How to Manage CEO Job Searches

Most of my CEO and other CxO clients who initially come to me for executive resumes tell me that this is the first time they have ever had to look or plan for a new position, so CEO job searches often have them wading into new waters. Most of their CEO job offers have come to them through inside channels. Others state that their relationships with recruiters have helped them to vet new executive job opportunities.

If you have had a run of offers come to you—that’s great! But there seems to come a point in every executive’s career when they are called to ‘make rain’ and go out and find opportunities that are a good fit for them. As an executive, you should know how to leverage the market so can actually set up and easily manage your own transition and not have to rely on opportunities coming to you.

Strategies for CEO Job Searches

Here are a few resources and strategies my executive clients use to get full market leverage in their CEO job searches.

Utilizing Executive Job Boards

You can use ExecuNet or Bluesteps as paid executive job board options to conduct CEO job searches. You can also just set up email alerts for CEO jobs using an aggregator like LinkedIn also has a feature for setting up job alerts. The benefit here is that you set it up once and the positions come to you daily or weekly. You can quickly scan them for relevancy in just a few minutes per week. But be sure not to spend too much time on this one; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10% of the actual jobs available for positions paying more than $300K are represented online. You can however, use these CEO job searches as a market indicator. Look for running patterns and themes, and note who is growing and hiring in your niche, and what recruiters are posting multiple positions that match your interest.

Working with Executive Recruiters

Identify recruiters who say they place CEOs and have Chief Executive Officer job postings. You can also research executive recruiters who cater to CEOs that work in your industry too. They often have contracts to fill positions, the majority of which will never be advertised in online CEO job searches.

If you are making a radical change in industries, a recruiter who places CEOs may not be the best source for you as they will be looking for “a match” for your current industry. Having said that, there are generalist recruiters who conduct CEO job searches across multiple industries.

Do an internet search for “ceo recruiters+your industry.” You can also look up CEO recruiters on LinkedIn. Once you have your executive resume ready to go, I offer a recruiter distribution service, as well as an in-depth course on how to work with executive recruiters.

Making Direct Company Contact

The secret to finding CEO jobs by going directly to companies of interest to you is in the numbers. Contacting a company directly (knowing full well they probably have multiple open positions that are not advertised) is a great way to demonstrate leadership and take control of ceo job searches. Are you interested in looking at the higher-education market in your state or the top organic food manufacturers in the U.S.? Or maybe the fastest growing healthcare-oriented businesses in your city? All of these “lists” are accessible to you and allow you to easily tap right into your market of focus!

Here are a few ways you can connect with them to get interviews:

Send a letter to the CEO or Chairman at larger companies. They might need you as a GM, COO, or Division President. If you’re the CEO of a small company, perhaps you would fit in as the EVP, COO, or Division President of a larger company.

Send a letter to the CEO at smaller companies. The incumbent CEO might be looking for a successor because of retirement, business expansion, or just because he or she wants to move on and open a new company. Or, the existing CEO may want to step back, step down, or step up as the Chairman. The reasons don’t matter—what matters is that they need help more often than you’d expect.

Send a letter to the money brokers. Reach out to the venture capital firms, investment bankers, holding companies, and others who invest in startups. There are more than 20,000 in the database, and they might need you for a portfolio company. If you have money to invest and/or mention that you’re looking for a stake in the outcome, this can significantly increase your odds.

Take a chance on sheer timing. Sending a value proposition letter to those decision makers who are most likely to hire you is can be an accident of timing with predictable and statistical odds (85% in 90 days). And, it’s the only way to reach thousands of decision makers at the same time, when you’re available.

You can learn much more about the lucrative hidden job market and how to tap into it, here.

Use LinkedIn

Think of LinkedIn as a database for CEO job searches. If you connect with companies in industries and geographical areas that are of potential interest to you, you will grow your network on LinkedIn. And not only can you then tap into it as a talent source, but you will be in the first, second, or third degree network of MANY more companies that will now be able to see you in their network. So when they are searching for candidates (like you) using LinkedIn (and most of them do), you will now rank in their search results!

Don’t be dispirited if you’ve never realized this before; this is not information that LinkedIn actively promotes. You can learn the mechanics of how to easily use LinkedIn to passively pull opportunities to you by growing your network here.

I have been coaching CEOs on their job transition strategies for nearly two decades. If you take away anything from these tips, I hope it is that you DO have ample power, control and market leverage over CEO job searches! A clear focus of direction—supported by a CEO executive resume and two or three good CEO job search strategies layered in—should deliver in short time the interest, interviews, and offers you are looking for.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of and and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

If you are a Director, VP, CxO, or Board Member interested in an executive resume package or working directly with Mary Elizabeth, click to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call.