Passive candidates represent valuable prospects for employers needing to fill senior executive positions. But how do you ensure that you’ll be considered for these new opportunities?

I talked to BIE consultants Janet Musgrave, James Gherardi, and Eoin Canty, who gave their perspectives on how to boost your visibility to executive search firms, drawing on their own experience of recruiting in the HR, Supply Chain, and Finance functions.

As James says, “The key thing is this is a passive network that we’re dealing with, and most of the roles we are working on we don’t advertise, so you need to be proactive and on our radar in order to be considered for new opportunities."

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date

“We will often consult LinkedIn as part of the search process. Even if you’re only potentially looking, that needs to be up to date. That’s your shop window. What’s your experience? What can you bring to an organisation?” Eoin Canty, Finance

“Researchers will start with a number of resources. Our own internal database, third-party platforms, like LinkedIn, or MBA alumni lists. Make sure you’re on the radar to start with and can be found.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain

“Your LinkedIn profile needs to have a good level of content. It doesn’t need to be as in-depth as your CV. LinkedIn is better used for key career highlights.” Janet Musgrave, HR

Build your reputation as a thought leader

“Thought leadership isn't just about positioning yourself as a thought provoker in your peer group. It is also about building your visibility and credibility. We will look for people in a particular field who have been giving keynote speeches or speaking at specialist industry events. Don't be afraid to engage with a wider network about some of the things you’re doing and the challenges you’re experiencing.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain

“I like to keep abreast of who’s at industry events and who’s blogging on different issues. It’s always helpful to know what forums people are using and their networking channels.” Janet Musgrave, HR

“You can build your own internal reputation in the business you’re in too. In the modern world, functions are far more linked than they used to be, for example, I often speak to someone in HR and get referrals for supply chain people, similarly in finance for procurement.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain

Maintain your relationship with executive search firms

“The people who are always top of mind are those who stay in contact. It should be a two-way relationship. It’s good to be kept in the loop of what people are doing, if they’ve been working on a big M&A or D&I piece for example. If someone makes the effort to maintain the relationship, it demonstrates their personal ethics and relationship management skills.” Janet Musgrave, HR

“During the search process, you tend to build a really good relationship with the people on the short list because there is a lot of interaction for up to six months, or even longer in some cases. You might think the value of that relationship starts to dissipate after a few months into the placement, but whether successful or not, it’s good to continue building the relationship so we understand the journey you're going through. You can't expect regular updates whilst on the market for an opportunity, only to disappear once you have one, then re-emerge again when you are back on the market.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain

“What is really key is having face-to-face catch ups. It could be over a coffee, or even at their place of work. It’s actually tremendously helpful when someone asks me to come and meet them at their place of work so that I can see the environment they are currently working in.” Janet Musgrave, HR

“If a candidate has been in the same company for 10 or 15 years, they might feel their network has shrunk or moved on. In some ways, this shows the benefits of using an executive search firm as an advisor. Even if you’ve just landed a new job, it’s about taking that longer-term perspective too. When it comes to wanting to take that next move you can reach out to your contact in that executive search firm for advice on what’s happening in the market.” Eoin Canty, Finance

“It’s refreshing to engage with candidates who are curious about the market even when in a role and not actively searching.” Janet Musgrave, HR

“Executive search is different from transactional recruitment. We are there to advise and to help people. Don’t be afraid to use an executive search firm you trust as a sounding board, even if you’re not yet actively looking for your next position.” Eoin Canty, Finance

In summary

Boosting your visibility comes down to a combination of all these things we’ve discussed, from keeping in touch with executive recruiters to building your presence outside of that and by sharing your experiences with a wider network.

But for the most part, the key message is to maintain a two-way relationship with executive recruiters you trust, who you can look to for advice and tap into for market insights that could steer you towards your next opportunity.

“It’s a combination of all of these things we’ve been discussing. But I think the biggest thing is making sure you’ve got a good relationship with an executive recruiter, as that’s what will get you to the top of that shortlist more often than not. At a senior level, we don’t differentiate between ‘clients’ and ‘candidates’, we engage with people. Who are the top 10 rated people I know in this specialism? They are always the first to get that phone call.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain


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