career success

Employers looking to hire thought leaders, now more than ever, say recruiters

New survey of 125 US and UK recruiters uncovers the difference thought leadership and personal branding can make in the executive search process.

  • 82% of recruiters surveyed said a job candidate’s thought leadership is more important to employers than before the pandemic
  • 56% of recruiters surveyed said thought leaders can command a salary premium compared to non-thought leaders 
  • LinkedIn posts and authentic profile now more important to prospective employers than PR mentions & podcasts

In this fiercely competitive and unforgiving job market, how can candidates give themselves the best chance of securing their next role?

While there’s an abundance of research on how thought leadership (having a ‘personal brand’ and being a vocal expert in a given industry or sector) impacts company purchasing decisions, there’s been little research into how thought leadership influences the executive search process and the way employers value job applicants. 

  • Can thought leaders command a higher salary?
  •  Do thought leaders have the edge in today’s executive search process?
  •  And has remote working changed the way employers value a candidate’s thought leadership?

To find the answers to these questions, ThoughtLDR surveyed 125 recruiters and executive search specialists across the UK & US:

In the Covid era, thought leadership matters even more to employers 

There’s little doubt that the pandemic may have a lasting impact on many aspects of business.

The increasing shift to remote ways of working means the online profiles of candidates are even more significant - and highly scrutinised - than ever before. 

82% of the recruiters we surveyed said a candidate’s thought leadership is “more important” to employers now than before the Covid pandemic began.

Employers are willing to pay a premium to recruit thought leaders

More than half (56%) of those surveyed said that candidates who are recognised as thought leaders can command a premium compared to their peers. Over one third (34%) of recruiters say thought leadership increases the salary and benefits package employers are willing to offer by up to 10%.

16% said thought leadership increases potential salary by 10-25% and a few (4%) said thought leadership increases potential salary by more than 25%. 

In a crowded field, thought leadership can give candidates the edge 

Almost two thirds (64%) of recruiters surveyed said that a candidate who is recognised in their industry as a thought leader is more likely to get the role than a candidate with the same qualifications and experience but no track record of thought leadership.

The more senior the candidate, the more important thought leadership is

Nine out of ten recruiters surveyed (93%) agreed that thought leadership matters to employers. Almost half (48%) said thought leadership was most important for candidates seeking senior leadership roles, while just over one third (36%) felt it was important throughout a candidate’s career.

Articles and authentic profile more important than PR mentions & podcasts

Our respondents said by far the most sought after activities are an authentic, personable LinkedIn profile (83%) and regular LinkedIn posts on industry hot topics (81%). 

Interestingly, the traditional PR tactic of regular appearances in the media (49%) - while seen by almost half of respondents as still valued by employers - was deemed less important to a candidate’s prospects than having a large, engaged following on LinkedIn (57%). 

Personal blogs (24%), podcast appearances (20%) and video blogging (16%) were rated the least important candidate activities to employers.  

Sector Response

Bill Connolly, Corporate Marketing Leader at Monotype said, 

“People tend to underestimate their own value, how their ideas or experiences could influence or support others. To me, thought leadership is turning those ideas into actionable content. In our go-forward world, people who are willing to create and take bold positions within their respective fields are the ones that will command greater opportunities. For me, more than anything, being authentic on digital channels like LinkedIn has driven new relationships – with people I admire, with potential collaborators, and with those who are trying to solve the same personal and professional challenges that I am.” 

Andreas Jonsson, CEO & Co-founder of SHIELD said,

"Bring your thoughts and expertise to scale by being open, social and visible online. Your best bet is always yourself. Especially now that there's more uncertainty roaming around than ever before. Thought leadership brings our knowledge and expertise to scale. A pursuit most can benefit from with no barrier to entry. Bet on yourself - the benefits are tremendous."

Marcus Murphy, Co-founder and CEO, The Five Percent and Advisory Board Member, LinkedIn said,

"Oftentimes, we tell ourselves that our experiences, the things we know, the things we do on a daily basis, are not actually that​ valuable. And that's where, for senior leaders at corporates, a kind of imposter syndrome can set in. But what they see as mundane and normal is actually what somebody else - maybe somebody twenty paces behind them in terms of career - is desperately trying to figure out.  

"Senior executives need to understand that thought leadership is the missing link. When there's conflict within an organization or friction, it's actually not because people don't like each other or don't like their job. It's because they feel like they don't know what's going on. So thought leadership doesn't just have to be coming up with new ideas that inspire people, thought leadership can also be really good internal communication.”

Be Kaler Pilgrim, Founder of FutureHeads said, 

"I have long thought, as the Founder of a specialist recruitment business, that understanding your community and trends in your marketplace is an important part of being a successful recruiter. Providing insight and value, championing the skillsets you recruit for is a key part of the role.

"As a recruiter, you are often able to spot trends in the workforce much earlier, make this information available to everyone through your personal marketing and communication. It helps your clients and candidates build a clear picture of how to prepare for a new hire, or new job."

Tamara Sword, ThoughtLDR’s founder and managing director said,

“It’s hard to overstate the disruption this pandemic has brought to the way we do business. With this seismic shift to remote work, employers recognise they need people who can communicate in new ways and create opportunities through the power of their ideas and their network.”  

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