6 Reasons Why Executives Should Not Apply for Advertised Jobs

As you might know, I am not a big fan of screening through job boards and simply sending out your resume to job postings as I believe it’s the single most ineffective job search strategy today. It’s especially ineffective for executives and people with a more general profile as there is much more competition than for a job as a rocket scientist. This is why I want to open your mind a little towards a different approach and give you practical ideas why applying for advertised job openings is so ineffective.


1. The 80/20 Rule

Many experts in the HR industry state that only approximately 20% of all jobs which are filled are advertised. The other 80% are in the hidden job market. It’s hidden because you can’t see the jobs. They are filled by exclusive recruitment mandates, through introductions form friends of friends, internal candidates and through many other forms of relationships.

For executives, this percentage might even be higher because the personality and alignment with the vision of the company is much more important than skills only. Therefore employers rely on recommendations and hire executive search firms to work on exclusive mandates. These jobs will many times not be advertised by the executive recruiter as he already has a network that he can tap into. Also, think about the last time you saw a CEO, CIO or CFO position advertised anywhere. It’s not very common.


2. Your Competition

This might be obvious but gets overlooked by many people. I have a very good friend who is a finance recruiter in Switzerland. In 2012, his clients received around 50 CVs per position on average. They even said that many of them were very good. This decreases his chances of success as a recruiter but also yours as a direct applicant for these positions as the competition is not only bigger in quantity but also in quality.

He also told me that when he advertised a CFO position, he received almost as many applications as for an accountant position and the quality of the resumes was even better than for the accountant roles. The applicants were even open minded about cutting their salary for the next job. Therefore, I don’t think there is a shortage of CFOs out there looking for a job. 

However, this does usually not make it easier for a company to hire somebody. It’s pretty easy to pick the best candidate from three applicants if one of them is average and the other two are great. However, if 50 CFOs apply for the same job and many of them are great, how is the employer supposed to judge which one to invite for an interview. They can’t do 20-30 initial interviews for such a position, at least they should not.

What do you think will happen if the hiring manager has 30 great CVs on his desk with CFOs and somebody walks into her office with a resume in her hands and says “Hey Bob, this is Janet, a good friend of mine, and I think she would be great for that job, have a look at her CV”? If I were the hiring manager, I would certainly interview Janet before any other applicant.


3. The Personality Factor

The higher you go up in the ladder, the more important seems to be your personality. If you work at an assembly line in a factory, personality is secondary. If you work as the Head of Business Development for a large corporation, your personality is crucial.

How is HR supposed to judge if your personality matches with the hiring manager and the company, if the only thing she has in front of her is a sheet of paper called resume? And what if there are 50 of them, do you think it makes it easier?

If you apply for the Head of Business Development position at my company and I am your direct line manager, I expect you to call me or introduce yourself to me. I want you to find your way to me directly. I want to see that you have the guts to do the hard work because otherwise, I might think you can’t do this job.


4. Executive CV vs. Technical CV

If you apply for a job as a very technical person at a company, your CV will be searched for keywords with CTRL+F at some stage to find the key terms that are mentioned in the job description. However, it’s much harder to do that for an executive position as you have less of these keywords and many more variations. Java can almost only be written this way. A country manager can also be a managing director, general manager, country head, head of something, senior VP, etc. 

When you get introduced by somebody to the hiring manager or get in touch directly with him, it’s much less likely he will do such a search but simply talk to you.


5. You Prove That You Are Average

If you simply apply for a job opening that is advertised and do not follow up or call the responsible person first, you proof that you don’t care much about the company and the position. You also proof that you are as good as everybody else who uses this approach and it’s a very mediocre approach. 

Exceptional positions go to exceptional people. How is HR supposed to see that you are exceptional based on a sheet of paper? You have to walk a different path if you want to show you are unique.


6. You Don’t Have Pole Position

If you walk the same path as everybody else, you miss out on the time factor. You can be the first applicant to apply for an advertised job opening but if there has been somebody else who talked to the hiring manager or HR before the job was advertised, this person still has a head start on you. And if you are the 143rd person to apply, even worse.

By getting introduced to a hiring manager at any time and then keeping in touch, your chances are high that she will think of you for this job before she advertises it.


An Alternative

I want to show you an alternative path. You don’t necessarily have to apply for advertised job openings to get a new job, maybe you even shouldn’t. In my Ebook, “Career Excellence Through Relationships” – How to Build Your Network in Switzerland for Career Success I teach how to tap into the hidden job market in Switzerland and build a strong network in Switzerland to get introduced to key people in your industry.


In the next blog post I will go into details about how you can get introduced to hiring managers and HR by using a different approach than the conventional one. If you want to get notified as soon as the blog post is published, sign up for the email updates below and receive the 1st chapter of the Ebook “Career Excellence Through Relationships” for free.


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