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the future of work

Looking for a new challenge? You are not alone.

Rarely a week goes by when I'm not approached by someone asking whether I know of a good job opportunity or, alternatively, whether I can recommend someone for a vacant position. Mix the growing "skills shortage" with the trend of "job hopping" and it's no wonder employers and recruiters are always on the lookout for new talent.

According to a report by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, back in 2009, just 25 per cent of global executives expected to work for eight or more organizations at the executive level over the course of their careers. In 2013, that number rose to 32 per cent.

But finding a suitable position or being found by prospective employers keeps getting more complicated, despite the rise of numerous digital job-search platforms.

In case you missed it, recruiting has changed drastically over the years. Some of that comes down to economic influences, such as outsourcing and the continuing fallout from the recession, but technology is playing perhaps the greatest role in disrupting the status quo and it's critical for executives and professionals to understand how recruiting is evolving in order to position themselves for success.

"LinkedIn is the gorilla in the room at all levels these days. It's the single biggest disrupting factor at any level," said Jim Harmon, managing partner of Boyden Canada, an executive search firm with offices in four Canadian cities.

"Our business used to be a three-legged stool – identify, recruit and assess candidates. Identifying candidates was a big part of the job initially. That part is gone. Anyone can do that now," Mr. Harmon said.

Mr. Harmon and Mike Naufal, another managing partner at Boyden, said that 20 years ago, much of their time was spent in libraries (remember those quaint institutions?) reviewing microfiches and industry reference materials to identify potential candidates. All that information is now publicly available at the click of a button.

Recruiters, Mr. Harmon said, now play the role of a data miner, identifying people from an endless list of options and assessing candidates against increasingly specific and nuanced criteria. For their part, employers have become more discerning in their requirements for a leader, so while there may not be a talent shortage, the bar has been raised higher.

It's not only recruiting that's changed, but also the process of being recruited. And the factors that determine how you should make yourself available to opportunities remain more confusing than ever.

Common logic dictates that having a robust LinkedIn page with lots of recommendations and makes you a prime target for recruiters, but according to Mr. Harmon and Mr. Naufal, it doesn't always work that way.

Listing multiple recommendations sends a message that an individual has gone to great lengths to promote himself or herself, signalling that they are actively looking for something new. To executive recruiters like Mr. Harmon and Mr. Naufal, that's not always a good sign.

While blowing your own horn online can sometimes get you in the door, it rarely wins you the job, the partners agreed.

"One of the top criteria of a top-ranking candidate is humility," said Mr. Naufal, who advises any candidate looking to move into the C-suite to be wary of coming across as too boastful "Our business is about uncovering gems, not the bright lights around them," Mr. Harmon added. Being too obvious about looking for a new role may actually backfire.

So, how then, should job seekers manage their social media presence?

The two recommend a tasteful profile that clearly communicates a candidate's history. A judiciously worded profile, they say, is more likely to get a stamp of approval from recruiters than one than one that goes overboard in listing professional feats and accomplishments.

Once a recruiter can check off the required skills and experience for a job description, that's when questions of personality and relationship with the hiring organization come into play. It is this crucial attention to the soft skills that differentiates some executive search firms from those merely engaged in their own online search.

"Not only does a potential candidate need to be able to do the job function and communicate their skills and added value and the experiences [they bring] to the role, they also need to assess how they fit with the company and the executive team, and [how they stack up] from a leadership standpoint," said Joel Fatum, president of Fortuity Executive Search Group based in Toronto.

It's that ability to assess a candidate's full complement of skills that will differentiate true executive search professionals from those who just sift through a list of hopefuls.

"The last men or women standing in our business are going to be those who enjoy working in a hands-on consultative business," Mr. Harmon said.

Leah Eichler is founder and CEO of r/ally, a mobile collaboration platform for enterprises. Twitter: @LeahEichler