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Maximize Your Executive Search

Source: ExecuNet, Inc. ©2000

Understanding Executive Search

Being on the recruiter’s radar and being prepared when a recruiter calls is second nature to savvy executives actively managing their career. Career smart executives maintain their networks and subtly promote themselves as knowledgeable and successful leaders during their “career lifetime”.

Understanding the discrete phases of the executive search process and the role the executive candidate plays in each phase gives the executive a great advantage in working with recruiters to reap the greatest benefit form the recruiter contact.

How do recruiters execute a search? There are many common elements to the process of search:

  • The client initiates a search by hiring a search consultant who will identify and recruit candidates for the client. Retained executive recruiters negotiate a contract with the client that specifies the parameters of the search and the fee to be paid. The “standard’ fee is one-third of the first year compensation but this is negotiable. The fee will be greater given the difficulty of the search criteria and the prospect for placing a candidate.
  • The client works with the search consultant to define a position’s responsibilities and accountabilities, as well as experience, technical, educational, and personality requirements necessary for the candidate to meet these obligations. At this stage the search/client partnership is describing an ideal candidate; later, the position’s requirements may be revised to reflect the actual candidate pool.
  • When the job specs are complete, a search strategy is developed. Anywhere from 12-60 target companies may be identified as places where prospective candidates or networking contacts may be employed. In addition to these targets, the recruiter may also contact industry leaders, commentators and consultants who can help develop a shortlist of qualified candidates. Search firm researchers may also turn to association and professional directories that list executives accomplished in their field.
  • Once the search strategy is underway, the search firm candidate developers or recruiters will begin to approach perspective candidates. When an executive receives a call at this stage in a search, he or she should not spend too much time selling to the caller. With this call, the executive should respond with the facts about experience and technical background. This will enable the recruiter to screen the candidate in or out for the position.
  • If the executive matches the initial search criteria established with the client, the executive recruiter will provide more details on the search, the position and any special requirements, as well as the hiring organization, its management, and culture. The executive recruiter will prepare a presentation of a candidate slate to present to the client.

At this stage in the search process, the executive candidate should actively manage their role in the search.

Keep in mind that the executive recruiter’s objective is to present a list of the best qualified candidates to the client. It is important that the candidate not only understand the position qualifications but the dynamics of the particular search. How long has the search been going on? How many candidates have already been presented? Is the executive an active candidate and on the long or short list? The more one knows about the search the better one’s understanding of the client, the importance or value of the position to the client, and the potential fit and/or desirability of the position.

The executive candidate should undertake due diligence to understand all the dimensions and nuances of the client’s opportunity and the search process. This includes study of all company materials, the company web site, background research, and careful preparation of critical questions for all client interviews. Many ExecuNet members have successfully landed new career positions by identifying the problem the company is trying to solve with a new position and addressing solutions during the interview.

If an executive does not get presented to the client, it is valuable to seek feedback from the recruiter in order to understand the dynamics of the decision. This feedback may be very insightful in understanding how others perceive the value and the abilities of the candidate compared to a field of peers.

Seeking feedback also provides an opportunity for the candidate to contact the executive recruiter demonstrating professionalism and a desire to learn from the experience. A savvy executive will seek feedback and offer future support to the recruiter as well.

The search process has now come full circle. For the executive who lands the position as well as the candidates not selected, the search process provides new contacts to add to one’s network. By keeping this network active the executive will always be on the recruiter’s radar.

Getting on the Recruiter’s Radar

Establishing a relationship with executive recruiters can be very difficult regardless of your qualifications because they prefer to initiate contact with candidates they have already checked out through their networks.

Your best bet for getting on a recruiter’s radar is to use networking as a way to make contact with the search firm. First, identify search consultants who specialize in positions in your field of expertise or industry by asking business associates who may have been contacted for names of executive recruiters. Second, go back to your network and try to find people who know those executive recruiters personally.

Finding connections between search and your network takes time but is well worth the effort because you are always better off establishing contact indirectly – by asking someone to introduce you – than making your own connection. If you cannot identify a person to provide an introduction, send a strong cover letter along with your resume.

Employ these strategies once you have a powerful executive resume presentation and you’ll be on your way to the next executive challenge.

Best of luck in your career success!