small change: your reactive job search

small change 


Ciarán Fenton

How small changes in your behaviour will have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow

That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 1 small change: seven principles

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blogg 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

small change

Seven principles

Principle 2

Organisations are more likely to hire you if

  • you’re the least risky
  • not, necessarily, the best


Blog 21  small change: your reactive job search

funnel 2

Your reactive job search is that proportion of your job search which is reactive to headhunters and job advertisements.

I call it “reactive” because you have

  • No control over it
  • Headhunters call you or they don’t
  • Jobs relevant to your needs are either advertised or not during the term of your search
  • If you are called for an interview you must react to the needs of headhunters and interview panels
  • You must win against the competition
  • The interview process can be capricious at best and unfair at worst in that fallible headhunters and interview panels prone to unconscious bias make life-changing decisions on your life in a few hours.
  • Much hangs on your performance. If you have a bad day, you’re toast.


Finally, and most importantly, you are not the headhunter’s client. Their client is their client. They, even the best, haven’t time to care about you.


For these reasons I recommend you allocate only 30% of your energy to your reactive job search and de-risk it as follows:

  • Register with all the appropriate headhunters, job boards and alerts
  • Make sure your CV contains the relevant keywords so that you will be found on their systems
  • Build personal relationships with headhunters if you can
  • Understand their needs
  • Your first task is to get a meeting with them
  • Your second task is to persuade them to put you on their shortlist
  • At this stage, they are the gatekeeper. Focus on them, not their client
  • Make sure your cover letters start with the job needs, not with you
  • In other words, don’t start your cover letter with the word “I”
  • Remain patient

Finally, the reactive process if done properly is very, very, hard work indeed – endless applications, emails and research. I find that many successful, otherwise very hard-working people who find themselves searching for a job are reluctant to put in the hours. It’s a psychological reaction. I understand why. They resent having to do it. They feel angry. Especially those who’ve “had a difficult exit” from their last job. If you are in that bracket, spend some time grieving (don’t laugh, it’s a process) for your lost job, and commit to the fact that your job now is to find a job. Then work hard, but only 30%, on your reactive search because the process is almost a lottery. But hard work will maximise your chances. For sure. Ciaran Fenton


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