How do CEOs find jobs?

We are often approached by senior commercial executives, for instance, Vice President, Managing Director or even CEO level, asking for advice about the employment market and tips on how to uncover their next opportunity.

These individuals have often had such stable, successful and long careers, that they have never had to pro-actively find a job before, or perhaps it’s the first time for many, many years and they have lost touch with the Senior Employment market. Some have never written a CV..

Once you have exhausted your own network, what do you do next to source senior opportunities?

Does one fire out their CV coldly to multiple Headhunters, apply for multiple jobs online or rely on working with 1 or 2 reputable Headhunters who can possibly help them find their next job work?

Based on my 20+ year career in Executive Headhunting in the Software / SAAS markets, I would like to offer my thoughts:

1 – The Market is Highly Competitive

The more senior the position, the more candidate competition will exist. For instance, when we run VP level searches, we are literally inundated with enquiries and often speak with 250 + individuals for one role. With such a big pool of competition, often those who have a very strong fit to the role will be considered. Having a concise, relevant and sharp CV is imperative.

2 – Registering with Headhunters

Making speculative approaches to recommended and respected Headhunters is certainly a channel Senior Execs should consider. Clearly there are lots of individual Headhunters and Headhunting firms, no one firm dominates the market which can make it a challenge in itself for the Exec due to the volume. It is important to note that most Exec Search firms are client driven, retained by clients to find people as opposed to helping Execs find jobs. With this in mind, we believe it is important to make contact with as many relevant Headhunters as possible so you are on their radar and informed when relevant roles arise.

3 – How to Approach a Headhunter?

Emailing multiple Headhunters your CV to introduce yourself, or sending connection requests is probably not the best way of getting on their radar fast. Exec Search firms receive multiple approaches each day. It helps if someone you both know can make an introduction on your behalf. We would recommend calling first and introducing yourself before sending in your CV.

4 – Applying for Roles that you See Advertised Online

This is a minefield. If you see a relevant senior position advertised, we recommend picking up the phone and speaking to the Hiring Manager / Recruiter first to check the status and fit. You will be surprised how many Hiring Managers / Recruiters will not even respond.

Do NOT send your CV until you have had a dialogue either verbal or written with the Hiring Manager or Recruiter first, if they do not respond then they do not deserve the privilege of receiving your CV.

If you fire out your CV to multiple roles you spot, then you will immediately lose control and often never receive a reply for a variety of reasons. Remember your CV is a precious document containing much personal data about you, be careful where and to whom you send it too.

5- Other Channels

Other channels that can help increase your pipeline of job opportunities (and you will need a healthy one) include contacting or being introduced to Venture Capital and Private Equity firms, attending relevant business events (we host various events, click here to register) / networking opportunities and of course making direct C / VP level approaches to relevant firms who you believe your skills would be of interest to.

6 – What do the Figures Say?

Below is the result of a survey we carried out last year, having asked over 300 UK Senior SAAS commercial leaders how they found their last job opportunity:

How did you find your last Senior UK Job?

The results show that the personal contact came first with 40%, followed by using Headhunters (33%). Only 5% found their last role via an internet job posting and 10% were approached directly by an Internal Recruiter.

Further, when we observe some of the main European countries, the picture is a little different. The Headhunter channel seems to perform best in all the countries researched, followed by the personal network. Applying to jobs online appears to have more success in Spain and France compared to the Netherlands, Germany and of course the UK.

7 – Conclusion?

In conclusion, looking for that next senior position can almost be like a full time sales job in itself! Establishing the right quality contacts and getting in front of the right people is important. The personal contact / old-network works extremely well followed by strong Headhunter relationships and with a good mix of all the above!

Ben Watkins is a Director of European Headhunting Firm, Intrinsic Executive Search, placing Senior Commercial Executives for SaaS /Software firms across Europe since 1997. 

Visit us here… or drop Ben an if you are looking for support or advice in senior European hiring projects >> email:

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