You have probably heard most executive jobs are either found through networking or by being "headhunted" by executive-level recruitment firms, also called search firms. Both leveraging your network and building relationships with a few executive recruiters in your industry are methods that can be highly effective for winning new opportunities. Both are without a doubt critical for executive-level professionals to include in their overall career management strategy. Both, however, do take considerable time — the results don’t happen overnight.
So what about job boards? I am often asked if job boards still work, and if they work at the executive level. Having founded one of the earliest online job boards for executives in 1995, I have a long-term perspective on the effectiveness of job boards. While I will always recommend prioritizing building your network and establishing relationships with targeted recruiters over submitting your resume into what is today often an online black hole, there are some things you should consider about job boards.
1. Job Boards As Part Of Your Strategy
Job boards and their effectiveness have changed significantly over the past decade. Job ad aggregation has increased the competition significantly. Senior-level job listings are likely to be found on multiple job boards. Even Google’s search engine now aggregates jobs from job boards all over the internet, including C-level positions, so thousands of other candidates are seeing the same job ads. Employers today often receive hundreds of responses to any one job post. You may be a fantastic executive-level candidate, but your resume still must get through the algorithms and applicant tracking systems (ATS) that filter the responses to an ad on an online job board.
That said, if you see a job on a job board that interests you, apply for it. Don’t just make this your sole job search channel -- make it a small part of your overall strategy. Understand that the odds of an executive landing a job from a job board are very low. You should also understand that, like with the rise of fake news, fake job ads are unfortunately quite real. Not all ads found on the internet are representative of real jobs or of an actual intent to hire externally. For the sake of compliance, some organizations post job openings publicly, even if there is an intent to hire from within.
2. Job Boards As Research
While the chances of an executive landing a job from an online ad are low, job boards can be useful beyond responding to job ads. Job boards can be an excellent source for company research. You can find valuable information about a company’s culture, their short and long-term objectives and their growth forecast all by assessing the public job ads posted by that company. Websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn both display job ads, but they also show hiring trends over time, reviews about the interview process and company culture and often disclose who the internal recruiters are for posted open positions. Executive candidates can use this information to gather intel, understand a company’s opportunities and pain points, and present themselves as the solution.
Executive candidates can also reverse engineer job ads from job boards to get as close as possible to the source. By copying text from a job ad on a job board and pasting into Google, one can often find the job ad directly on the hiring organization’s website. If you have an interest in working for that company, you may as well feed your career details directly to them. In the process, you may find out about related opportunities within that company that you may not have discovered on a job board.
3. Job Boards For Niche Roles
While the major online job boards are always going to present an executive candidate with low odds, there are also niche job boards for specific functions and industries. These job boards tend to have lower profiles and thus a lower volume of applicants. The odds of your resume reaching a human may be better if the job board is niche. Consider trade association job boards. There are also job boards for professionals in media and marketing and a plethora of targeted job boards for technology roles. While the volume of ads for jobs at executive-level will likely be low, you may stumble upon opportunities not found elsewhere.
Some executive search firms also advertise a few of their open searches. Most searches handled by retained executive search firms are confidential, so what you find advertised is only likely a tiny percentage of the actual roles that that firm helps organizations fill. Also, if a position is being handled by a search firm, you as a candidate do not “apply” in the traditional sense. However, you can reach out to the firm or recruiter handling the search, express your interest in being considered as a candidate for the role or similar roles and offer to be a resource of information by sharing insights you are seeing in your company, industry or geography. This helps establish a relationship with the recruiter who will be more likely to have you in mind if a similar search comes up in the future.
While job boards have had their place in the past, the odds of winning a new executive-level job through a job board today are incredibly low. I encourage executive candidates to reframe how they think about job boards and their possible uses. Devoting a greater percentage of time to building a strong network, understanding how to leverage that network and building a few relationships with executive recruiters will almost always provide a better return than relying on job boards.
This article was originally published on Forbes.