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Is the Hidden Executive Job Market 'Fair'?

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In a recent article in the FT, ‘Be on the radar to secure a top job‘ Dina Medland discusses the well known fact that the majority of top executive jobs (Director, VP, CEO etc..) are not advertised. Instead, these jobs are placed by executive search firms, with candidates often being found through research techniques, personal referrals and networking.

Medland, using a number of sources to back this assumption, finishes with the open question, ‘Is it right that many posts are not advertised? Does it create an exclusive club of insiders?’

To get an industry leading insight into Medland’s enquiry about the fairness of hiring for top executive jobs, I asked Peter Felix, President of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), to give us his view:

"In response to Dina Medland’s article it is quite right to say that many senior positions are not advertised. The reason for this is that advertising executive positions can often be an inappropriate method to seek out a selection of the very best candidates, even though, for public policy reasons, it is commonly used for public or quasi public appointments.
 
Not all senior executives will respond to advertisements and thus some of the best candidates may not be aware of the job opportunity in question or may not wish to be considered as an “applicant” to then be rejected. An executive search “candidate” has a different relationship with the recruitment process and will be more likely to spend the time required to pursue the opportunity once their interest has been sparked.
 
Subtlety, confidentiality and exclusivity are key elements in senior executive recruitment and are difficult to achieve with a broad advertisement to the mass market. The process involved in advertising also means that search consultants spend considerable time in sifting out potential candidates from the often large number of applicants rather than networking and seeking referrals on the best candidates in the market. In summary it is a different process.
 
Most senior executives recognize this and therefore like to be accessible to executive search consultants who, in the main, are retained to conduct high level appointments in the private sector. One way to do this is to be visible in one’s own particular sector or industry.  Another is to reach out to search firms to ensure that one’s career details are on record and easily accessible.  The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) facilitates this by offering its global Bluesteps service (www.bluesteps.com) which is only accessible by the quality search firms which are admitted to the association – currently 300 in 74 countries worldwide.
 
Given the dynamics of the senior executive market it is unlikely that the most senior appointments in the private sector will ever be subject to advertising.  Thus the hidden job market will continue to be an important focus for any ambitious and talented senior executive."

Peter M. Felix, AESC
Peter FelixPeter M. Felix has been President of the worldwide Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), based in New York, since 1998. Mr. Felix is a former executive search consultant, who has had extensive experience in association management, in management consulting and in industrial management.


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