3 Things a Career Consultant Wants You to Know About Successful Job Searches

Never has there been so much opportunity to search for a job with laser-sharp focus or efficiency. The tools and technologies available to today’s professionals make old-school approaches seem as outdated as printed phone books.

When I graduated from Kellogg, MBA students would blast resumes to corporate recruiters and hope for the best. Take that approach today and the only thing you’ll succeed in doing is getting your resume lost in an organization’s applicant tracking system, without visibility to even a junior HR coordinator.

After working for two industry-leading executive search firms for nearly two decades where I partnered closely with top-tier global organization’s hiring managers, I’ve seen the transformative change of an increasingly targeted recruitment process from both sides.

The organizations you want to work for today no longer execute a post-and-pray recruitment strategy; progressive hiring organizations are determined to identify and secure the cream of the crop in a war for talent – and job seekers need to know how corporate recruiters do that to increase their higher chance of success.

It’s going to take much more than a polished resume or refined elevator pitch. You’ll likely meet them one-on-one, usually multiple times, so they can clearly understand your goals and you can better understand their objectives. This mutual understanding enables both parties to “perfect the process” and be extremely prepared, which ultimately facilitates a better job match.

What I’ve Learned About the Executive Search Experience

Whether you’re seeking work in investment banking and management consulting or wanting to work with a companies like Microsoft, PepsiCo or Accenture, top-tier hiring organizations are searching for key traits in candidates irrespective of functional capacity or pay grade.

Three critical steps that often lead to more successful job searches include:

1. Start early.
Certain companies and industries start their recruiting process very early in a given hiring life-cycle or calendar year, so candidates need to begin their focal research and networking efforts into these targeted industries/companies early too. Financial services firms, for example, which are popular career path outlets for many MBA students, begin their recruiting process in the spring for the next (not following) summer. In other words, firms will be looking for summer 2020 placements in spring 2019.

Consequently, candidates should begin thinking about career opportunities and firms they wish to work for as early in the admissions process as they can. When possibly speaking with alumni to learn more about a company or program, ask about their own career trajectory. Find out how they narrowed down their employment choices. Go beyond the usual metrics such as a promotion track or compensation packages to work-life balance influencers like happiness, fulfillment and purpose. You may not have a road map of your exact destination, but you’ll begin the program with a better idea of the routes you’d like to or can take.

2. Do your research.
Who would you choose to hire — someone who knows little about your company or someone who knows a great amount about your company and your competitors? Candidates who are especially conversant have a competitive edge. Show the value proposition that you bring to the position through knowledge that extends beyond the minimal requirements of the job description.

Apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to your career search. Study a firm’s financial statements using the financial concepts and techniques you learn in Global Finance. Learn about the leadership style based on lessons from Leading Teams. Apply decision-analysis techniques from Quantitative Methods to articulate your thoughts on a recent business decision. Leverage the skills you’ve gained from your MBA program to fuel more sophisticated conversations with employers.

3. Dream beyond the darlings.
Facebook. Apple. Microsoft. Google. Amazon. While “FAMGA” companies dominate the tech sector and the attention of MBA students and graduates, they don’t own the market for challenging and interesting careers. There are countless companies that offer exceptional career progression, bountiful compensation and rewarding careers even though they don’t appear on the home page of TechCrunch.

Dig deep to ask yourself what it is about certain companies and industries that attracts you. Think about those qualities and expand your short list to give yourself more options. And don’t forget that established doesn’t equal staid. If you want to be on the cutting-edge of automotive technology, there’s more than Tesla. Jennifer Engel, IMBA ’18, used action-oriented design thinking principles to boost mobile app engagement at Ford Motor Company. An internship project targeting more than one million car owners in China and the United States enabled Jennifer to land a prestigious post-MBA position as a marketing strategist in the company’s marketing leadership program in Dearborn, Michigan. (And if you’re wondering whether Ford is truly on the cusp of technology, the Fortune 100 firm recently announced it will spend $4 billion on autonomous vehicles by 2023.)

Without doubt, an MBA is an invaluable advantage in today’s job market. In fact, many employers now only open specific jobs to MBA candidates.

Whether your next opportunity is on the University of South Carolina campus or in an industry around the globe, these tactics will lend your job search the accuracy today’s business world expects and demands.

Doug Hanslip
Director of Graduate Career Services