Sell Your Ability to Fit In
“Cultural fit” should be familiar to most job seekers, but if your next potential employer devalues experience as Mr. Gray describes, then your ability to “fit in” without making waves becomes even more critical. “It's not that employers don’t want credentials, achievements and experience,” says Gray, but rather, these kinds of firms look for new hires that won’t challenge the new flow or “ask complicated questions.” Emphasize your teamwork and collaboration skills, team wins, and shared successes. Be sure to let your references know to focus on this critical point, as well.
Downplay Titles and Credentials
If your targeted firm appears to be one of the firms Gray is describing, then you may need to make sure you don’t outshine your potential boss. Gray has seen some job seekers “dumbing themselves down” by removing or downplaying senior titles, major achievements, industry seniority, and/or MBA and PhD degrees from their resumes to make themselves more employable. Others are adding hobbies to their resumes that specifically match their potential bosses’ hobbies, as might be found on their FaceBook or MySpace accounts. Be sure to let your references know that you are not trying to come off as too experienced for the position.
Be Their Loyal "Second-In-Command"
One manager emailed me about how he landed a new executive position, albeit under a more junior executive. He acknowledged his success was due to how he strongly emphasized his ability to be his new boss’ loyal second-in-command. He highlighted several examples where he had made his prior bosses look good, helped build support for their vision internally, and had built client approval for their bosses’ proposals. He had also coached his references on this point, as well, so that they were able to support his examples.
Play to Their Ego
Many of these less experienced executives’ egos may be bigger than their resumes warrant. By focusing on your potential manager’s recent successful rise in the company, and highlighting how it was truly your prior boss(es)’ guidance that led to your own success, you can note your desire to find your next mentor to learn from and support.
Negotiate to Your End Game Differently
Mr. Gray’s research shows innumerable examples in these kinds of firms where salaries for key executive roles drop significantly over time as experienced individuals are replaced. Therefore, rather than focusing on the base salary differential, work to negotiate the complete package towards your desired end. That could mean bonuses based on team, division and/or company results instead of just individual results (be sure to emphasize your team focus); stock options that fully vest immediately or at completion of specific non-time-related milestones; or other means of capturing income potential that are paid out later in time – being sure to negotiate your guaranteed retention of those payments due from work performed, whether you are still an employee or not.
Our current job market is tough, but it is still by no means as bad as 2001-2003. Having confidence in your abilities, knowing your strengths, working your network, and -- plain and simple -- persistence and hard work are the keys to any successful job search, even now. The obstacles described by Mr. Gray’s research do not appear to be the new standard for executives. In fact, those firms pursuing such actions are beginning to see their business efficiencies, profits and market shares decline. So it is best to avoid those firms and look elsewhere for more stable and productive employers.
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