Career watch

Ask the Recruiters

Getting to the Top

How can IT executives get on the A-list for a high-profile job opening? Is it bad form to reach out to an executive search firm?

Those are just a couple of the questions posed to three executive recruiters during a Q&A session at the 2008 CIO Executive Leadership Summit in Stamford, Conn. The recruiters who fielded the questions were Rhona Kannon, a partner in the IT practice at The Cambridge Group Ltd.; Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates Inc.; and Phil Schneidermeyer, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles International Inc.

So, is it a mistake to cold-call a search firm? Absolutely not, Lieberman said. But such calls are tough for recruiters to respond to, she noted. Instead, she recommended that IT executives contact recruiters through a source that both parties know and trust. Another way to get on a recruiter's radar screen is to refer a friend or colleague, said Schneidermeyer.

Having a pre-existing relationship with a recruiter can be helpful, Lieberman said, but you shouldn't think such relationships give you license to be informal. Never dress casually for an interview, even with a recruiter you know, she advised. Also, don't use slang or talk freely about personal issues.

As for getting on the A-list, Lieberman said applicants need some critical qualities, such as affability and strong communication skills. She added that recruiters and employers look to see how job candidates present themselves through their resumes. And job candidates who lack a bachelor's degree face an uphill battle. "If you're applying for a senior role, you'd better be enrolled" in a bachelor's degree program, she said.

Another factor is the candidate's current or previous employers. "We get to know companies that are known for developing strong talent," said Schneidermeyer.

One thing he warned against is overemphasizing the number of industry awards you've received. "I had one recent job candidate who filled the back side of his resume with awards, and it got me to wondering when the hell he found the time to do his job," he said.

Another warning about your resume: If it's more than three pages long, "forget about it," said Lieberman. "Most CEOs want to see two pages." Still, it's important to cite individual projects, financial savings and other achievements, with short paragraphs describing each one, said Schneidermeyer.

It's critical for job seekers to cite their objectives on their resumes, said Kannon. "No one wants to read through a resume and try to figure out who you are," she said. She advised IT leaders to think about resumes they have read from IT job applicants that have appealed to them.

The road to the CIO's office used to nearly always start in application development, Lieberman said, but an increasing number of organizations are bringing in executives from outside of IT to serve as CIO. For instance, Harriet Edelman, CIO at Avon Products Inc., previously ran the company's global supply chain.

A third path is working for a major consulting firm such as McKinsey & Co., PricewaterhouseCoopers or Accenture, said Lieberman. Those types of consultants, she noted, "are highly regarded by CEOs."

-- Thomas Hoffman

Where Are the Jobs?

Maybe in Texas and the Carolinas

Bizjournals' rating of 100 U.S. job markets placed four Texas cities (and two others in the Southwest) and four in North and South Carolina among the top 12. The worst market by far was Detroit, which has lost more than 30,000 jobs over the past year and 125,000 over the past five years. The rating system weighted measures in nine categories, including unemployment rates and job growth over various time periods. IT jobs were not singled out, however.

This story, "Career watch" was originally published by Computerworld.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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