Many years ago when I started my career in Executive Search, attracting skilled candidates for my client’s placements was easy. Having spent time with my client understanding their particular business, the position they were looking to fill up and the key deliverables of the part, I simply put together an advert which usually highlighted this and then chose the proper media in which to place the advertisement. I was so successful I received overseas trips and company honours for selling advertising space. This particular coupled with a little search work supposed that I had a 98% success rate in completing assignments. When you compare this for an industry average of 70% it is easy to see why I had customers beating a path to my door.
As the years progressed though I found that fewer people were applying to advertisements and I had to do more and more search function. I still maintained my 98% success rate but it was becoming obvious that 50% of my applicants were now coming from referrals. In the last ten years this is a trend that has continuing and today only 10% of individuals we consider for our clients assignments originate from through advertisements.
So what has changed? Properly in 1997 McKinsey coined the particular phrase “war for talent”. In essences they said in their research that will talent is in limited supply and that attracting the right people was going to becoming fiercely competitive. Having great managerial talent has always been important, but now in challenging economic times it is ever more critical. Attracting and retaining the very best talent in any industry is now a significant factor that CEO’s across the globe need to address. For many organisations the mantra of “Our people are our greatest asset” has never been truer and it is especially the situation in the financial services sector where items are complex and difficult for the layman to understand.
Also since the first McKinsey report in 1997 we have seen the world evolve and the dawn of the information age has begun. At one time the company’s most valuable assets were concrete for example property or machinery. Today for many organisations especially those in the financial services industry intangible assets like intellectual capital, brand, and latest ideas are at the heart of their company. These new intangible assets are usually clearly underpinned by talent and the organisation that has the best talent will perform better than competitors.
There has already been a significant increase in the number of places an individual can look for a job. When I first were only available in executive search, senior executive ad non-executive directors made themselves proven to executive search practitioners and everyone else applied for jobs through national or even local newspapers or via specialist trade press.
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Now there are so many choices as to where to look for a job that it is confusing for anybody wanting to advertise or even look for a new opportunity. As part of our research for this blog post I Googled “financial services jobs” and got 1, 120, 000, 000 potential hits. This is before you take into account the conventional means of print advertising.
This dilemma has led to what I like to phrase advertising overload. It is impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff and as such the most talented individuals believe I can’t be bothered with this and end up not applying. This is where an experienced executive search consultant can give significant assistance to a client. Rather than competing with everybody else for the limited skill pool that is happy to send their own CV’s to every Tom, Dick plus Harry a good executive search advisor can identify, approach, assess promote your opportunity to the indirect marketplace of individuals who are not applying to job advertisements. It is for these reasons that job advertisements no longer work to entice senior talent.