When discussing executive job search strategy with my clients, I lay out the critical first 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 Strategy Gives You an Advantage in Executive Job Search
Having done those first 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 a bell go off. Suddenly it all makes sense that networking really is the best way to land their next great-fit gig.
Why Referrals Are Such a Good Deal for Everyone Involved
An article on Smart Recruiters listed these 10 powerful benefits of employee referrals:
- Better candidate quality
- Speed to hire
- Quicker onboarding
- Improved retention
- Wider candidate pool
- Morale boost
- Counter negative reviews
- Better candidate fit
- Appreciation for recruitment
Regarding speed to hire and cost, the article notes:
“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 at least somewhat know, than complete strangers.
Beyond this comfort factor, each qualified referred candidate can save the company tens of thousands of dollars, over other hiring methods.
Some Cold, Hard Proof That Networking to Referral Is the Way to Go
A source-of-hire efficiency study by the recruitment marketing firm Lever included the following chart:
Did you see that?
One in every 16 referred candidates was hired, compared to only one in every 152 candidates who applied and had their resumes land in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
That amounts to a whopping 10X advantage for referred candidates . . . they are hired close to 10 times more than candidates who applied.
That study was from a few years ago. I can only imagine that now an even greater percentage of hires come through referrals.
What’s So Bad About Resume ATS?
ATS are a given when responding to job board postings that so many executive job seekers are either unaware of, or don’t fully understand.
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.
- The only resumes selected are those that are formatted in a way that the ATS can “read”, and that contain enough of the right keywords according to particular criteria.
- Resumes are not 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 Go About Getting Coveted Referrals Through 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 social media 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?
Check out her article for all the great advice she offers.