Learning from executive job search – part 1
I am in the process of (hopefully) concluding a job search for myself which started in the background about 6 months back but in right earnest about a month or two back. As a background, I am a senior executive who worked for 10 years in a leading software enterprise application company – running global product engineering and professional services – about 800 people across the world. Before that I worked for 4 years in the finance industry.
Here are my learnings. These are entirely based on my experience.
Executive search firms are highly ineffective. At the end of the day, executive search firms work for the company. They are measured on whether a job was filled rather than how many resumes they were able to find jobs for. In the last 6 months, I must have contacted over a dozen executive search firms – including the top 6. None of them came thru. The one executive firm that did put me up at an account is somebody I had not contacted – they found about me from somebody else. Part of their challenge is that I do not think they share the resumes within the company. While many claim to have databases – other than one firm who I saw truly share their resumes – when I talked to as many as 6 people from the same firm – they had not a clue that all of them were talking to a person who is already in their database. My suggestion is to keep your network of the exec search firms up but do not count at all on that. Additionally, I found that the exec firms often help in coming up with the job description and they use their own way of “filtering” people – not necessary wrong or unfair – but very different from what I would do as a practitioner.
Surprisingly, small search firms come thru. I had the best experience with the small boutique companies. Usually, they cannot put you thru to more than a couple of companies but they were able to put me thru to the highest level. They also seemed more hungry for the business. Two out of the top five prospects that I liked best were brought to me by small search firms.
Websites are a good start. Sites like 6figures.com, linkedin.com are a good start. Usually you will find some job descriptions that you may like. What was effective for me was to find out about the recruiting firm or the company from these sites and then I called them up. 50% of the time I was able to reach somebody and then when I explained who I am, was put to the highest level which resulted in a phone call and often interviews.
You will be surprised who will come thru for you … and who will not… When I spread the word around people senior to me with whom I had worked in the past that I am in the market, I was totally surprised who all came thru and who did not. A CMO of our company with whom I had very little – but not substantial interactions was very helpful – she not only got me a few good leads – she followed up on them too! On the other hand, people with whom I was pretty close – some even socially – were not effective/willing at all. Lesson is not to count on people who you think you can count on.
People who were in my division were most resourceful!! By and large, the most high quality leads that led to at least multiple rounds of talk with the company came from people who had worked in my division – in fact none of them were my direct reports except one. Three of the top 5 companies that I liked came from people who worked in my organization at some point of time. I have a habit of wishing people who have ever worked in my division on their birthdays (I put them in my diary). All three followed the same pattern – email wishing happy birthday – reply asking how are you doing – response saying great, I am in the job market – phone call/email asking would you be interested in our company – me asking what do you do? Can you put me thru to your CEO – and the rest followed very quickly!! Lesson for me – Keep up the good habit of the birthday wishes (it keeps your network renewed once every year at least).
VC network. I do not have a strong VC network but while talking to a few startups, I noticed that this network is very powerful. If VCs are impressed with you, their ability to place you in companies that they influence is very high. However, this is an observation more than an experience.
That’s all for today. Next time, I will talk about some of the good and not so good practices of the recruitment process itself that I learn from…