Once you have reached the top of the heap, the dynamics of employment search do undergo some changes. While you will still want to circulate your resume among a select group of retained recruiters and monitor online resources for opportunities, the opportunities are fewer and parties on both sides of the table are necessarily more selective than for lower level executives. At this level, “Who You Know” becomes not simply an important factor, but a critical one.
An interesting fact about working with headhunters, especially at this level, is that oftentimes they already have a short list of potential candidates that their client has indicated interest in – they already know about these candidates but want the headhunter to handle the transaction. This makes the strategy outlined below even more important, because it will go a long way to making sure you are on the radar screens of both recruiters and the clients they serve.
You certainly cannot contact the CEO of a company that has captured your interest and inform him that you’d like to take his job away! The people you really want to talk to are the Board, but it can be difficult to get contact information for these individuals, who understandably do not want to be bothered with many inquiries. So what do you do?
Your approach must be made in a roundabout way. You will want to zero in on individuals who have influence with and work with or service that Board. This includes bankers, accounting firms, venture capitalists, attorneys, and others. Developing these insider contacts is critical to your strategy.
The time you invest in developing these contacts is well worth it and may pay dividends in unexpected ways. Both the board members themselves and those who work with and serve them have inside knowledge of and access to a variety of companies. They may very well put you in the running for an opportunity of which you were unaware and with a great company you had not even considered.
As always in networking, leverage the contacts you do have to establish communications, and avoid where at all possible “cold call” contacts. You want to be able to say “so and so suggested that I contact you” when you are writing that letter, sending that e-mail, or making that phone call.
Another good resource are venture capitalists, especially for candidates who thrive in start-up, entrepreneurial, or turnaround environments. You can develop contacts with them through the network you are building. A selective direct mail campaign to this audience can also yield results. You’ll also want to find out where and when events that attract venture capitalists will be held in your area, and be there to meet and greet.