When discussing executive job search strategy with my clients, I lay out the critical 3 initial steps that get the best results – targeting, research and personal branding.
I explain that, by starting with targeting, they’ll focus their job search and personal marketing efforts on specific employers.
With research, they’ll have the information needed to showcase why those companies need them, and how they will help those specific companies or organizations overcome specific challenges and meet specific current needs.
With personal branding, they’ll be able to generate chemistry around who they are, what differentiates their unique value, and how they get things done.
These 3 components will make job seekers much better able to position themselves as a mutual good fit.
Why That 3-Part Job Search Strategy Gives You an Advantage
Having done those 3 initial steps, they will also be much better able to penetrate the goldmine of so-called “hidden” executive jobs at their target companies.
I explain the various kinds of jobs that are only found in the hidden job market, and stress that they are jobs that are never advertised, so they won’t be found on any job board.
I also stress that the only way to access these jobs is by networking their way into those companies.
Most of the time, they accept all this as fact, but they’re not very happy understanding that, to be successful, their job search will probably involve a lot of networking.
They get it, but it sounds like so much work. They wonder if it’s worth it, and how it’s all going to come together.
Then I add this nugget to better explain, and seal the deal:
“Most companies (including yours) have employee referral programs, in which employees are rewarded for referring qualified candidates for jobs. These programs benefit everyone involved. The company, employee and referred candidate all win. Referrals happen through networking.”
Sometimes I think I hear the bell go off in their heads. Suddenly it all makes sense that networking really is the best way to land their next great-fit gig.
What If You Hate Networking?
I know that networking is a stressful and daunting prospect to most people . . . something to avoid at all costs, even if it means prolonging their search.
Typically, the main reason they find it so difficult is because they don’t understand what networking really is.
They believe networking means asking people for a job . . . often people they don’t know.
Career Sherpa’s Hannah Morgan, a job search expert, disputes that notion:
“Networking is not asking for a job or a job lead . . . it’s about getting AIR”:
- Advice (career advancement, job search, career-changing)
- Information (company, industry trends, news)
- Recommendations (associations to join, books to read, skills to develop, people to talk to)
She further advises asking people at your target companies a variety of pointed questions, including these gems:
- What are the most significant factors affecting your business today?
- How have changes in technology most affected your business?
- How has your business/industry been affected by the current economic climate?
- What future direction do you see the company taking?
- How has your company grown or changed in the last couple of years?
- How do you differ from your competition?
- Describe what it takes for someone to be successful in this company.
- What are the qualities of people who perform best in this business?
- How do you think most of the employees would describe this workplace?
- If this company was known for 3 things as a workplace, what do you think those would be?
- How would you describe your company culture?
Why Employee Referrals Work for Everyone Involved
An article on Smart Recruiters notes some of the benefits of employee referral programs to the employer:
- Increased Hiring Velocity
- Easier Access to Qualified Candidates
- Better for Your Hiring Budget
- Employees Become Brand Evangelists
- Referred Employees Stay Longer
- Higher Levels of Employer Satisfaction
Another Smart Recruiters article no longer available online described the cost effectiveness of these programs:
“Hiring via referral is substantially quicker than hiring through a job posting or career site as several steps for recruitment employees — job description writing, ad posting, resume collection, and candidate screening — are unnecessary when the applicant is a referral.”
“With few exceptions, employee referral programs are more cost effective than other hiring processes: consider the 15 percent fee an executive recruiter could charge on a $100,000/year hire ($15,000) versus a $1500 referral bonus for the same hire.”
So you can see, companies are very much in favor of hiring referred candidates.
Although they may not be well-known within the company, referred candidates are at least somewhat known. And people are more likely to hire people they know at least somewhat over complete strangers.
Beyond this comfort factor, each qualified referred candidate can save the company tens of thousands of dollars, over other hiring methods.
Statistics Show That Employee Referrals Get You the Job
Take a look at the statistics in this infographic from erinapp.com
Here are some highlights:
- Employee Referrals are 4x more likely to be hired.
- 82% of Employees rated Employee Referrals above all other sourcing options to yield the best ROI.
- $7,500 per hired employee referral is the amount saved in productivity and sourcing costs.
- 45% of employees sourced from employee referrals stay for longer than 4 years, and only 25% of employees sourced through job boards stay for over 2 years.
- 60 Days was the high end of the average days to fill a position without an employee referral. Employee Referrals came in at 35 – 40 days and ERIN Employee Referrals only take 20 days.
- $2,500 was the average employee referral bonus in 2019.
Employee Referrals Help You Circumvent Resume ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems)
ATS are a given when responding to job board postings, but so many executive job seekers are either unaware of or don’t fully understand how ATS work.
They wrongly assume that job boards are where they should be spending most of their job search time.
Here’s what happens when you send your resume in response to a job posting:
- The document is put into a database or ATS, along with thousands of other resumes, for various kinds of jobs they’re trying to fill.
- To match candidates to jobs, the database sifts through the resumes and parses their content for relevant keywords put into the system, associated with particular jobs.
- Resumes are selected if the candidate meets the requisite qualifications.
- Resumes may not be selected if they are incorrectly formatted, don’t contain enough of the right keywords, or don’t fit the bill in some other way.
I hope you get it now.
It should make sense that you want to avoid having your resume fall into the ATS black hole entirely, or not until later in the hiring process, when you’ve become more than just another candidate in the sea of people applying.
If you want to circumvent ATS (at least initially), accelerate your executive job search, and land better and faster . . . get to work networking your way into companies that are on your list of mutual good-fit target employers.
How to Get Employee Referrals
Where to find people to refer you
Search the LinkedIn (Company) Pages of each company you’re targeting and look for employees. Look for people you know either socially or professionally.
How to reach out for referrals
Executive coach Dorie Clark advises job seekers to be gentle in their approach and give people an out:
“You need to give the other person a lot of space and make them not feel like you are pressuring them.”
If it is someone you know professionally but aren’t close to, tell them at the outset that you are sending your application to their employer. Then be direct and say,
“I don’t know if it would be appropriate for you to put in a word for me, but if you feel comfortable doing that, I’d really appreciate it.”
If the person you are asking knows you socially, not professionally, explain that just vouching for your character would go a long way, but give them an out and say you understand if they feel they can’t. Acknowledge that you are asking for a favor.
“Sometimes you just need to lean into the awkward.”
Follow up with people who have referred you
Just as you should be sending thank you’s to anyone involved with helping you land a job (interviewers, informational interviewees, people who send you leads, etc.), you need to thank those who refer you.
Emailed thank you’s are okay, but if you can send a hand-written thank you note, that’s even better because so few people take the time to send them.