Exactly why Job Advertising Doesn’t Attract the Best Senior Talent

Several years ago when I started my career in Executive Search, attracting talented candidates for my client’s roles was easy. Having spent time with my client understanding their own 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 correct media in which to place the advert. I was so successful I received overseas trips and company honours for selling advertising space. This particular coupled with a little search work meant that I had a 98% success rate in completing assignments.
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When you compare this for an industry average of 70% then it is easy to see why I had clients beating a path to my doorway.

As the years progressed though I discovered that fewer people were applying to ads 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. Within the last ten years this is a trend that has ongoing and today only 10% of individuals we consider for our clients assignments originate from through advertisements.

So what has changed? Well in 1997 McKinsey coined the phrase “war for talent”. In essences they said in their research that talent is in limited supply which 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 more critical. Attracting and retaining the best talent in any industry is now a major 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 case in the financial services sector where products 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 from the information age has begun. At one time a company’s most valuable assets were concrete for example property or machinery. Now for many organisations especially those within the financial services industry intangible assets like intellectual capital, brand, and latest ideas are at the heart of their business. These new intangible assets are clearly underpinned by talent and the organisation that has the best talent will perform better than competitors.

There has recently been a significant increase in the number of places a person might look for a job. When I first started in executive search, senior executive advertisement non-executive directors made themselves known to executive search practitioners and everyone else applied for jobs through national or even local newspapers or via expert trade press. Now there are so many choices as to where to look for a job it is confusing for anybody wanting to advertise or even look for a new opportunity. As part of the 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 in order to sort the wheat from the skin and as such the most talented individuals believe I can’t be bothered with this and end up not applying. This is where a professional 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 particular CV’s to every Tom, Dick plus Harry a good executive search advisor can identify, approach, assess and sell your opportunity to the indirect market of individuals who are not applying to job advertisements. It is for these reasons that work advertisements no longer work to attract senior talent.

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