Through the looking glass of executive search

Posted in: Bloggery

This blog aims to help you raise your profile in the competitive and candidate-rich world of executive search, so that your name is included in the candidate pool for those jobs you are seeking.

We all want to be known by key decision-makers in executive recruitment and search firms, so that when that right role comes along you will be top of mind. Yet accessing them can be challenging as many recruiters and search consultants only want to see you if you fit the profile of a current brief. So how can you come to their attention? On the one hand, you don’t want to be branded as a load of trouble by overplaying your approach or being a nuisance. On the other, you want to be visible. How do you get the balance right?

How are candidates identified?

Executive search firms locate candidates for roles through a number of channels.

  • The initial list of candidates often begins with a general roundtable discussion with the key partners and associates in the firm to brainstorm who in their network might be suitable for a brief they have just been given.
  • This list is then extended by contacting trusted “sources” and experts who have a background closely related to the vacancy to elicit good recommendations for potential candidates.
  • Firms will also source candidates through the firm’s own database.
  • Internal researchers will also search on-line sources such as LinkedIn for suitable candidates.

Getting on to the radar

To be on the radar of recruiters and search firms, and to cover all bases, you need to take a broad approach to profile raising. Here are some suggestions.

  • Contact executive search consultants who you know or have a relationship with and advise them of your current situation and the type of role and industry you are targeting.
  • Ask people in your network about high quality executive recruitment and search firms they have had experience with or can recommend. Use this advice to build an expanded list of top recruitment and search firms that you will be comfortable sending your résumé to.
  • Send your résumé to your list of recruitment and search firms for inclusion in their databases. Include a brief covering letter outlining your background, the types of roles you are seeking and your willingness to be contacted should a suitable role arise. Always address the covering letter to a specific person within the firm.
  • Develop “advocates” or mentors, individuals who are frequently called on by search consultants for recommendations and referrals. These could be professionals in your field of expertise or industry experts who are known to search firms.
  • Be clear about your value proposition – what you offer an employer or organisation, what you can deliver and how you want to be perceived in the market – some people call this your brand. Then use this message in all your communications with recruiters and search firms.
  • Be find-able in the crowded world of online sources, such as LinkedIn. In particular prepare your profile pitching to your value proposition or brand – delete everything that is inconsistent with the way you want to be represented in the market. Also, using carefully chosen skill words and key words will make the world of difference to your find-ability and edge. Select skill words and terms that differentiate you. For instance if you are a CFO, avoid selecting general terms such as accounting or finance. The skill “accounting” is in the top 100 skill terms for the whole of Linkedin in Australia (at March 2103, it is 4 million and counting[1]). Use unique and specific search terms such as business transformation, globalisation strategy, offshoring strategy, M&A implementation, words that are consistent with the way you want to represent yourself in the market and that differentiate you from the other 4 million people. Make sure your headline is filled with 3 to 4 targeted and specific terms consistent with your brand or market positioning. The sentence under your Name is one of the most powerful fields for optimising your profile and ensuring your profile comes up ahead of others. Finally, make it short, sharp and interesting! Ensure it is short enough and interesting enough to make a recruiter curious to seek you out and find out more.

In conclusion, have a multi-faceted approach to approaching recruitment and search firms, and be mindful of having a simple and consistent pitch to the market.  Then you will be well on the way to being noticed amidst the crowded recruitment world in which we compete.

Karen Felder is a Research Advisor at Macfarlan Lane. She advises candidates on developing a social media presence and on effectively researching the market. She has worked as an Executive Search Consultant and manages The KnowledgeField, an executive search research consultancy engaged by search firms to identify candidates for senior appointments.

[1]“4 Million Members and Counting: LinkedIn Australia finds connections get you places” , BRW 14.3.2013