Executive Resumes, Personal Branding & Executive Job Search

How to Get an Employee Referral

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

May 6, 2015 9:13:37 AM




OK, in my previous blog post I noted that employee referrals are the #1 source of hire in corporate America. This statistic comes out of CareerXroads Source of Hire Study for 2014. That means leveraging employee referrals is better than depending on recruiters to find your a job, applying to jobs on big job boards, or using specialty services like Execunet or Netshare.

Everyone knows that “networking” has always been the best way to get hired. “Employee referrals” is just a subcategory of “networking.” The BEST subcategory. It involves very deliberately networking with select employees who work for the company posting the job you are targeting.

If you know the contact, you can naturally get in touch with them and open up a conversation. But what if you don’t know them? Does that mean you have to give up on getting an employee referral? Not necessarily. If they are a connection on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter you may well be able to tap into them as a resource.

Why would a networking contact on LinkedIn (LI) or social media be interested in referring you if they don't know you? Many companies offer monetary rewards to employees who refer a candidate who ultimately gets hired. The reason employers are willing to pay for referrals is that hiring this way results in high-quality hires who are more likely to do well in the company culture. Using company employees as sources also is more cost-effective.

So how exactly do you go about introducing yourself to someone who is unknown to you or who is a relative stranger on one of your social media sites? You probably don’t want to just email them with a request like, “Hi! I’m a VP of Sales for the Americas at one of your competitors, can you refer me for the job of Global VP of Sales your company just posted?” It’s a little too abrupt and doesn’t give the employee much information to help build her confidence in you as a candidate.

Try an engaging, respectful approach like this: “Hi, I see that we are third-degree connections on LinkedIn. In fact we both know [Bill Jones]. He’s a great guy – we worked together back at [Raytheon]. I wanted to introduce myself to you because I’m interested in applying for the open job [Lockheed Martin] just posted. And I wonder if you could take a look at my resume and tell me if you think my background looks interesting for the job. I’d welcome any advice you may have, either by email or in a brief 5-minute phone call.”

If you get a positive response from this employee, thank them. If you feel the general reaction was positive, you might then ask, “ Do you feel that you have a good enough sense of my background to refer me to the CEO (or whoever would be the hiring manager for the job)? If the answer is in the affirmative, then express your appreciation and email your resume, having incorporated any valuable suggestions. Remember, as always, to tailor the resume to the job and industry, including keywords.

Once the resume hand-off is achieved, make sure to write a thank-you email and extend an offer to help the employee in any future situation where they might want a referral. These last steps are very important! They align with the basic rule of all good networking: Givers Gain.

Why use this time-intensive, relationship-building route when just firing off a resume to a posted job ad is so quick and easy?

Because candidates who come in via employee referrals have a one in 10 chance of ultimately getting hired. With job boards it can be more like one in 100 or one in 1000. Which odds do you prefer?

If, when you approach a new contact with this method you don’t get a response, try again with another employee. Be persistent and take advantage of the #1 Source of HIre in corporate America. Get a touchdown! 🏈

Jean Cummings



Topics: job search, executive search, branded executive resume, career marketing, job interview, employment trends

Interview Attire Tips for Male and Female Executives

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Dec 22, 2011 11:06:00 AM

Images businesssuit

This article was written, in part, by my Gen Y lifestyle resource, Matt. 

Fashion trends change, but the essence of style remains same: look your best, look current but not trendy, and wear what looks good on you. Interviewing has its own etiquette. If you are applying for an executive job, you need to be aware of the impact on the interviewer of what you wear.

The stats show that over 80% of a hiring authority's decision is based on you "look and sound!" So, make sure your clothes help you. You definitely don't want your clothes to become the reason you were not selected for further consideration.

Your Clothes Send a Message that the Employer Reads Closely

For Men:

1. Try to look sophisticated and sharp while also dressing conservatively. If you need help, try a personal shopper at one of the higher-end mall stores such as Nordstrom. Avoid anything too flashy or that attracts the wrong kind of attention, such as an attention-grabbing tie. 

2. Don’t worry too much about accessories or the newest suit trends, but make sure what you wear flatters you.

3. If you already have a good quality, conservative suit, consider buying a few shirts and some ties from a place like Armani or Brooks Brothers to liven up your wardrobe.

4. Avoid bright and flashy colors and stick to darks and solids.

5. Focus on fabric. Nice materials speak to your financial wellbeing as well as to your taste.

6. Wear clothes that have just come back from the cleaners. Alternatively, press and iron your clothing, making sure to iron a crease in your trousers.

7. Shoes should be clean and conservative. Whether you decide on loafers or dress shoes with pointed or round-toes, you want to keep your shoes polished and looking new. Johnston and Murphy is a resource for high-end men’s shoes. Zappos carries a full range of styles, and their great customer service reps may be able to give you pointers.

For Women:

1. Consider taking advantage of a personal shopper at the higher end mall stores, such as Nordstrom, to help you pick out a suit to wear to your interviews.

2. Some stores with up-to-date clothing that is conservative enough for an interview are: Talbots, Ann Taylor, Pendleton, and J Crew.

3. Avoid attire you might wear out clubbing as well as shirts that are too tight or necklines that are too low.

4. When looking for shoes, avoid high heels. Zappos offers plenty of shoes that will help you stay comfortable and look classy. The customer service is great too, so take advantage of their advice.

5. Wear suits, pantsuits or jacket and skirt, in a darker color, with a light-colored blouse and conservative jewelry. Go for a knee-length skirt.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is to make sure you look well dressed and current in terms of fashion, so that your appearance never becomes an issue and the interviewer can focus on what you say, not on what you wear.

For more detail on what to wear to your interview, click here.


Topics: job search, job interview, interview, interview attire

Job Search Tip: Distracted & Mentally Stressed? Move Over Meditation!

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Dec 15, 2011 8:31:00 AM

Refreshing Your Focus in Your Job Search

Ever had someone tell you to meditate to reduce stress? Ever felt you couldnt? I've heard so many people say, "I just can't meditate." And there are times when I have trouble meditating too. Well, last night I heard a lecture from a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychologist that cited a cool study validated in both US and Europe.

The study was designed to test whether certain activities could actually refresh attention and improve distractibility for students at the University of Michigan before they took on tasks requiring intense focus.

As a job seeker, you know all about stress and the need to be fully attentive! For instance, you need to be all "on" when you are reaching out to others in your networking process, planning out your job search strategy, customizing your resume to a position, and, most challenging of all, having to be highly mentally focused in meeting and interview situations.

The UMichigan test had students accomplish a mentally tiring task. Then the researchers split them into two groups. One half walked around the downtown area. The other half walked in a nearby arboretum.

When re-tested, the arboretum walkers improved 20% (!) on a test of attention and memory given pre- and post-walk. The students who walked through the busy town center didn't improve at all.

The conclusion from this and other studies is that attention can be restored through activities that enable the mind to unfocus for a while. The best places to do this have been natural settings like woods, churches, and monasteries. Looking at paintings at the art museum, even going to your favorite Starbucks or coffee bar have been shown to accomplish the same result.

So, if you are spending a good proportion of your time highly focused on your job search, take some daily restoration time doing one of the activities above. And, before an interview, take a walk in the woods. You will go into the meeting with improved focus and abililty to leverage "directed, selective, and focused" attention. (It may also help you before holiday family dinners as well, particularly if you have siblings who push your buttons!)


Topics: job search, interviewing, IT executive resume, job interview

How to Answer the Age Question in a Job Interview

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Dec 13, 2011 3:39:00 PM

Counter the Age Question in a Job Interview

It's the elephant in the room. Employers aren't allowed to ask how old you are, but some interviewers try to get at your age indirectly by asking in what year you graduated or how old your children are. If you are sensing that your age is subtly or not so subtly being raised, try to deflect it by taking Scott Berry's approach: answer with another question. Instead of "I'm 54" try "How old is the demographic you are targeting?" If that doesn't work, here's another response that addresses the question directly and head-on (assume this interview is for a technology sales job):

"I'm glad you asked about age. I've given this some thought, and there are 6 distinct advantages I bring to the table directly relating to my having worked more than just a few years:

  1. I would be a low-risk hire. As you can see from my resume, my career has progressed steadily, demonstrating that I have been highly valued by all of my employers and exceeded expectations in every position. That's a good predictor of what you can expect from me.
  2. I can help you meet your numbers. Six months down the road, you can be pretty sure that your top- and bottom-line will be improving. (Show resume, spreadsheet, portfolio, graphs etc. demonstrating sales productivity.)
  3. Hiring me rather than a relatively untested candidate will save you the possible costs, delays, and hassle of another recruiting effort. 
  4. I've got street cred - I know what I'm talking about. I've been a player in the industry and know your target market's current technology solutions and their drawbacks. My ability to be agile and quick to grasp new technology solutions and where the market is trending gives me an advantage over less experienced sales reps.
  5. I know my way around all kinds of people. This can come only from experience in the trenches. I've got the kind of good instincts that it takes to build relationships and adjust my approach to people in different roles and levels in the company. 
  6. I'm a sales pro. I know what works in sales. I know how to get to the close and then deliver the sale.

In short, my ROI is a sure thing you can take to the bank. Are there any other concerns you might have?"

If you list these six points  in a confident, upbeat way, you can avoid sounding defensive. And listing them will at the very least flush out hidden age biases the interviewer may not even be aware s/he has and counter them.

We are a youth culture, and tech especially is seen as a young person's game. But, like other not-so-wise common wisdom, this bias can be overcome by your confidence and a demonstrated ability to help the company reach its strategic objectives and/or solve its pain.


Topics: job search, executive resume, IT executive resume, job interview, age discrimination

Acing the Skype Interview

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Dec 7, 2011 3:23:00 PM

Skype interview

Innovations in video conference technology are changing the job interview. Skype interviews are becoming more common. While you may not have to worry about traffic, parking, and making sure you arrive ten minutes early to the interview, Skype interviewing has its own rules to follow.

Make Sure Skype is Working

Your technology has to be ready for the video interview:

 • Make sure to download and test the Skype software well before the interview. This means configuring the audio and checking the video quality.

 • Use a professional Skype username. Not a good idea to to introduce yourself as “BigJohnnySurfGuy59.”

 Remember: They Can See You

 • Smile. Smile. Smile. By smiling and maintaining eye contact, you can directly engage the interviewer and make a real connection.

 • Dress for the occasion. Wear something that won’t clash with the camera. Dress in solid colors and avoid patterns that might confuse the eye. Also, just because Skype only shows the top part of your body, exchange the pajama bottoms for something that is as formal as your top half. You'll feel more professional!

 • Style your hair and apply make-up. Skype technology can pick up most blemishes and loose strands, so be sure to look like someone who has not just rolled out of bed.

 • Use proper lighting. The interviewer should be able to clearly see you.

 • Clear the background and make sure there are no cult movie posters or distracting paintings hanging in view.

 • Write out notes and prop them up on the keyboard to remind yourself of your career brand, success stories, and the questions you've prepared. 

The Skype interview doesn't have to be scary. For many people, interviewing from their home base helps them feel more comfortable and able to communicate effectively.

For more info, visit Alison Doyle's post on about.com. 


Topics: job search, interviewing, job interview, Skype interview

Interview Follow-up: 10 Things to Do Right

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Nov 28, 2011 12:46:00 PM


A good first impression can be squandered without an equally good follow-up. It's important to follow up with the employer in a way that shows your continued interest and helps your candidacy. Here are 10 tips:

  1. Send a thank-you note on the same day as the interview. Make it handwritten, sincere, and appreciative of the interviewer's time. This gesture alone differentiates you from the competition who often don't send thank-you notes.
  2. Don't just thank them for their time. Clarify any points that you failed to communicate well in the interview. Expand on some of your answers to more clearly demonstrate how you can add value. 
  3. Write a brief email with key achievements you didn't have time to mention, such as how you increased productivity, cut costs, or expanded the client base at your previous job.
  4. Use a range of different media for follow up: phone, fax, email, snail mail.
  5. If you've got an idea about how to help the company achieve its financial and strategic goals, don't be afraid to mention it along with a brief Challenge-Action-Results verbal snapshot about how you helped your employers in the past.
  6. Show the employer that you made their company a priority by keeping up with their business news. Attach to an email a news article citing the company's entry into a new market, adoption of an emerging technology, upcoming acquisition, etc. Make an intelligent comment about that news.
  7. Have a professional reference call your interviewer to really drive home the point that you are the right person for the job.
  8. Before following up, make it a point to do some research on company culture. Ask an employee what it is like to work there and what it takes to be successful at the company. If you're lucky, your interest may get passed along up the office chain of command.
  9. Be patient. The hiring process can take longer than you might think. Regular follow-up once every two weeks or so makes sense.
  10. Be persistent in terms of getting through to the hiring manager. If you have something of value to convey, make 10 or 11 attempts (an average number required to reach a busy executive!)

An assertive follow-up effort can make you a more attractive candidate. So, put your thank-you card in the mail, pick up the phone, and improve your odds of getting a second interview.




Topics: job search, executive resumes, interviewing, interview style, executive resume, CIO resumes, Get a Job, Job Interviews, job interview

10 Ways NOT to Follow Up after Job Interviews

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Nov 28, 2011 9:12:00 AM

job interviews, interviewing, job search

Job interviews are like first dates. The follow-up can make or break you. Let's say you've clinched the job interview and left the employer with a firm handshake and a good impression. You don't want them to think you weren't that interested in the job, so get ready to plan your next meeting. Your getting hired may well depend on how you choose to follow up with that employer.

When following up after an interview, you don't have to appear to be "the desperate job seeker." In fact, the real truth is that the employer needs YOU. So be prepared to show them some value that you bring to the table. You are the one with the skills, background, and expertise to help that employer solve some pain the company is having or jumpstart growth. But it's easy to make a mistake in the follow up. So, heed these tips:

  1. Don't call just to follow up. After all, how does your following up benefit your potential employer? Call with something meaningful to say. 
  2. Don't send your resume again. They already have it. Doing so will only clutter their inbox.
  3. Don't call back the same day. The interview process takes a while and they are likely to be interviewing other candidates.
  4. Don't leave long-winded voicemails inquiring about the hiring process.
  5. Don't send emails about the voicemails that you left. Overdoing it can be a turnoff to the employer
  6. Don't sound frustrated or annoyed on the phone if they are not responding in the way you would have liked.
  7. Don't go over the head of your interviewer. If your interview is with the senior program manager, don't try to contact the CIO.
  8. Don't skip the follow-up phone call altogether. This makes you appear uninterested.
  9. Don't miss their next phone call. Make time right then to speak with them or set a firm appointment for another time when you are free.
  10. Don't let them forget about you. Send a thank-you note after your interview. Then get in touch with them in some of the ways listed in my next blog post.

So, find a happy medium between stalker and slacker when following up after an interview. The goal is to help the interviewer remember you and want to engage with you further.




Topics: job search, executive resumes, interviewing, executive resume, executive job search, Job Interviews, job interview

Drop The Ladders: There's a Better Way to Job Search!

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Sep 1, 2011 10:20:00 AM

Use LinkedIn to job search

If, like most people in this brave new world of job search, you're pinning your hopes on sites like The Ladders and other job boards, it's time to shift your hopes to social media. Read Nick Corcodilos' take on The Ladders, a resource similar to a job board, in his Ask the Headhunter blog post to find out his take on that service.

Social media? You mean like Facebook?!? It's worth a shot, so is Twitter, but the big bonanza is with LinkedIn. Check out these stats from a survey by jobvite reported in CIO Magazine's blog post by Meredith Levinson:

63% of IT job referrals are shared on LinkedIn

18% are shared on Facebook

17% are shared on Twitter

63% of employers have successfully hired a candidate through social media

95% have hired someone using LinkedIn

With metrics like these, you can't afford to neglect the social media channel as an important component of your job search. Yes, networking (often leveraged by using LI's database and process) is still the boss, but, as an adjunct, do these things:

1. Put a complete profile up on LinkedIn including a professional photo - and make sure it's focused on what you want to do next and that it's on-brand.

2. Pay close attention to the keywords you use: they will determine whether a hiring manager finds your profile in a search.

2. Add some bells and whistles to your LI profile: links to other websites where you can be found online, a PowerPoint Presentation, a list of relevant LI groups you participate in, a video, etc.

3. Take advantage of LinkedIn job search tools and searches.

4. Consider whether you have the time to invest in Twitter and, if you do, follow thought leaders and contribute yourself.

5. Do the same with Facebook - remembering that your identity there has to be 100% clean.

Your online identity - what a hiring manager finds in a search of your name - is becoming increasingly critical, with 45% of employers saying they ALWAYS search someone's online profile before hiring them. Start with setting up or improving your LI profile, and good luck!





Topics: job search, LinkedIn, personal branding, executive resume writing, executive resume, CIO resumes, career management, career planning, career services, LinkedIn Profiles, IT resumes, job interview

Zen and the Art of Job Search

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Jul 20, 2011 7:01:00 AM

 executive job search - poise and power 

As I was driving home Sunday from a weekend away, I tuned into an NPR interview on the radio. He was taking about stress-free productivity. Something job seekers need desperately! Along with everyone else practically! His ideas sounded oddly familiar...

Yes, it was David Allen of Getting Things Done fame. I'd read it years ago - it's a classic in the field of personal organization - and used the system for awhile, then fell away (alas, the end of most good intentions). But his words about having too many different kinds of things to do on our minds causing significant stress resonated big time for me.

So I pulled out my iPad when I got home and did what he said to do: take everything on your mind and write it down in a way that makes sense to you. And then have a system for checking it and also for continuing to enter anything that is a to-do and that preys on your mind. I used Notes but there are lots of apps I will explore. (Put that on my list!)

OK, I did that. The rewards Allen promises are valuable: the ability to be highly productive and react in perfectly appropriate ways to stressors. He describes the "mind like water" that martial arts practitioners use for perfect readiness and power. 

I think daily pauses (mini meditations if you like) for deep breathing and contemplation of a serene image (water receding from the beach, then rolling in again, for instance - my image) help get us into that frame of mind of poised readiness and response.

Looking for your next job involves a myriad of things to do and keep track of: executive resumes sent, personal branding initiatives, targeted cover letters written, networks contacted, appointments planned and kept, research on companies, interviews planned and attended - all with various schedules and levels of importance. What better time to apply Allen's ideas?

The Zen job search would be one conducted with full confidence that you had the bases covered and WRITTEN DOWN according to your system, so that you can act from a place of calm productivity.

The Zen interview is when you can bring a mind open and a readiness to respond to the interviewer with calm interest, quiet confidence, generous openness to the other person, and keen listening (to hear the subtext of questions), and make an appropriate on-brand response that speaks to the employer's needs. A Zen mind is also ready to ask insightful questions and proactively project its personal brand in appropriate ways into the conversation. 

So, "mind like water," T.S. Eliot's "the still point in the turning world," and Yeats' "I hear lake water lapping, with low sounds by the shore." Now we are ready. Bring it on.




Topics: personal branding, executive resumes, technology executive resumes, interviewing, interview style, personal brand, executive resume writing, executive resume, CIO resumes, career management, executive job search, Job Interviews, personal brands, career brand, salary negotiation, salary negotiations, job interview, power of attraction

Are You an Entrepreneur Seeking a Job? Reinvent Your Personal Brand

Posted by Tyrone Norwood

Nov 30, 2010 8:33:00 AM

image entrepreneurism resized 600

LinkedIn is having a great discussion about personal brand reinvention based on an article in the Harvard Business Review. Most comments have to do with someone changing dramatically from a software engineer to an artist, etc. But there's another kind of career reimagining that needs to happen for entrepreneurs who want to transition within their own industry.

Here's the scenario in which a job seeker MUST change their personal brand even if they're not changing their industry or even changing their chief competency: they've been running their own business for a number of years and now want to transition to being an employee of a company. It's doable, though not an easy sell.

Usually they can demonstrate extensive knowledge of the industry and superior capability in one or more functional area (usually more). But the hiring authority has concerns about whether a CEO / entrepreneur would be happy or committed over the long haul to working in a situation in which the org chart has clearly defined boundaries between jobs. Employers may have concerns that the entrepreneur would be reporting to someone else for the first time in a long while.

The imperative for entrepreneurs is to infuse their personal brand with elements that assuage those concerns while conveying an irresistible value proposition and even exalting their entrepreneurial experience as a competitive advantage in certain cases.

1. Brand Reassurance: Some of the elements of the new brand might be extensive experience consulting within companies, working with internal and external teams, reporting to program managers or other managers / executives, interfacing and interacting comfortably up and down the organization etc.

2. Value Proposition: The value proposition would depend on the function and industry. For example, an independent sales rep might be able to report having an extensive database of C-level contacts in Fortune 100 companies and a strong closing ratio. Both would be highly valuable to the right company.

3. Turn Your Liability into an Asset: Entrepreneurs may also find that the very fact that they have a mindset of taking a great idea and commercializing it in the form of a viable long-term business is valuable to the right kind of company - a mid-sized to large company that has institutionalized an intrapreneurial approach in some or all of its groups - or - an early-stage company or startup that is looking for proven entrepreneurial talent.

Because it's a harder sell than making a move as an employee, the entrepreneur must nail these new aspects of their personal brand - both in their networking and in their resumes, cover letters and other marketing materials.


Topics: personal branding, executive resumes, technology executive resumes, interviewing, executive resume writing, executive resume, CIO resumes, career management, career planning, Get a Job, career services, personal brands, reputation management, IT resumes, careers in retirement, job interview

What's new in high tech resumes, executive resumes, cover letters, job search, and personal branding for executives in technology.

Subscribe to Email Updates

New Call-to-Action

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all

About the Author

Tyrone Norwood