Navigating Executive Search Firms: Maximizing Opportunities and Landing Your Dream Role

Navigating Executive Search Firms: Maximizing Opportunities and Landing Your Dream Role

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Companies hire executive search firms for a number of reasons. Primarily, these firms broaden the range of candidates who might be well-suited to the role. 

Perhaps the most significant benefit for applicants is executive search firms’ passive recruitment. Firms recruit candidates who aren’t looking for new jobs, which considerably expands the applicant pool. 

Executive search firms also save money and time for organizations by tapping into their already-existing networks. 

We often think of the executive search firm process as being passive for candidates; executive search firms will come to you, right? In other words, you might think a search firm will reach out to you, but you can’t do the same. 

This isn’t necessarily true. In this guide, we’ll talk about how to reach out to these search firms – or make yourself more discoverable if you’re seeking a new role. 


? How executive search firms operate

The recruitment process has five key steps. 

First, the company shares what they’re looking for in executive candidates and some of the challenges they think they’ll face in finding someone. Then, the search firm will create a profile of suitable candidates. 

Next, the search firm will create a search strategy for candidates. Once they find candidates, they will “put the candidates through assessments and interviews to develop the right candidates to be presented to the client company,” explains search firm Cowen Partners.

After that, the firm will conduct background checks and assessments on the company’s preferred candidate, as well as check in on the company and candidate after they start their new role.


? Discovering executive search firms

Most executive search firms only hire roles in specific industries.

Some might even focus on finding candidates with specific skills. 

So, if you plan to reach out to a firm, you want to target only those that hire in your field. 

Investopedia discusses how specific your search terms should be. You want to use the search term “executive recruiters” and add your industry, profession, and location. 

For instance, “executive recruiters hospitality Los Angeles.” 

What if you find a search firm that hires for roles you could fill, but they don’t have open positions right now? 

Consider writing them anyway, sharing the type of position you’re seeking and the industries in which you’d like to work, as well as your preferences for company type, location, and compensation. If you’re a good fit, then they’ll add you to their database and may seek you out if they’re looking to hire someone with your qualifications.


? Making yourself appealing to executive search firms

Dan Kaplan, Senior Client Partner at search firm Korn Ferry, shares the story of one recruiter who received 600 messages from candidates interested in a role she was filling. Of course, she couldn’t meet with all of them. 

If you do reach out to a recruiter, how can you make yourself stand out from the crowd? 

Kaplan suggests creating an elevator pitch you can use on the phone, via email, or even in person. 

Recruiters don’t need to know your whole career story, either. 

“Experts say recruiters want to know two or three valuable skill sets a candidate has, what role a candidate has now, and some idea of what type of emotional intelligence – so-called “soft skills” – the candidate demonstrates,” he advises. 

If you see an open role for which they’re hiring, you can also talk about the role for which you think you’d be a good fit. 

Marlo Lyons for Harvard Business Review shares a template for reaching out to a recruiter hiring for a role you would want:

“I’m reaching out to you directly to express my enthusiasm about the [job opening/link] at [company name]. My extensive experience in [industry or skill] combined with my [hard/soft skills] and unique ability to [unique applicable skill] would make me a tremendous asset to [company name] in this role.”

Several outcomes could arise from a message like this one. The recruiter might write you back and ask for a time you could connect about the position. Or they might tell you that the search firm has advanced too far in their hiring process but may add you to their database.

Alternatively, you might not hear back from the recruiter for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’re not actually as well-qualified for the role as you might believe.


Increasing Your Chances of Connecting with Executive Search Firms


If you want to work with an executive search firm, the first step is understanding how they operate.

Then, you can decide if you want to reach out to a recruiter actively seeking candidates for an open role or connect with a recruiter who might hire for your specific role. 

Next, make yourself as helpful as possible to busy recruiters with specifics about why you could fill the role. 

Not sure how to sell yourself to executive search firms? An Ivy Exec Career Advisor can help you ensure your materials stand out.

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