CEO job searches are extremely competitive in today’s market. Other than running for political office, there is no interview process that will subject you to such a rigorous vetting process. I was recently interviewed for the September issue of “CareerSmart Advisor” in which I was asked to articulate what it takes to successfully secure a CEO position. In the text that follows I have provided a copy of the questions I was asked, as well as my answers, in hope that this information will assist you in preparing for your next job search…

As a CEO Coach I spend a great deal of time in career planning and management for my clients. While most of my activity centers around maximizing opportunities in their current role, I’m also frequently engaged in CEO succession and transition engagements. The following Q&A was part of a recent interview in which I provided some insight on CEO job searches: 

CareerSmart: What is the first thing a CEO should do when he/she loses a job? Is this truly a time for self-reflection and a re-assessment of the career?

Mike Myatt: Since the average CEO tenure has fallen to an all-time low (currently averaging less than 4 years), for most CEOs it is not a question of if they will be terminated, but rather a question of when. I advise my clients to frame their career strategy upon meeting certain key objectives, and to either work to extend engagements, or transition engagements prior to being released by the board. The time for self-reflection and self-assessment is prior to being released by the board.

CareerSmart: How long should a CEO take to collect his/her thoughts after being released before beginning the job search?

Mike Myatt: If a CEO is managing their personal brand properly, and meeting/exceeding performance expectations in their current role, it is likely they won’t have to conduct a job search. The next position will come to them. Good CEOs with strong personal brands consistently receive solicitations for new opportunities. If you’re a CEO who isn’t being consistently wooed by other suitors, then your personal brand needs work, and your career isn’t being properly managed.

CareerSmart: How should a CEO get his marketing materials in order? What should be done with his/her resume? Should the CEO enlist the help of outside sources to update such documents, or can a CEO typically do this on their own?

Mike Myatt: CEOs need more than a resume. CEOs should have a current press kit (both traditional and online versions) which includes a professional bio, resume, copies of articles, press releases, key accomplishments, etc. The press kit should be in play long before the CEO leaves or is terminated from their current position. Even CEOs who possess the skill sets to prepare a press kit realize it is typically not the highest and best use of their time, and most will turn to personal branding experts to accomplish these sorts of tasks.

CareerSmart: What are some steps executives need to take to build their brand, and bring that brand to the marketplace? Does this go beyond just creating a new resume?

Mike Myatt: This goes far beyond just producing a resume…Today’s CEOs need to proactively manage their reputation and personal brand such that they are extremely visible both inside and outside their industry. They need to work the media, speak, author, show up prominently in the search engines, take advantage of social media, etc.

CareerSmart: When CEOs lose their jobs, they are sometimes hesitant to broadcast that fact; even when the separation from their job was not their fault. Why is it so important for them to instead let people know that they are looking for a new opportunity? What are some effective networking techniques they should utilize? Are there particular groups they should join?

Mike Myatt: As mentioned above, if they wait until the inevitable happens to secure their next opportunity, then shame on them…CEOs should never use job boards and employment sites as this will taint the value of their personal brand. That being said, CEOs should leverage a top CEO coach who can help guide them to the next position in a well managed and confidential fashion. It has been said that “an attorney who represents him/herself has a fool for a client” and the same thing is true for a CEO who tries to engineer his or her own soft landing.

CareerSmart: What kind of research should a CEO do when considering a new position? How important is it to conduct research to get a better sense of trends within industries and companies?

Mike Myatt: CEOs should always be abreast of current industry and employment trends. This is best handled by having an ongoing career management strategy in place, a component of which is business and market intelligence.

CareerSmart: What should CEOs do to freshen-up their interviewing skills? What is important for a CEO to know about this process, especially if he/she hasn’t interviewed for a position in many years? What has changed? What hasn’t changed? What should his preparation include?

Mike Myatt: Interviews shouldn’t be considered as anything other than a chance to communicate the CEOs unique value propositions in a manner that conveys value alignment, as well as how the CEO will add credibility, influence, leverage, leadership, and impact to the new opportunity. CEOs with strong personal brands are very adept at communicating their unique value propositions across constituencies and mediums.

CareerSmart: If the job search begins to take longer than a CEO expects, what can he/she do to keep their focus and motivation?

Mike Myatt: Again, where possible, the CEO should never have the appearance of being unemployed. They should position themselves in a positive light by taking a sabbatical, taking an interim consulting assignment, taking a position as an entrepreneur in residence, getting involved in a high profile “cause”, increasing their board work, etc. Never appear that you need a position…

CareerSmart: What other advice would you offer CEOs who are suddenly faced with a job loss? What do they need to know that will help them best manage their circumstances?

Mike Myatt: In all sincerity, the best thing a CEO can do is to retain a top CEO coach. A CEO not having a coach is akin to a professional athlete not having an agent. Only mismanaged athletes find themselves put on waivers…well managed athletes engineer trades prior to being released.

Bottom line…While congratulations may be in order if you’ve made it to the C-suite, don’t just rest on your laurels as it is likely that you’ll find yourself in play at some point in the future. Prepare for your eventual departure and next engagement so that you won’t unexpectedly find yourself on the outside looking in.