7 Job Search Mistakes

7 Common Executive Job Search Mistakes – And How to Fix Them

Savvy executives approach tasks with a focused plan. A job search is no different. If you haven’t conducted a job search for some time –  or you are not generating the desired results – your plan may need some corrections.

Take note of the following common job search mistakes and adjust your strategy accordingly:

1. Failing to Nail Down a Target

You’d be surprised how often I speak to executive job seekers that have launched a blind search. No specific role, industry, or goal in mind.  These same professionals are regularly confused and frustrated because their efforts are proving to be futile. No surprise.  A goal without a plan is just a wish – right?

Before kicking off any kind of job search, identify a clear job target. What kinds of jobs are you interested in? What kind of company do you want to work for? If your answer is, “I don’t care, I just need a job,” your job search is less likely to be successful than if you spend some time thinking about where you want to work, and what you want to do (and how to get there!). Pinpoint a target before you execute.


2. Forgetting to Demonstrate Value

People hire other people to fill a need, resolve a problem, or eliminate a pain point. To be selected as the candidate of choice you have to demonstrate specific skills and attributes. Just because you say you are a savvy business leader doesn’t mean people will automatically buy into it. Take your resume. If you’ve written it for a blanket audience, expect to hear crickets in response. The reason? It likely doesn’t speak to the specific needs of that unique employer. Generic resumes simply don’t attract attention.

Instead, show employers how you can add value to their company. You wouldn’t use a hammer to tighten a screw, would you? You can’t use the same resume to apply for different jobs, regardless of how similar they seem. Customize every application by clearly and succinctly demonstrating value in alignment with position requirements.

For example, if a role requires the direction of mergers and acquisitions, then detail the M&A deals you’ve personally identified, led, and/or closed. Mention the values of your biggest deals and specify if transactions were national or international.  Finally, highlight the results of your work. How did your efforts, and these deals, positively impact business?


3. Confusing Activity With Action

Are you confusing “busy work” with progress? Are you spending a lot of time on your computer researching jobs online …scouring job board after job board for advertised positions?  This is likely eating up valuable time. While it’s recommended that you spend at least an hour a day on your job search if you are currently employed (and two to three times that if you are currently unemployed), make sure you are tracking how much time you are spending, and what you are spending it on.

Spend your time on high-value tasks — like identifying and researching companies you’d like to work for, and trying to connect directly with hiring managers and recruiters, and having coffee with someone who works for the company you’re applying at — and not just simply spending time in front of your computer. Engage more with people; less with machines.


4. Getting Sidetracked by Misinformed Opinions

Ask 10 people for their opinion on your job search strategy and you are likely to receive 20 different responses.“You have to do this,” “Never do that,” “My husband’s best friend got a job using social media”, “Executives never use social media to find work”. Everyone’s got an opinion about how to conduct a job search. Some of it is confusing; some of it is just plain wrong.

Your friends and family can be misinformed about how the job search works, and it might hurt your chances of securing a dream job. Trust a qualified professional (someone experienced, credentialed, and well-practiced in this field) and trust your instincts. Don’t believe everything you read online, and remember that one person’s opinion is just that — one person’s opinion.


5. Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

I applied for seven jobs and haven’t heard anything back.” Well, then something’s not working. Either stop applying for advertised positions, start following up on the applications you’ve already put in, or figure out a different way to connect with your dream job. It’s been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If what you’re doing isn’t working = it’s time to make a change. Your outdated resume may need a refresh, your job search plan might need a refocus, your value proposition may need punch, or your online profiles may need an overhaul. You may be an expert in your industry, but it is unlikely you are an expert at a job search.


6. Overlooking Opportunities

It’s easy to think that a modern job search can be done entirely online. However, it’s estimated that 75 percent of jobs are never advertised — so it’s likely that the job you want can’t be found while you’re sitting at your computer. Get out and talk to people you know! Meet new people! Engage and connect!

A large portion of jobs, especially at the executive level, are filled through referrals and word of mouth. And sometimes, you can apply to a company for a job that doesn’t even exist yet. Yes, companies do create jobs for people that are the right fit. If you demonstrate a solid understanding of the organization and you present a clear action plan for addressing major pain points – that company could generate a position just for you.

Before you spend hours scouring the internet for leads or opportunities, get a well-rounded job search strategy in place. Nail down your target.  Get all communications and tools perfectly polished. Analyze your network and start engaging contacts. Build your reputation as the solution the company needs. Generate your own opportunities.


7. Not Engaging Assistance

Most executives have access to experts which they call upon when business challenges arise (teammates, executive leaders, professional specialists, board of directors). Your job search requires similar resources. Employ the assistance of professionals to help increase job search success.  There is no need to tackle this task alone. If you wanted to explore the jungle, you’d hire a guide. When you’re out searching for a job, engage a “career navigator” to help you along the way!

A job search can be difficult. It can be stressful. It can be exhausting. You need a support network to help you through it. That can include not only friends and family, but also paid professionals who are there to guide, motivate, and encourage you. A certified resume writer, career coach, or even a mental health therapist can be a valuable part of your support network.

Finally, remember that people like to help other people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your network, but ensure your questions focus on information, leads, opportunities, or introductions. For example: “Do you know anyone who works for Company A?” “How did you get your job at Organization B?”. “Can you connect me with Joe at Company C?” “Can you notify me of {specific focus} opportunities at Organization D?” “If you are not the right person, can you recommend someone more suitable that I speak with?”.


Adrienne Tom

Looking to get noticed for top jobs? I can help. Visit me online at CareerImpressions.ca to learn more about my award-winning resume and LinkedIn writing services that helped C-suite executives, VPs, and directors land top jobs at billion-dollar companies, start-ups, and everything in between. ⚜ 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗿𝘆 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗲𝗿𝘃𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝘁𝗼𝗹𝗱. Everyone has value to offer employers. But conveying this story in a modern, succinct executive resume isn’t easy. I can do this for you. ⚜ 𝗜 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁 ‘𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲’. I'm often told that my process is as valuable as the final documents. People feel more empowered and confident after our work together. ⚜ 𝗠𝘆 𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘂𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸. I hear amazing success stories from my clients. For 15+ years, I have written hundreds of executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles that generated increased recognition and escalated earning power for my clients.


  1. Adrienne Tom on May 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you for your comment! So pleased to hear that the tips provided are beneficial to your job search.

  2. Lisa R Anthony on December 23, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Thank you very much for your informative advice, especially the tip that most positions are not advertised

  3. kiran sahu on September 6, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Hey..Great article..You have included all the important points which are helpful for all to avoid there job search mistakes..Thanks for posting..!!

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