FWSIM Spotlight

The Job Market during the 2020 Pandemic

Advice for IT Leaders


This is a challenging time to be in the job market due to the limited number of management level openings.  Businesses are reacting to the uncertainties associated with Covid-19 and the slowdown in consumer spending.    Many employers, regardless of size, have imposed a hiring freeze, layoffs and furloughs and others are proceeding to hire highly skilled individual contributors for positions that are deemed “essential” such as cloud and network security architects, web/mobile developers, data scientists and DevOps engineers.

While companies such as Amazon, Lowe’s and Google are hiring technical talent, they have very limited senior level openings.

I have come to understand that the world of executive search is down by 50% in the number of searches being conducted.  While there has been an uptick as of late, I have not seen a refresh of the 50%.

To maximize your chances of securing interviews, you need to make sure you are at the “top of your game”.  This includes having a well-written resume that is clear about the value you have brought to your employers and not simply a set of job descriptions.  An example of a job description style of resume is “led a 3-year global ERP implementation”.  A value stated description would say that you “led a successful 3-year global ERP implementation resulting in increased throughput of products and services and a 25% increase in sales.    

In addition to your resume, your LinkedIn profile needs to be clear and well-written.  It should show your employment history in a briefer form than your resume and additional affiliations such as Board and advisory roles. Having a professional photo and a few key recommendations are also important. Showing expertise in being a conference speaker and/or writer/blogger is also beneficial.  You are looking to differentiate yourself and stand out for some expertise.

It is important to get feedback from other professionals on your resume and LinkedIn profiles.  Talk to executive recruiters, as they are in the driver’s seat to know what employers look for.

If you are unemployed, in addition to having a great resume and LinkedIn profile, you need to know or be introduced to key executive recruiters.  The big firms like Korn Ferry are important and so are the smaller boutiques, such as Halbrecht Lieberman Associates.  Most IT practice leaders will not respond to “cold calls” from job seekers, so you need to be introduced by someone they know and respect. 

Once you have your 10 minutes with an executive recruiter, you need a well-honed “elevator speech”, pointing out your goals in terms of types of roles, industries, company size and whether you are open to relocation.  Do not expect an executive recruiter to “figure out” what is best for you.  They are busy and need you to focus on where you think you have the best chance of competing. For example, if you are the CIO of a $500m manufacturing company, you might say to a recruiter you would be looking for a CIO role in a division of a F1000 company, or a $500m to $3B company, and in any industry that has a supply chain, which can include distribution and retail as well as manufacturing.

Since more than 50% of senior IT roles are filled via your “network” and not through executive recruiters, it is critical that you develop your network by joining organizations such as SIM, that have Members in Transition groups. Talking to friends, vendors, consultants and neighbors about your job search can lead to openings. Volunteering to take on a short-term project even without pay, can show employment continuity.    LinkedIn is another platform that employers use to advertise opportunities and avoid paying executive recruiters’ fees.  And many companies have in-house Talent Acquisition Managers who screen candidates that apply via LinkedIn and the like.  Being able to speak to a Talent Acquisition Manager and address how your background and experience relate to their opening is key.  This is different from your “elevator speech”, as it needs to be customized to each opportunity.

Given there are limited senior level openings in good companies, you want to be sure you have all the tools at your fingertips that will enable you to be highly competitive. This is hard to do on your own. Job searching is an emotionally draining process and for some, a trusted partner (executive coach) for honest assessments and for customized strategies can be advantageous. A coach can help you build skills and identify and reduce troublesome shortcomings.    For some, there is also value in working with an executive coach who can help you with your presentation on ZOOM, etc.  Practicing how to interview effectively, as well as learning how to write appropriate cover letters and thank you notes are all part of what you can achieve with a coach.

Conducting a job search involves putting in place a marketing plan for yourself and then executing against it.  Along the way, you will have disappointments and setbacks. Some people will let you down and others will be generous with their time and help.  It is a learning process and once you do this, you have honed a set of skills and behaviors that you can take with you for the rest of your career.

Written by Beverly Lieberman, President

Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, www.hlassoc.com