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5 Golden Rules for Executive Job Search

by James Heffernan - 23rd January 2014

Executive Recruitment Social Media Finding a Job

It is the time of year when New Year resolutions start to slip, the hastily arranged gym membership seems like a bad idea, and a dry January starts to become very boring. But perhaps this is one resolution that you should stick to – permanently.

With fewer roles at the top of the ladder than at the bottom, the world of Executive Recruitment is fiercely competitive and to the outside world can often seem to be populated by recruitment custodians, the ‘Headhunters’ who operate in mystical ways… “How did you get my details??” eye of frog, and toe of newt…

It really is quite simple though, and here are 5 tips to ensure you maximise your chances of getting that dream role.

Relationships

It is all about relationships and, skillset aside, this is the biggest factor in whether you make the shortlist or not. Take the initiative - build relationships and maintain contact with key recruiters in your sector. If the worst happens and your position starts to look unstable, you will need to be at the forefront of their mind. Also, your recruiter puts their reputation on the line with every interview – putting yourself in their shoes with a choice between an unknown quantity and someone you know well, who would you be more inclined to represent?

Most importantly, treat recruiters as you would wish to be treated - they have long memories! Remember that conversation you had a few years ago with a consultant who wanted to recruit into your business? Perhaps you weren’t exactly straightforward with them, or even avoided their calls! They remember.

Be open to opportunity

As you climb up the career ladder your salary will hopefully continue to increase. Also, over time there is a very good chance of becoming ‘pigeon-holed’ into a particular sector, skillset, or role. The combination of the two means there is an ever-decreasing number of roles that you could be suitable for, and the likelihood of finding the right role, at the right level, with the right remuneration, in the right area, at the right time… ok, you get the picture. It is very slim. Be open to a conversation even though you might not be actively looking for work. That perfect opportunity could arise when you might not need it to.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has changed the landscape for search recruiters, and perhaps George Orwell had a point – you never know who is watching you. This can represent an opportunity but could also be detrimental to your chances of being approached. The golden rules are to make your profile relevant, factual, to the point, and achievement-based where possible. Clients and recruiters want to know a) who you worked for [sector/company] b) what your role was and c) how you added real value. Unless you can substantiate your claim with facts and figures, or they are part of your job title (i.e. Creative Director), then perhaps avoid these words.

Network!

As often as you can, network with as many people as possible. It all comes back to #1 on my list and the digital media world offers us more networking possibilities than ever. A word of caution though, remember that people buy people, and in any conversation face-to-face or online you are being judged and assessed, regardless of how relaxed things may appear.

Is it all about size?

Size of company and size of recruitment consultancy often go hand-in-hand, so choose your recruiter wisely. I have worked for, and recruited into companies varying from under 10 people to over 20,000 and big isn’t necessarily better. Larger companies often operate strict PSL arrangements and this can significantly limit your chances of securing that dream role. In very basic terms, think of the odds – 5 agencies, each sending 5 CVs = 1/25 chance? That is a nightmare situation for all involved! Recruiters will often be kept at arms’ length and their ability to consult and guide is almost zero. To quote several previous managers – “it’s a bun-fight”. Candidates often experience very poor service, and very little feedback – simply because recruiters don’t receive any from their HR / Talent contact. The recruiting Manager can also become frustrated with the deluge of CVs, and the piggy-in-the-middle (the poor HR / Talent contact) gets stick from everywhere!

We are a family-run consultancy and it is no surprise that most of our senior appointments are into the SME market. 99% of the time I recruit an Executive level role, I work directly with the CEO / MD, on an exclusive or retained basis, and represent no more than 5 candidates. Better odds, smoother process, and detailed feedback – surely that is better all round?

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