2014 Resume & Job Search Trends for Executives

Executive Job Search TrendsPlanning to launch your executive job search in earnest in 2014? You’ll need to be armed and ready for the new reality in job hunting.

Far from the days where you could send off a quick reply to a job ad, today’s job search requires you to map out a strategic plan, with a personal brand message woven through your executive resume, LinkedIn Profile, cover letter, and social media activities.

By adopting new trends in your executive job search, you’ll also demonstrate a progressive, forward-facing leadership style attractive to employers.

Here are the top 7 executive resume and job search trends for a successful 2014 campaign:

1 – A Branded, Compelling Executive Resume.

The executive resume of 2014 is clearly a marketing document, with attractive design elements, testimonials, project examples, graphics, and a strategically told story of leadership effectiveness.

If this trend catches you by surprise, spend some time perusing the type of executive resumes you’ll compete against in the 2014 job market, such as this resume for a division COO.

You’ll see a clear evolution from the boring, single-page career history into a vibrant, engaging resume presentation that fully utilizes the first few lines to grab attention.

By infusing your resume with your personal brand message, your value proposition can be encapsulated into the top half of the first page—allowing employers to quickly see what you offer.

2 – A Social Media Strategy.

Have you thought about leveraging social media to give your 2014 job search a boost? There’s no faster way to establish yourself as a thought leader or sought-after source on industry topics.

Many executives launch a blog that represents their standing as an advocate of a specific industry tool, approach, or methodology. Others curate content that represents their thinking as corporate leaders.

Consider taking a new look at Twitter to promote your thoughts, blog, or presence in your industry. If you’re in a confidential search, be sure your current employer knows of your desire to promote industry topics (or the company itself), as your online activities will be easily discovered.

You can also use LinkedIn to post links to articles or comment on other status updates. Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and other social media tools will help spread the word of your industry expertise—showing that you’re an expert in leveraging current communications and marketing trends.

3 – An ATS-Ready Resume File.

In 2014, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) will continue to loom large in the job market, with rules and requirements foreign to many executives—and yet critical in your search.

Here’s why: most ATS software packages make assumptions about the content of a resume, including the format, content placement, and type of data included. Therefore, you’ll need to meet these assumptions head-on.

First, convert your executive resume to a text format (Save As a .txt file, which will strip out formatting and graphics), then open it in Notepad for easy editing. Create basic sections, such as Qualifications Profile, Core Competencies, Professional History, Education, and Activities (even if you used other headings for these sections in your nicely formatted resume).

Move achievements under each job if they were listed in a highlights section, and put any lists of keywords under Core Competencies. Add employer names and job titles on separate lines, with clear From and To dates for your employment history. Now, save this file and use it when applying to jobs that require a resume attachment or document pasted into a text box.

These changes will help your resume make it past automated employer systems and into the hands of hiring managers.

4 – A Keyword-Optimized, Branded LinkedIn Profile.

It’s no longer enough to have a presence on LinkedIn in 2014; instead, your Profile must now be polished and presentable to employers, with a keyword-specific search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to draw traffic from recruiters.

Don’t make the mistake of lifting whole sections from your resume for use in your Profile! Your Headline and Summary, in particular, must be written in an engaging, keyword-rich style that shows you understand the power of social media. You’ll need to spend time gleaning keyword content from job descriptions to do justice to your Profile.

A professional headshot is also highly recommended for your LinkedIn photo, particularly in cases where your industry and executive stature require a conservative leadership presence.

If you’re unsure how your Profile rates on LinkedIn against your competition, spend some time visiting their Profiles to assess the tone, content, and keyword strategy used in your industry. You’ll gain insight into current LinkedIn trends and competitive intelligence on what you offer vs. others in line for the same job!

In addition, read Writing Your LinkedIn Headline for Searchability & Branding, and 5 Best-Practice LinkedIn Strategies for Executives to ensure your Profile is attention-worthy.

5 – A Thoughtfully Written Cover Letter.

Even though your executive resume and LinkedIn Profile will take center stage in 2014, don’t discount the need for a cover letter that conveys your stature and ROI.

Year after year, we read about trends that show cover letters are not used in job search—yet many recruiters and employers will tell you the opposite story!

Some hiring authorities, such as a Board or CEO, will take the time to read your executive cover letter in its entirety, and may even base their interviewing decision on this document alone. Depending on the rank, age, and approach of senior executives involved in the hiring process, your leadership cover letter can be a critical tool in your job search strategy.

Your best bet in crafting the letter will be to address the company’s needs, speak to your relevant experience, and point out your flexibility (such as your ability to relocate or take on the challenge of learning a new industry).

6 – A Splash of Color for Your Resume.

Still relying on a black-and-white document to convey your qualifications? You might want to employ color to hammer home your message of brand value—which is a resume trend that has gained popularity in recent years.

If you decide to add color to your leadership resume, choose a shade that aligns closely with your industry (toned-down for conservative professions vs. an eye-popping color for more progressive careers.)

As an example, look at the tan and gray tones use in this COO resume—contrasted with the red shown in this sample of a Sales Manager resume, which conveys the candidate’s energy and drive.

7 – Mutually Beneficial Recruiter Relationships.

Executive recruiters are clearly in the midst of the action in 2014. However, if it’s been some time since you spoke with a recruiter, you’ll need to know what to expect.

Recruiters are tasked by client companies to find ideal candidates, who often have a straight-line career path through progressively challenging roles. Deep expertise in a specific target industry is also desirable.

You can, of course, leverage LinkedIn or Twitter to reach out to recruiters, especially if you’re seeking feedback on the market for your skills. Prepare a short, powerful script (similar to a cover letter, but more concise) for contacting recruiters via social media.

However, if your career history is unique or shows gaps, you may fare better by reaching out to companies directly in 2014, building a “bucket list” of corporations where you’d like to work (and why not? Sites like LinkedIn offer the perfect opportunity to research ideal employers and gain an insider’s view of your fit as a prospective employee).

After identifying target companies, you’ll need to send them a compelling pitch (that resonates through your executive resume, LinkedIn Profile, social media scripts, and cover letter, of course).

The bottom line? You can’t afford to ignore the coming trends in executive resumes, social media, Applicant Tracking Systems, or executive job search.

Preparing yourself (and your materials) for the 2014 job market will provide you with additional, viable job opportunities—and expedite your success in landing the perfect executive position.

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