Several years ago when I started my career in Executive Search, attracting skilled candidates for my client’s placements was easy. Having spent period with my client understanding their business, the position they were looking to fill up and the key deliverables of the part, I simply put together an advert which highlighted this and then chose the correct media in which to place the advert. I was so successful I gained overseas trips and company awards for selling advertising space. This particular coupled with a little search work intended that I had a 98% success rate in completing assignments. When you compare this to an industry average of 70% it is easy to see why I had customers 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 work. I still maintained my 98% success rate but it was becoming apparent that 50% of my candidates were now coming from referrals. Within the last ten years this is a trend that has continuing and today only 10% of individuals we consider for our clients assignments originate from through advertisements.
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So what has changed? Well in 1997 McKinsey coined the particular 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 bureaucratic talent has always been important, but now in challenging economic times it is ever 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 items are complex and difficult for the layman to understand.

Also since the first McKinsey report in 1997 we have noticed the world evolve and the dawn of the information age has begun. At one time the company’s most valuable assets were tangible for example property or machinery. Today for many organisations especially those in 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 already been a significant increase in the number of places an individual can look for a job. When I first started in executive search, senior executive advertisement non-executive directors made themselves recognized to executive search practitioners and everybody else applied for jobs through national or even local newspapers or via expert trade press. Now there are so many options as to where to look for a job that it is confusing for anybody wanting to advertise or look for a new opportunity. As part of the research for this blog post I Researched “financial services jobs” and obtained 1, 120, 000, 000 potential hits. This is before you take into account the conventional means of print advertising.

This confusion has led to what I like to expression advertising overload. It is impossible in order to sort the wheat from the skin and as such the most talented individuals think I can’t be bothered with this and end up not applying. This is where a professional executive search consultant can provide significant assistance to a client. Rather than contending with everybody else for the limited talent pool that is happy to send their CV’s to every Tom, Dick plus Harry a good executive search specialist can identify, approach, assess promote 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 bring in senior talent.