Executive Search Experts Reveal Top Tips to Get Headhunted in Uncertain Times.

19 November 2019

Executive Search Experts Reveal Top Tips to Get Headhunted in Uncertain Times.

Novo executive search survey results

Before we get to the top tips to get headhunted during uncertain times, let’s take a look at results of two surveys, one polling 1000 people in the UK (general population), and one polling 100 UK executives.

“The times they are a-changin’…” 

The surprise election of Donald Trump. A shock referendum result that began the Brexit process. Impeachment in the US. Deadlock in the UK parliament.

It’s fair to say we’re living in uncertain times.

What will happen to the economy after Brexit? What if Donald Trump is found guilty during impeachment hearings? Will we be able to make trade agreements with Europe? Will America rescue us with a trade deal?

There are so many “What ifs?” at the moment, that there seems to be a rising feeling of uncertainty amongst politicians and the general public alike.

But what does this uncertainty mean for executives looking to change jobs? Is it a good time to look for a new role? Can you still get headhunted during the current political and economic upheaval?

This article seeks to answer these and other questions, drawing from the results of a survey of 1000 general employees and 100 executives, on the topic of changing jobs during the current uncertain climate.

How do People Feel About Changing Jobs Right Now?


Are you currently or soon to be looking for a new job? (1000 General Population) 

Top-line results: (1000 General Population)

  • 86% of people are not looking for a job
  • 14% of people want a new job

 The overall results from the 1000 general employees are pretty definitive. Only 8% of people are looking for a new job and 6% want a new job but are not looking right now.

By contrast, the results from the survey of the 100 UK executives paint a very different picture, with 70% currently seeking a new executive role.

executive search survey results

This disparity is interesting and suggests that while most of the general population are not looking for a new job, a large majority of executives are looking for a new role.

An explanation for this could be that people with more senior roles are less concerned about the impact of current political and economic uncertainty. Or perhaps they are concerned, but have a plan to avoid the effects. We’ll examine this in more detail below.

Is Brexit affecting your decision to look for a new job? (1000 General Population)


executive search survey - Brexit

UK general population survey results. A survey of UK executives tells a very different story, more on this later...

Top-line results: (1000 General Population)

  • 83% of people said No to Brexit affecting their decision to look for a new job
  • 6% believe there are not many jobs available due to Brexit
  • Nearly 9% of respondents are more likely to stay in a current role for job security, due to Brexit concerns. 

83% of people surveyed from the general population say that they don’t believe Brexit is affecting their decision to look for a new job. Ok, so maybe the uncertain times are not having as big an effect as first imagined.

The 100 UK executives surveyed gave very different answers to a similar question, as we’ll see later on in this report.

The Effects of Gender and Age on Perception of the Current Job Market

To find out more about the general population survey results, we also broke down the results in terms of gender and age.

Overall, women were less likely to be looking for a new job but were also less influenced by Brexit.

Age seems to be a bigger factor than gender when it comes to Brexit affecting the decision to find a new job:

Age results:


Is Brexit affecting your decision to look for a new job?

Over one-third of people in the age bracket 45-54 think that Brexit means there are fewer jobs available. In general, it appears that the older generations are less likely to be job-hunting as a result of uncertain times.

So, amongst the general population, it’s fair to say that in our survey, most people appear contented in their current roles, and of those that are not, older people are less likely to change because of worries about the future.

How Do Executives View The Current Situation?

Questions on how the current economic & political effect has effected UK executive employees

Executive Search Survey - Seeking new role

Executive Search Survey - Policital Impact 1

Executive Search Survey - Policital Impact 2

Our survey results reveal that there are mixed feelings about changing roles in the UK amongst executives right now. 

A total of 70% of executives are looking for a new role. This figure may seem positive, perhaps indicating a healthy availability of executives available for roles, and plenty of roles opening up as people transition into new roles. 

However, when you look a little deeper into the survey results, a slightly different picture emerges. The most striking statistic is that 84% of execs have considered taking a role in another country. Could fears over Brexit, justified or not, be the cause of this high number of execs willing to relocate?

There is also a perception amongst executives (again this could be real or imagined) that it is currently harder to get a new role, with 62% of people feeling this way. When asked whether the current economic and political turmoil in the UK has made executives feel less safe in their role, 71% replied yes, perhaps fearing the possibility of downsizing and streamlining if the economy takes a hit.

Executive Search Survey - Important job features

Finally, and perhaps most revealing of all, executives were asked to rank certain factors in order of importance when moving roles, from 1 being the most important to 6 being the least. From this, we can see that increased salary is the biggest draw, however this is followed very closely by flexibility and company culture. Perhaps, in these uncertain times, people are less focused on career progression and perks, and more interested in working for a company where there is mutual trust and a positive culture.

Interpreting the results 

The problem is that nobody really knows what will happen when, or indeed if, Brexit finally happens. There may be a short period of instability followed by a rapid return to normal growth. Some analysts predict a long period of instability and negative growth, with a slow return to growth. Others still predict very little change in the markets, both stocks and currency, or even a period of increased growth.

It’s the uncertainty that is causing a negative perception of the executive jobs market. The truth is – there are still plenty of executive jobs out there and there is movement between roles. In fact, a recent BPI report revealed that the time taken to change executive roles, which includes job-hunting, has dropped markedly for the under 50 age group.

The main difference in today’s job market is that you may have to work a bit harder to get head-hunted, as employers may be more hesitant to take on new employees unless absolutely sure that they’re a perfect fit.

Summary of the results

If we compare the two sets of results, from the general public and executives, it seems that executives are far more likely to consider switching jobs and roles and are less deterred by the uncertainty of our times.

This may be due to the fact that executives are more likely to be “risk-takers” or they may feel more confident that there will be employers looking for their skill-sets. 

Whatever the reason, we can conclude that: 

  • Uncertain times shouldn’t put you off changing roles, especially as an executive, and
  • There are plenty of other executives prepared to change roles, so vacancies and opportunities will present themselves, and companies will still be headhunting for executive talent.

How to Stand Out & Get Noticed by Executive Search Firms

With 70% of executives surveyed looking to switch roles, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. One of the best ways to land your dream executive job, is to get noticed by headhunters.

Being one of the select few that are actively headhunted puts you head and shoulders above other candidates. 

Read on for invaluable advice from several of Novo Executive Search and Selection’s directors, on how YOU can get noticed by executive search firms in today’s climate.

Top Tips For Getting Headhunted – By Executive Search Experts

To help you get headhunted, even during these uncertain times, our executive search directors have shared the following top tips:


One of the most effective ways of being recognised and identified as a talent, is to participate actively in dialogue within your field/industry. Speaking at industry events or conferences, having articles published or being quoted in relevant articles will all increase your visibility.

Recognised as an expert

 Although the cultural fit between an individual and a potential employer will be a crucial element of the recruitment decision, most search consultants will be seeking individuals with specific skills and experience. If you’re acknowledged as an expert or specialist, you have a greater chance of being identified.


Recognised for your success

The more successful you are, the more likely it is that you’ll be approached by a search firm. People who stand out are easier to find. What matters is what other people think of you; your colleagues, your former colleagues, your competitors. Are there enough people out there who will recommend you and suggest your name if they are asked their opinion?


Network consistently and for the long term

Many people talk about networking, fewer actually do anything about it. Networking effectively amongst your peer group and across your industry is a powerful way to increase your chances of being noticed. Make an effort to stay in touch with talented and well-connected colleagues over the long term. This is far more genuine and more likely to reward you than the ‘suddenly enthusiastic’ networking that people often end up trying when they need a job.


Social networking

 LinkedIn, other social networking sites and search engines have changed some elements of the executive search process. Whilst the traditional ‘black book’ approach remains valid, most researchers will also use a plethora of online tools as part of their ‘long-list’ building process. As a result, it is advisable to build yourself a compelling social media profile.

Ensure also, that any of your articles, industry comments and/or PR is visible online. Over-exposure is not advisable but some visible presence online will lead to more executive search specialists finding you more often.


Executive search vs. executive recruitment

Executive recruitment consultants, the people who helped you earlier in your career, tend to work on a relatively high volume of roles and rely on a database of candidates, advertising and networking to ‘fill jobs’. This type of recruiter is easier to contact and engage with, as they may be trying to build a large and varied talent pool and they will be happy for you to be part of their database until they have something suitable to present to you.


Don’t call us, we’ll call you

Genuine executive search campaigns are intended to find the best possible talent for a specific role and then persuade the most appropriate individuals to consider the role. Whether or not an individual is actively seeking to change jobs is normally irrelevant. The norm is for the consultant/researcher to call you and this partly explains why you might not find it easy to get in touch with them. 

Most executive search professionals are specialists, so if you are highly relevant to their expertise, they are likely to be happy to talk to you and or meet you. If you are not of direct relevance to them and/or they are not handling a suitable mandate, you may find that they politely explain that they will struggle to meet you. 


Use a search firm for your own recruitment

One of the easiest ways of developing a relationship with an executive search firm is to use them to recruit for you. The strongest professional relationships are often those that are truly beneficial to both parties. If you have discovered a search firm relevant for your own career development, contact them when you are hiring. They will take your call then! If you are known to that firm they may well contact you again on a future search.

Conflicts of interest and ‘off limits’ protocols are taken very seriously by professional search firms and this does limit some of the effectiveness of this approach. Nevertheless, if you are keen to invest in long term relationships, this approach is often successful.


Are you a client or a candidate?

For most people, the answer to this question is both, but not always at the same time. Executive search consultants frequently end up placing people that they have met as clients and also work for clients they first meet as candidates. It is worth remembering that a talented recruiter may well be able to help your career as well as helping you find talent for your organisation.

If, in the past, you had decided not to take a call from a recruiter in case they were looking for business, they might not take your call when you are looking for a job. The same is true in reverse, of course, so the best advice for all of us is to take the time to communicate with each other. 

Take a long-term approach to building strong, mutually-beneficial relationships with colleagues and key recruiters. Try to be visible and ensure that your key skills and achievements are in the public domain.

  • Get recommendations and make sure your network knows how open you are to new opportunities
  • Do your research and tailor CV to the opportunity
  • Ensure your profile outlines results and value not tasks
  • Set the ‘job seeking preferences’ correctly on the LinkedIn Profile Settings page
  • Make your LinkedIn profile relevant, accurate and current 

Your Online Brand

Treat LinkedIn as your marketing board. Update it on a daily basis with constructive and thought-provoking articles, comments, likes and invitations to new search consultant contacts. 

Tailoring a CV

 Don’t apply for everything and anything, as you’ll get known by recruiters and red-listed. Only apply for precise roles that really do match your exact discipline and marketplace experience. Try to speak with a particular recruitment contact who is advertising the role in advance of applying to precisely ascertain what the client would like to see upon a suitable CV.


Novo is an industry-leading executive search & selection company, with locations across the UK. With our client-led approach to executive search, we bring the benefit of many years of industry expertise from our team of individual sector experts.

Contact Novo: 0844 241 2064

Survey Data

The raw survey data PDFs are available below:


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