by Danielle van Asch Prevot
At Talented Recruiting, my clients ask me to find candidates for a wide range of senior roles, from product managers to directors of design. Companies tend to need more help filling these types of jobs, and it's not hard to figure out why: The higher up you go, the more specialized your skills and abilities need to be. Employers expect a learning curve at entry level, but by the time you move up to management, you need to prove that you already have what it takes to lead a team.
If you're ready to move up the ladder and take the next step in your career, here's what employers and recruiters are looking for in high-level candidates.
Management experience. It goes without saying that if you're applying for a director or executive position, your resume should include a decent amount of prior management experience. Even if you didn't have "manager" in your previous title, be ready to discuss any leadership roles you were given and what kinds of responsibilities came with it.
Strong communication skills. It may sound cliche, but the ability to communicate really is a universal job requirement. In just about every position I fill, my clients specifically request candidates with good communication skills, and it's especially critical at the senior level. Leading a team requires you to clearly articulate not only what tasks have to be done, but the overall company goals and mission that will motivate employees to do their best work.
Up-to-date industry knowledge. Companies expect a lot from their senior-level employees, and if they're going to hire you, they want to know that you take the initiative to expand your skill set. Stay up to date on your industry's latest software developments and tech trends so you can confidently discuss these with a recruiter or hiring manager. Bonus points if you can provide work samples on your portfolio demonstrating your use of current programs and apps.
Concrete accomplishments. When it comes down to it, businesses want results above all else. What have you done in your current or past jobs that had a measurable impact on the company? Share specific data points to really illustrate your accomplishments. Words are nice, but numbers paint a much clearer picture of what you can do.
Cultural fit. Today's employers place a high premium on how well a job candidate will integrate with the existing company culture. Entrepreneur reported that employees who fit the culture tend to stick around longer, which can save companies tens of thousands of dollars in turnover costs, so hiring managers really want to make sure they get it right. It's true that you can't fake a cultural fit, but you can do some research on prospective employers and try to understand what their company culture is all about. If you feel you embody what they're looking for, be prepared to talk about your shared values during the initial phone screening and in-person interview.
Great references. A hiring manager may think you look good on paper, but they're going to want validation from someone who knows what you're like as an employee. Once you've gotten permission to share their contact information, include at least two or three individuals who ranked above or at your level who can back up any claims you've made on your resume. And choose your references wisely: An impressive reference list isn't the most important factor in the hiring process, but having somebody in the C-suite at a well-known company vouch for you can make a big difference. Remember, your resume, portfolio and professional network are powerful tools that can help get your foot in the door at the company of your dreams. No matter what kind of job you're searching for, use these tools to your advantage to sell your best qualities.