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Executive Search in Turbulent Times

Category: Work
Date: March 2, 2021

Gustavo Alba, an expert in recruiting and executive placement, joined us for a conversation about positioning yourself in the current job market, partnering with recruiters, and the effects of the pandemic on hiring practices.

He offered insider advice and context to anyone looking for employment –  

Reflect on Your Strengths and Ambitions 

With the backdrop of the current market, it is crucial to understand what is unique and valuable about yourself – ask yourself, “What is my superpower?” After reflecting on this question, and arriving at an honest, confident conclusion, build relationships with select recruiters over time as you continue to seek and discover what industry and role fits your skills and ambitions.

If you have decided to change companies, consider long term opportunities. Ask yourself: does this industry have momentum? Will there be opportunities for growth and advancement within this company? Value your time and strengths, and find an industry that will offer the opportunity for you to utilize and expand on those superpowers. 

Follow Growth and Know Your Specialty

The pandemic has impacted executive search by creating two sub-economies: companies experiencing tailwinds (technology, pharmaceuticals, biotech) and those with headwinds (travel, leisure, some consumer-packaged goods). It’s important to consider which sub-economy would most value your skills and superpowers. For example, if you specialize in cost reduction, then you would be a good fit with companies experiencing headwinds who need to make intelligent downsizing decisions. Candidates with a growth orientation would be best served to explore companies experiencing exponential growth. If you’re unsure about which sub-economy would be a better fit, exploring growth is a more secure choice as there will be more and more opportunity within the industry and company.

The Context of Recruiting

There are three recruiting markets: 

  1. The staffing market for short term projects
  2. Contingent recruiters paid upon placement of entry-level to mid-level hires
  3. The retainer model for senior hires where the recruiter represents their client and doesn’t get paid upon placement

Recruiters specialize by industry sector and function, so work with recruiters in your niche. 

Working with Recruiters

Firstly, recruiters are supposed to find you, there’s no need to go looking for recruiters. Recruiters are more likely to notice you if you have grown your profile as an expert on something specific. If you would like to seek out a recruiter, reach out to your existing network of contacts and find one through a colleague, which bolsters your chance of finding a recruiter who will be knowledgeable about the space you work in. 

An efficient way to assess if a recruiter is knowledgeable about your industry and position is to ask them specific questions about your industry and then listen closely to their market knowledge and lingo. Determine whether their knowledge overlaps with your own experience and if they seem comfortable with the information and jargon unique to your industry.

Ultimately, it’s all about relationships. The best career move you can make when working with a recruiter is to communicate, stay connected, and be responsive; diligently return their calls and reply to all leads. You are building a strong relationship with executive recruiters so that they can truly partner with you to find a job that fits. Working with recruiters may be more of a long game rather than an immediate win, but they will be most useful to you if you are open and honest about what you are looking for as well as your existing strengths. 

Executive Search Truths

–  Headhunters have nearly exclusive control in determining the long list and then the short list of candidates who meet the client, but once the candidate begins their interviews, the company takes the lead role in hiring, and recruiters act more as influencers.

– For mid-level positions, search firms have a contingency-based business model. For senior roles, they have a fixed-fee model. Search firm compensations depend on the total annual cash compensation, typically around 33%. Once an executive is placed by a search firm, that executive is no longer in consideration for any other clients.

– Make connections in the sector you care about. LinkedIn and now Clubhouse are two professional-friendly platforms that can help you build your profile and cultivate your network.

Executive Search Trends

– Diversity in hiring is a priority for companies. Candidates are being considered for their potential, not their prior experience. 

– The pandemic has made companies more open to employees living in different locations. Eventually, where you live may impact compensation as companies consider differences in cost of living according to location.  

– References are increasingly important, particularly now. Communication with references is more thorough, since most candidates are no longer able to meet prospective employers face-to-face, but keep in mind, while reference checks are happening, employers are exploring back channels and other sources of information to get more information on their candidate.

To do:

  1. Go make a list of your superpowers. You definitely have them!
  2. Reflect on what industry fits you best, particularly within the new economic context created by the pandemic.
  3. Grow your profile as an expert on something specific within your chosen industry.
  4. Work with a recruiter who specializes in your field.
  5. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more with your recruiter. They want to partner with you to find a job that both fits your skills and interests and offers opportunities for growth.

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