready to make the transition. Working with recruiters affords a bit more confidentiality, as they are familiar with an executive's need for privacy during the job hunt, and can manage the process between you and their client.
7. How do I find hidden jobs?
Because the majority of executive positions aren't advertised publicly, they can be hard to find. This is where your network comes into play. Make a list of the top companies you'd like to work for, and make efforts to meet key people at each company. Talk to people in your network about your interests and target list. Usually an introduction is only a person or two away from someone you know. Follow the companies on LinkedIn, keeping an eye on the new hires and departures to give you an idea of where they might expand.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.