Is Your Message Getting Through?

Remember the childhood game of “telephone” where at one end of a line of kids someone would whisper a message in the next child’s ear? One by one the kids would pass the message down, whispering it each time, until it arrived at the other end. More often than not, the final message was completely different than the initial message, garbled as it was in transmission.

That is a good metaphor for what happens in the executive job market.

Executives seeking to change careers sometimes complain to us that they have been sending resumes and contacting executive recruiters for months without any progress. We listen carefully to see whether it is the content, the messaging, or the audience that may be leading to this result.

Our experience is that it is typically a bit of each.

As to content, simply regurgitating your executive history as a list of dates, titles, and companies may be how most executives structure their resumes, but that merely chronological recounting of sometimes ancient history will not usually pique hiring managers’ interest.

Frankly, that is not what they look for. They are looking for relevance. Does the candidate tick the necessary boxes on the position profile, yes or no?

This usually requires a radical rethink of the executive’s history, converting it into accomplishments and quantifiable benefits for previous employers. These are at least more likely to tick more of the required boxes.

Then there is the messaging. Responding to on-line ads is time consuming and can be very frustrating, not to mention inefficient if you are not properly briefed on getting through the algorithms that guard the gate—the so-called ATS systems—which often require specific document formats and are inevitably looking for very specific key words.

Face it: most submissions are never seen by a human being. This is avoidable but requires special knowledge of how to structure the message.

As one of our successfully landed clients phrased it: “What you don’t do often, you don’t do well. For me, that was job seeking […] I’d made only three or four career changes in my entire life, but The Barrett Group does this for a living. They know all the tricks in the book.” (Read More.)

The audience for your content and message is also a prime consideration. Imagine one group of hiring managers with piles and piles of applicants. They can afford to be choosy and prescriptive about the scope of the position, the title, the compensation, and the benefits. After all, for them, it is a buyer’s market.

Then there is the larger audience: imagine would-be hiring managers who have a challenge, an obstacle, a gap… something is holding back the optimal performance of their business or unit, and they have not yet quite put their finger on it… not yet committed it to a position profile… not yet shared it with HR…

This is the large and always vibrant unpublished market where fully 75% of our clients land because we have helped them understand how to discover, penetrate, and navigate these as yet unpublished opportunities. When they capture the would-be hiring executive’s attention, they have little or no competition, they can help write their own position profile, and as a result, they can greatly influence the total compensation for the newly created or redesigned position.

We help executives address all of these issues: content, messaging, and audience. First, we contribute to clarifying their objectives through our targeting step (the Clarity Program©) and then we support them with a six-member team of professionals as they execute our proven process by preparing and rolling out their campaigns.

And it works.

Our clients are landing at the pace of about one per day in 2023—despite the macroeconomic uncertainty. After all, the unpublished market is always in motion. This year, information technology, energy, consulting, financial service, restaurants, education, manufacturing… these have proven to be the hottest industries for our clients so far. Others are also landing in non-profit, tech, health, insurance, retail, transportation, travel & hospitality, government, professional services, and many other industries.

Most of our clients land with a base compensation that exceeds 150,000 (Dollars, Euros, or CHF); 40% exceed 200,000; 23% exceed 300,000. We can virtually always add compensation on top, too, in the form of bonuses, benefits, perks and even in many cases stock options or equity. Again, because we have been doing this for more than 30 years—we know what is possible.

So far in 2023, 29% of our successful clients landed in the C-suite. Another 22% acquired Vice President or equivalent “Head” positions. Senior managers, general counsel, and executive, managing, and plain vanilla directors made up another 31%. Other roles are harder to classify but no less valuable to their new occupants.

We publish the results of our clients’ interviews, offers, and landings (anonymously, of course) every week in our Weekly Frontline Reports. Take a look.

So, where are you in your career change journey? Is your message getting through?

Wherever you are, we can probably shorten your trip and improve the outcome, so you might take a lesson from our many landed clients and give us a call.


Peter Irish, CEO
The Barrett Group

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