As a retained executive recruiter, I read many resumes and speak to talented executives daily. One of their key challenges is to determine how they use their many talents and interests in the future career pursuits. While there is a desire to be broad and keep “all options open”, the better path is to decide on a path and stay focused.

This challenge of choice applies to many executives regardless of industry or functional area of expertise. For example, many executives with ten or more years of experience have worked in different functions and/or industries. They have had a variety of roles and parts of roles that they have found stimulating, challenging and rewarding. In most instances, there were pieces of roles that they would like to put together to create the puzzle of the “ideal next role”.

This puzzle is from the candidate’s perspective. In the marketplace, we have to consider both seller (of talent) and buyer. The buyer’s view is important and begins in a different place.

In the current economic climate, we find ourselves in a more conservative environment for investment in capital. From a human capital perspective, there is a tendency towards talent that is “closer in” than in prior years. Closer in talent are candidates that have experience in the industry, level and function for which there is an opening.

Therefore, the buyers of talent are less willing to take a risk on someone transferring skills, changing industries or functions. There is a stronger preference for proven winners within a tighter, narrower view. A premium is placed on hiring candidates who have a greater likelihood of understanding the business based on their demonstrated experience in the function/industry. There is less interest is choosing the “best athlete”. The goal for many is to identify the specialist that can walk in tomorrow and add value relatively quickly.

For example, many of our clients hire us to source marketing talent. If we have a client in the services industry, they will evaluate candidates from a range of industries. However, they will tend to choose candidates with recent services experience over candidates with recent “product” experience.

Additionally, there is a tendency towards hiring talent at a level in which they have demonstrated excellence. Most employers will not hire talent to “promote” them to a higher level. The interest is greater for lateral moves. I believe eventually, there will also be a greater acceptance of talent that is open to accepting deflated titles from prior roles. Many former Vice Presidents may accept Director’s roles in the right circumstances.

The implications for those pursuing opportunities are as follows:
• Make a decision on the path you will pursue in your search. This should be skewed towards roles that you’ve demonstrated excellence in the past three to five years.
• Reflect your decision in the objective statement on your resume and reinforce it with accomplishments you’ve had in your career.
• Your elevator speech and networking efforts should be focused on the one area. This simplified communication will enable others to more effectively help you in your search efforts.

For now, staying focused on one path is the highest probability route into your next job. Once you’ve joined a new organization, with outstanding performance, additional opportunities with avail themselves to you.

Dwain Celistan is a retained executive recruiter and former executive. He is the author of several books including “You’re Hired Actions to Get and Keep the Job You Love”. His contact information is or 630-455-0172.

Author's Bio: 

Dwain is an executive recruiter and coach. For a FREE tool in your job search, go to