How the C-level managers are looking for a job? Examples of good practice

How the C-level managers are looking for a job? Examples of good practice

COVID-19 took us all by surprise, wreaking havoc not only in terms of health but also in terms of work. Just a few weeks ago, management staff was making strategic decisions about the company’s development, planned investments, and outlined competence areas to be filled in recruitment processes. At present, in many industries, strategic decisions are still made, but unfortunately, they concern completely different areas.

Both, my colleagues and myself, the headhunters recruiting management staff, are currently receiving far more calls from candidates than from clients. Representatives of both groups are often the same people: CEOs, HR Managers, or Purchasing Managers, who have changed the role of the client to that of the candidate. The crisis is a fact, although each of the industries has so far been affected differently. The effects of the crisis are company liquidations and cost-cutting, which regard not only specialized positions but also high-level ones.

How does or how should management staff look for a job? There are several points worth mentioning that can be applied among most managers, not just board members.

Networking and recommendations

There is no stronger tool in the job search process, as well as in the process of finding candidates in the recruitment processes commissioned to us, headhunters, than market recommendations. An effective headhunter recruiting at a higher level is based mainly on a network of contacts built up over the years, among which they gather recommendations of the strongest candidates on the market. For example, my network on LinkedIn is made up of 27 thousand connections. Do I know all these people? Of course not, but I know those to whom I will be returning with professional offers, and these are representatives of management staff, as well as those whom I will ask for recommendations now or in the future. So how should a candidate manager look for a job?

A Managing Director who has lost their job will not start their search by looking through job offers. Why? Because they won’t find anything this way. These types of offers are in the hands of headhunters, and we don’t publish job offers online. The candidate will also not send their resume to the headhunters in first order, because they will fear, often rightly so, that they will be branded as a manager for who “something didn’t work out”. (I will elaborate on this in the next section).

It will therefore be most sensible to use business networks. However, before you make a few calls, you will need to answer a number of important questions about your expected job, the position you are interested in, your company culture, your industry and many others that will enable you to determine your career goal. In the next step, they will contact a group of selected managers, signaling their readiness to take on a new challenge, while gathering information about available job offers.

The networking tree

Many years ago, I participated in a training course during which I learned the term “networking tree”. The use of the networking tree is about reaching the decision-maker in a company that is of interest to us directly, using the people connected to it.

Imagine a situation in which the Managing Director is told that company XYZ is looking for a CEO, so far unofficially.  There are two ways to reach the decision makers:

  1. Using the LinkedIn – and contacting the Board Members at the company’s headquarters, including the Global HR Director, to signal our readiness to take on the role.
  2. Using the Networking Tree – checking out our personal network of contacts at the XYZ. We may not know anyone at this company, but we might know someone who knows someone on the Board of Directors in Poland or at the Main Headquarters. Contacting the first person in the chain of connections will result in us talking to the next person. The use of this contact may lead to recommending us directly to the decision-maker, which will automatically make our position in the recruitment process stronger. This is how we become a candidate by recommendation.

Contact with a group of C-level headhunters

I’m going back to the topic of sending a message and resume to a group of headhunters. Last week I read an article in which my colleague spoke about sending my resume to the headhunters by management staff: “The worst thing a candidate for a higher position can do is to send their resume to headhunters. They will automatically fall to the worse, second category.” There is definitely some truth to this, because our first thought is – what went wrong? However, it is quite stereotypical to assume in advance that a negative situation has happened. Negative, meaning, the candidate’s fault. A lot could have happened: unethical behavior of the owners, the imposition of a strategy, the implementation of which would have been detrimental to the well-being of the team, loss of financing in the company. The headhunter’s task is to verify the reasons behind their need to change their job. Nevertheless, I agree with my colleague that we are the ones to “chase the rabbit”, not the other way around. That’s why we more often get our hands on resumes of B-level candidates. CEO applications are rare.

However, it is not harmful, and even advisable, to be visible on the labor market. It is worth having headhunters in the network of contacts, who can have access to job offers we are interested in, and it is best to know them personally. C-level candidates take great care to build lasting business relations with headhunters. As a result they are always on the ball and do not leave the market despite their stable position in the organization. This model results in our client also becoming our candidate.

Either you are on LinkedIn or you don’t exist?

Strong words that trigger a desire to immediately leave this network and certainly definitely do not encourage you to set up a profile. The fact is, there are no top executives on this portal. Is that a mistake? Not necessarily. The unexpected creation of a profile on LinkedIn by the CEO of a public listed company could cause an unjustified suspicion that they are opening up to the possibility of changing their job. Such an action could even lead to a decrease in the value of stocks on the stock exchange. This is one of the reasons why C-level recruitment processes must remain confidential.

Taking into account that I am directing this article not only to the top management, but above all to the broadly understood managerial staff, I advise to use LinkedIn as a strong point in the job search process. A well-prepared profile on LinkedIn basically replaces a resume. It is worth developing it in a clear manner, emphasizing our skills and experience. A systematically built network of contacts will broaden our “reach”, which is tantamount to the visibility of our profile in the process of searching for it before Researchers. Let’s not forget about having headhunters in our contacts. Their network will then become our network.

Be ready. Always.

Depending on our professional position on the labor market, the power of the network, the market situation and many other aspects, we will find a job sooner or later. However, let us remember that fewer managerial positions are available on the market than specialist ones. Fortunately, the labor market is never dead, even in a recession. Not every manager can handle a crisis situation and a competent successor will be sought. Some positions will be liquidated, but new ones will be created, requiring a different set of skills. It is worth being prepared for different situations and not acting ad hoc. Therefore, dear candidate, always be ready for a change, so that you find yourself in a situation where finding a new job will only require two calls as quickly as possible. This is my sincere wish to everyone!

Monika Ciesielska
President at IMSA Search Global Partners. An experienced consultant in the recruitment of the management staff, including board members, and a leader of the recruiting team in the IT/Tech area. Enthusiast of digital transformation of HR processes. Podcaster at "Skrzydlaty HR" and "Top Leaders Club".
About the author