During the years, I’ve had many good professionals asking me “How come no executive search firm contacted me about a job?” and these weren’t complaints coming only from middle management, but GM level too, who, ironically, when looking to fill a management position within their company, immediately became visible and were assaulted by executive search firms promising to find them the best candidates on the market. “How can I trust these firms that look so good on paper and have such smart presentations, when, in reality, none of them contacted me as a potential candidate in one of their projects? And I have success written all over my career.”
“Because there are so many good professionals on the market it makes it difficult to reach everybody” – would be a poor answer. My advice is to stay away from any firm that is trying to sell this to you. Why? Because this is exactly what they’re supposed to do. That is why true executive search firms do not rely on networking solely, but have excellent Searchers and state-of-the-art industry mappings. Just because somebody is an introvert with a closed social circle and does not work for a corporation that is itself a “management brand”, doesn’t mean one can’t be the right candidate in a project, even in one for such a corporation. But, again, only Executive Search firms would do this, as opposed to honest volume recruitment firms that have different functioning principles, or the dreadful whatever they call those entities that sell resumes of people they don’t even know. The executive search firms have no excuse for not having reached you and they will always admit it and accept your critique. Whoever starts telling you they’re on sooo much pressure, you see it’s the crisis, the dog ate their homework, the neighbor’s cat meowed all night, or it’s because of the snow that came too early this year in December… is not someone you want to discuss your future with.
So, they have no excuse. Unless… look at it this way: during an executive search project, the firm becomes an addendum to the corporate client.
The corporate client is, of course, represented by the Hiring Manager and the HR Manager. When drawing up the desired profile for the vacant position, there is usually a clash in opinions on the subject of the right skills. The HR Manager will emphasize the need for soft, personality related skills, sometimes looking to balance the team (having in mind the existing members), and will be inclined to emotional subjectivity. On the other hand, the Hiring Manager, pressed by the need of immediate results, will look for a portfolio and will be inclined to success subjectivity (or what he/she believes to trigger immediate success for him/her). Since results matter the most in the end (nobody’s hiring to cheering up the atmosphere at work, right? or at least not yet!), the HR Manager usually gives in and the portfolio prevails. (Yes, sometimes they do agree and they’re called happy exceptions to the rule).
Small companies usually don’t invest in executive search projects, either because of the fees or because of the poly-valence of the employees, expected to and willing to take on more responsibilities for as long as it takes until the right person joins them. And because the HR Managers are expected to do the same and fill the position by themselves. (Although the recent years have encouraged large corporations to tap into this entrepreneurial mentality as well) So, expect the client behind an executive search project to be a big company/corporation.
Now corporations have a specific rhythm and a specific culture. For them to hire the candidate that’s most likely to bring them those immediate results they find it easier to look to companies that are very similar to them – and not only in rhythm and employee mind set, but those that develop and implement similar projects and use similar tools in the process. So, when expressing their needs to their temporary addendum, they point to strong preferences for candidates coming from such “mirroring” companies. Or, in some cases, ask to see only such candidates.
You could say, harshly, that they aren’t looking for The Person who possesses the know how, they are looking for What Their Competition Knows and is enclosed in a person. And the executive search consultant is your average consultant, meaning most of them will do exactly as they are told and nothing more. Because they believe that if they do that, they’ll keep their client happy and get the money, thus being happy themselves. And they’ll never reach you because there is quite a handful of “branded” professionals willing to make a move. So what happens is that, during the years, the big companies just pass on a few professionals from one another. Quite amusingly, the same. Which is probably what executive search began with, big companies wanting to “steal” managers from each other and finding an elegant way of doing it! The point is that few consultants will be willing to break this routine of the same old same old. And few consultants won’t be looking after personal interests (placing a friend, a relative, a former client that will give them more recruitment projects etc etc.) And only very few are consultants who actually consult the client. Most of them are recruiters, even if their position sounds pompous like Managing something or Senior whatever.
What you need to so is get in touch with consultants. A recruiter will never care to tell a corporate client looking to hire a brand, that you are The Brand even though it does not write so on your business card.
Now, how do you recognize your executive search consultant?
- they’re honest (they’ll tell you your rate of success and explain why)
- they are respectful (attention, language, behavior, not keeping you wait for them etc.)
- they are intelligent and experienced (they’ll never ask questions reading an interviewing questionnaire or where you see yourself in 5 years from now)
- they listen and always ask questions that prove this to you, although the reason they ask is because they are interested
- if they decide to shortlist you, they will help you “sell” yourself better and work with you on your development needs
- during a project, they keep constant contact with you (you don’t have to call them after 2 months to receive no answer)
- they give you real feedback that helps you acknowledge what you need to work on to evolve
- they are willing to meet you even when they do not have a project for you. Any consultant saying “I don’t have the time, you know the dog, the cat bla bla” is not a consultant – is a recruiter. Any person who is not willing to break a small routine to see you will not have the guts to break a bigger routine and tell the client giving him the money that you, the non-branded, are The Brand itself. They may not see you immediately, but they will.
Contact them. Make a list with your local executive search firms, read about them on the internet, chose from them or just send emails to everybody, it’s your call.
Let me remind you that sending out your resume to executive search firms with an invitation for a meeting in no way does undermine your value as a professional, worth of being “hunted”! I remember I saw this stupid add from a firm that said something like “Don’t send us your resume. If you are good, we’ll find you.” Really?? Wow, who would have thought that a (probably) 3 person apartment firm can be so telepathic? Honestly, just get out there, make yourselves known, because there are executive search companies that work with professionals and not company portfolios that come under a human name. I am personally tired of seeing the same faces over and over again on the move. And you know what? These “stars” aren’t even pleasant people to be around, most of them are conceited and arrogant. Well… all right, this part is me trying to give you a boost in confidence and bring a smile to your face. Is it working?
I remember I saw this stupid add from a recruitment firm that said something like “Don’t send us your resume. If you are good, we’ll find you.” Really?? Wow, who would have thought that a (probably) 3 person apartment firm can be so telepathic?
Honestly, just get out there, make yourselves known, because there are executive search companies that work with professionals instead of company portfolios that come under a human name.