As a senior executive, finding and landing the perfect job traditionally takes a whole lot of time and effort. With businesses freezing or even reducing headcount in view of the coming economic downturn, executive job search is now harder than ever before — and the majority of the senior executives who attended the Page Executive webinar on 17 September 2020 agreed with the sentiment. 

Titled ‘The Executive Search: New Opportunities for Asia’s Senior Leaders’, nearly 250 senior executives from across the Asia-Pacific region attended the exclusive event, which brought together a panel of talent acquisition leaders to share best practices and potential pitfalls regarding executive job search. 

In case you missed the webinar, here are some of the key takeaways from the session. 

The changing face of hiring

The webinar began with a question posed by Steve Parkes, Senior Partner at Page Executive Hong Kong and host of the event: What is the greatest challenge you face during an executive job search? According to the results, 65% of attendees said that they received ‘limited or no response’ from prospective employers. ‘Difficulty to reach appropriate contacts’ and ‘the inability for search firms to find appropriate openings’ also received 54% apiece. 

These results did not come as a surprise for Shauna Bull, Regional Account Director, Search & Staffing Asia Pacific at LinkedIn. One reason, according to Bull, is the fact that many senior executives either under utilise their LinkedIn accounts or have neglected them altogether. This despite the fact that more than 80% of attendees said that online profiles were ‘absolutely essential’ when it comes to searching for a job. 

One quick fix is to share recommended articles, unique insights and relevant industry news. According to Bull, this alone will boost your LinkedIn account’s impressions and engagements by 11.6 and 16.5 times respectively. Bull also recommended senior executives to interact authentically with their audience, use video to increase engagement, as well as to focus on topics other industry leaders care for. “Make sure that your profile is built out as much as possible,” Bull suggested. “Recruiters are filtering by skill and employment history, so the more filled out your LinkedIn profile is, the more likely you will be seen.” 

Speaking of the changing landscape of hiring, Anne-Marie McCaughan, Greater China Recruitment Head at GlaxoSmithKline, also shared her thoughts on the rise of virtual interviews. “It’s a positive change for everybody. It cuts out extra layers of work. Smart recruiting process is shortening the hiring process, and video is a step in a simpler direction. It’s not a grim reality that people make it out to be,” she said. “The technology is now more sophisticated. We are improving the quality of assessment. Hiring platforms now allow us to filter people and take out some of the inherent biases.” 

Clockwise from top left: Steve Parkes, Senior Partner at Page Executive Hong Kong; Jennifer Xu, Regional Human Resources Director, Asia Pacific at Survitec Group; Mabel Tang, the Head of Talent Acquisition, Asia Pacific at Moët Hennessy; Anne-Marie McCaughan, Greater China Recruitment Head at GlaxoSmithKline; Ash Mishra, Head of Talent Management, Asia Pacific, Ericsson; Jon Goldstein, Senior Partner, Page Executive 

Back to basics

Instead of waiting around for recruiters or prospective employers to approach you, Jennifer Xu, Regional Human Resources Director, Asia Pacific at Survitec Group, suggested a more proactive approach in the meantime. “For executives looking for a job right now, they need to give themselves a target or timeline, and what they want to do while searching for a new role,” she said. “I think courses and consultancy roles, or even helping a friend’s business, will certainly be beneficial.”

Something else that will aid your job search is to do research — and lots of it, too. Ash Mishra, Head of Talent Management, Asia Pacific at Ericsson, said that research indicates interest. Aside from knowing about the company and what’s happening in the industry you’re applying to, Mishra advised job seekers to learn about the role and how the company hires. “Companies have characteristics. Look at other similar roles within the same company. Where do they come from? What are they like?” And while there isn’t a ‘Million Dollar Question’ that will impress the interviewer, Mishra said that one of the best questions interviewees can ask is this: “If I get this offer, what’s the biggest challenge in the first 100 days?” 

Aside from taking up courses and doing prior research, it helps to also go back to the basics: your CV. Mabel Tang, the Head of Talent Acquisition, Asia Pacific at Moët Hennessy, revealed that there are a whole host of mistakes she continues to see in the CVs of senior executives. For example, too much time is spent on describing roles and responsibilities and not enough on impact and accomplishments. “If you were the Director of Sales, your title already tells people what your responsibilities are. Don’t waste time describing what it is again,” she warned. “As businesses evolve, they start to look for people who drive changes. So if you have experience in business transformation or creating things from scratch, highlight it. Even if it’s a small project team, it’s an accomplishment.” Also, CVs should never be longer than three pages, and online templates are readily available to keep the length in check. 

Tang also shared the things that job seekers shouldn’t include in their CVs, chief of which being obsolete skills. “This is especially true for technical skills. Some systems were popular in the 1990s or 2000s, but they are no longer in use. If you are still putting those skills in your CV, hiring managers will know. Relevancy is very important,” she explained. Ultimately, though, Tang compared CVs to concert tickets. “The ticket is very important until the concert begins, then it isn’t so important anymore,” she said. “The CV is just 10% of your job search. It’s more important to have a good relationship with your recruiter.” 

It’s a two-way street

With that said, how do you find a good recruiter to work with in the first place? “You have to kiss a few frogs,” said Jon Goldstein, Senior Partner at Page Executive. “You need to search and select, spend some time with them, ask your friends, ask for referrals. It’s not the [recruitment] company, but the person you work with. Chemistry is important, but it’s not just that. If they are experts and can add value, I would still recommend the recruiter.” Goldstein added that industry relevance and track record are two key things to watch out for in a good recruiter. 

However, a good working relationship is also a two-way street. “Don’t expect the recruiter to do everything. Come with questions, companies and jobs you are into. Be as open and honest as you can,” Goldstein advised. “It’s like going to the doctor. If you don’t tell them everything, how are they supposed to help you? They need to know the full story.”

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