What’s Holding You Back in Your Executive Career Search?

How long do you expect your executive career search to take? One month? Three months? Six months? It turns out that many senior executives are spending longer than anticipated searching for their next role.

51% of candidates have been searching for their new role for more than four months with one in ten still searching after a year. What effect is this having on executive candidates? Well, other than the predictable stress responses and financial worries, candidates are actually lowering their salary expectations the longer they spend seeking a new role.

executive career search

Why are so many senior level candidates struggling to land a new role?

Well, here’s where it gets interesting…

Recent independent research into the senior level jobs market showed an astonishing ‘disconnect’ between what candidates and executive recruiters perceive to be significant obstacles candidates face in their job search.

High Competition for Jobs

Let’s begin with one of the most common complaints we hear from our clients: candidates believe there is a lack of suitable vacancies available.

“A huge shortage of jobs means there is high competition when a role becomes available.”

However, recruiters argue that too many candidates are dependent upon advertised jobs. According to many recruiters, part of the problem is that candidates expect positions to present themselves, often in the form of advertised posts.

Statistics support this view. Only 37% of candidates think their next role will come from the unadvertised jobs market. In reality, 70% of senior executive positions can be found in this ‘hidden’ jobs market.

That’s 63% of candidates competing for 30% of all senior level jobs.

It seems the issue here really is as recruiters suggest; candidates are simply unaware of available opportunities. They do not understand the importance of the hidden jobs market and they certainly don’t know how to navigate it.

Poor Networking Skills

Those of you that do access the unadvertised jobs market will recognise how important networking is in facilitating this.

Recruiters couldn’t stress enough the value of effective networking as an important life skill, to extend networks through tools such as Experteer and not rely on ‘out of date’ connections. Yet, recruiters say that many candidates must develop their networking skills to succeed.

With so many jobs in the hidden jobs market that are gained through connections, it is vital that candidates take time to develop relationships with peers, recruiters and key players in the industry. In fact, a number of candidates agree with this view, recognising that they lack the ability to network effectively and they are held back by the size of their existing network.

Difficulties Communicating Value

Candidates often complain that roles are too specific in their requirements and many employers are seeking an executive with specific experience. But is it possible that you might be inept at conveying what you have to offer? Some candidates thought so, stating they had difficulties communicating their value to recruiters or potential employers.

This point of view was echoed by recruiters’ suggestions that candidates lack the ability to effectively communicate their achievements. Recruiters expanded on this with many revealing their disappointment at the quality of CVs they receive from senior executives:

“There is a mixture of CVs. The higher up you go, sometimes the worse the CV gets.”

“Sometimes you ask for a CV and you get ‘War and Peace.’”

When candidates were asked, “What have been the most significant obstacles to you securing a new position?” creating a compelling CV was listed as an obstacle only once, suggesting that candidates are not aware that their CV does not meet recruiters’ expectations for quality.

A Sense of Discrimination

We were shocked to discover the number of candidates that cited ‘being over-qualified,’ ‘over-experienced’ or ‘age discrimination’ as significant obstacles in their job search.

“It’s a case of scaring people off as I have over 30 years experience.”

Whilst senior executives frequently felt this was the case in their job searches, recruiters did not perceive age or experience to be a barrier at all. In fact, they highlighted the importance of experience in senior level roles, claiming it is often essential to have extensive experience in a specific sector the higher you climb in management.

Issues Working with Recruitment Agencies

Unsurprisingly, candidates frequently regard recruitment agencies as a significant obstacle in their job search. Candidates commonly feel that agencies act as a blocker to getting in front of the recruiter. On top of this, there is a lack of contact or feedback and frustrated job seekers often ask ‘why don’t recruiters call me back?’. Regarding recruiters not giving feedback or having little contact following the initial interview, a number of recruiters acknowledged that, due to it being a largely unregulated profession, it is unfortunately common for candidates to have bad experiences with recruiters. Other recruiters argue that the process is not understood by candidates who often have unrealistic expectations.

Of course, there is another valid reason for not hearing back from recruiters: you simply don’t fit the brief they are working to. Being particularly busy, they might not consider it efficient use of their time to follow up with every candidate.

“It’s certainly easier to focus on those who are best prepared as it saves time.”

And that brings me to the final and most astounding revelation:

Candidates are Poorly Prepared

Candidates often need work to get them ready for a new role. Yes, you might think you are a well-prepared candidate, but how do you know? Recruiters and interviewers meet many candidates who consider themselves to be well-prepared – and they disagree!

We all have blind spots. We don’t know what we don’t know. For that reason, it’s vital that you gain feedback to discover areas in which you can improve to position yourself as the best candidate you can be. For you, this might be something around skills development; the way you present yourself; understanding the needs of recruiters, headhunters and hiring managers and how you meet those needs; or something very different.

The key to career success

The majority of senior level candidates believe that they are well-prepared. They attribute the lack of success in their job searches to external factors that are outside of their control (a lack of jobs; discrimination; recruitment agencies; etc.) It’s just how the market is; there’s no effective way to accelerate their job search.

In actual fact, the research suggests that the problem could be much simpler to solve.

Recruiters suggest that candidates are failing to identify the areas where they require skills development. From an executive recruiters’ perspective, many of the obstacles holding candidates back centre on job search skills and awareness and therefore, can be overcome with professional guidance.

As one recruiter explained:

“Self-awareness is the difference between those who are prepared and those who are not”.

Remember, many recruiters are shocked at the general lack of preparation, poor CV and an inability to communicate achievements; get this right and you’re a strong candidate for the role, regardless of what you perceive might be limiting factors.

Executive Connexions Career Coaching-logoWe specialise in providing personable and flexible career management services, exclusively for Senior Executives. Want to accelerate your job search success? Visit our website to find out how we can help you to land your next (and best) senior level role, faster.

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