8 Questions for Jane Howze, Managing Director of The Alexander Group, an executive search firm that counts some of the world's most prestigious companies as clients.
1. For those unfamiliar – What does an executive search firm do?
Executive search firms are hired by corporations to recruit executives and Board of Directors. The client is the employer who pays a fee to the search firm before the search is completed. The executive search firm’s fees are not contingent on finding candidates and getting them hired though that is what happens if we want to stay in business. You want them to call you for positions but understand they do not respresent individuals looking for jobs. In other words they will only help you if it helps them with an assignment.
2. What do you look for in an executive? What traits? What experience?
Executive search firms spend a lot of time with their clients before beginning a search to assess the culture of the organization and gain an understanding of the type ofexecutive whose qualifications wil fit but also who will work well with the existing board and management team. So what we look for different things depending on the client. Some clients want executives who will be a change agent, others want someone who will maintain the status quo. And still others want someone who has experience in a particular area such as taking a company public, fighting regulators, introducing new drugs to the market (no not that kind) or moving a company out of bankruptcy. But in general, executives need to have what I call emotional intelligence…the ability to understand both verbal and non verbal cues. He or she was be able to talk about how they are a leader and can motivate others. He or she would learn how to write and communicate well, verbally and orally.
3. What traits/experiences are deal-breakers or at least demerits?
There are small things that can really make a difference.. When I walk in to our conference room for a meeting with a candidate and he or she does not stand up to greet me, that shows bad manners, laziness and a lack of respect. People who interrupt. And young people, please do not respond “No problem” when I say thank you! Another thing that is a potential knock out factor is bad grammar. Yep, happens more than you would think. “My CEO gave Bob and I a call”….grates. It is Bob and me!
4. How should a recent college grad look for work if he/she wants to climb the corporate ladder?
A college grad should have a good linkedin profile and use that to make contact with alums from his or her college. Alums will always help other alums. WE have a number of blogs on our website directed to the college student: http://www.thealexandergroup.com/blog/
5. Which industries will be “hot” in the next ten years? (hiring the most)
Energy, technology and public accounting will be hot. Get that CPA, even if you don’t want to be an accountant full time. Learn software programming. It will buy you time while you are figuring out what you want to do.
6. How has the flagging economy affected your work?
Our revenues have increased about 40% since 2010. We are busy! Why is that? Because many executives who planned to retire in 2008 could not because their stock was under water. Now that the stock market is rebounding, they are cashing out. That gives us a lot of search work. We have also opened a New York office which has given us greater visibility.
7. What are the two biggest mistakes people make when job hunting?
The two biggest mistakes job seekers make is assuming a recruiter will find them a job and not doing their own looking or due diligence. Lots of companies will not pay agency fees (different from what we do) so you cut yourself out of a lot of opportunities by not, to some extent, being your own headhunter. The second mistake job seekers make is not practicing interviewing. It is a skill that needs to be practiced. Ask people you trust to give you feedback on how you come across. Practice an elevator pitch of talking about who you are and what your career goals are. And learn to listen. The universal mistake everyone makes whether they are in the job market or not is that they talk too much and listen too little.
8. In our social media-crazed world, a lot of executives, by nature, have to be on Twitter, Facebook, etc. If they’re “boring” on social media, it’s a strike against them. On the other hand, they can’t be too “interesting” because that can be problematic too. How do you guide your clients in this area?
We believe LinkedIn is essential for every executive. But there is an etiquette associated with Linkedin. Have a good profile with a business photo. No swimsuits. Do not ask people you don’t know to link in with you unless it would benefit them in someway. We believe it is also important to have a Facebook and Twitter account even if you don’t use them that much. It is an additional way of communicating your brand and your professional identity. Just be careful to not to over use Twitter and Facebook because you don’t want companies to think you spend all day on social media. And check those privacy settings. It is not bad that a prospective employer can see your Facebook profile picture with you and your dog, but not good if they can see last Saturday night’s bachelor party.
You can follow Jane on Twitter.