8 Things You Must Know About Working with an Executive Recruiter

working with an executive recruiter

If you think the Great Resignation and employee engagement crisis are limited to rank-and-file workers, think again. The stresses of the pandemic have had a significant effect on management as well, and ‘boss loss’ is a real and current trend. If you’re an executive seeking greener pastures, or if you’re looking to be that greener pasture for someone and fill an empty executive chair or two, an executive recruiter might be the right choice for you.

We spoke with Amy Sullivan, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist for Think Systems, Inc. about the process of using an executive recruiter, starting with why you should consider it in the first place:

Why do executives work with an executive recruiter? Do they need to? If so, why? 

Executives work with a recruiter to leverage both the recruiter’s reach and experience. Do you need to work with a recruiter? No. Should you? Absolutely yes! 

Naturally, executives have a built-in network that can be leveraged for finding their next opportunity, but adding a recruiter to the arsenal only maximizes the array of options. Not only do recruiters bring longstanding and exclusive relationships with hiring companies, but we are also trained professionals who understand your strengths and your desires relative to work, culture, compensation, and confidentiality.

How does an exec find a good executive recruiter? What is that process like? 

Networking, plain and simple. When considering a career transition, your financial wellbeing, and your path forward – you need a trusted resource. Ask your friends and colleagues to refer you. The best recruiters will be honest, transparent, and present sincere interest in your next career move. 

Does the executive recruiter work for the executive or the hiring company? How does the latter influence the executive’s job search experience? 

The answer is both when it comes to who the recruiter works for, the executive or the hiring company. A recruiter’s relationship with the hiring company is critical. That’s essentially an inside referral and automatic open door for you as a candidate. Often, hiring companies work exclusively and confidentially with us (recruiters) to fill their executive positions. We know these companies intimately and are seen as trusted advisors. In turn, you benefit from that connection. We are there as a strong advocate able to marry both a complete understanding of what the client wants and grasp what you bring to a role to position you as a great fit.

What questions should execs ask before engaging with a professional recruiter? 

“Tell me about you.” You need a recruiter you can trust, so what better way to get to know them than by turning the tables and placing the recruiter in the interview seat. You likely spend as much time (if not more) working than you do with family, friends, your hobbies – so career choice and transition is not something to take lightly. A job change is hugely impactful, so find a recruiter who is an advocate and partner in that journey. Beyond trust, ensure you’re asking about their industry specialization, types of clients they work with, successful placements. Make sure it’s a match for you. 

What should an exec expect when working with an executive recruiter? 

You should expect a recruiter to demonstrate, from the first conversation, that they want to understand your professional experience, your objectives for a new role, your compensation requirements, and the various nuances of organizational culture which you’ll best fit. You should expect to be presented with opportunities to connect with hiring companies that check all those boxes. 

How much does it cost the executive to work with a professional recruiter? What do they get for their money? Or, is the process free? 

Typically, the hiring company pays the recruiter’s firm, so there is no direct fee to the recruiter by the candidate. The good news is that, even given this fee arrangement, it’s the recruiter’s responsibility to have your best interest at heart. A recruiter’s reputation and business are predicated on the success, happiness, and marriage between the company and candidate – so finding the right match is imperative.

Is it a good idea to work with an executive compensation specialist? If so, why? 

Sure, additional data can’t hurt – but you should be working with a recruiter that demonstrates expertise around the current employment market and executive compensation. The recruiter should be able to fill the role of compensation specialist for you. On the one hand, the recruiter is incented to get you the best compensation plan possible and, conversely, is responsible for making sure you’re realistic and do not price yourself out of the market by being unfamiliar with current trends.

What are your best tips when working with an executive recruiter?

The recurring theme here is to find a recruiter that you trust. You will undoubtedly gain the additional reach from working with a recruiter, but more importantly, you’ll leverage the recruiter’s knowledge and expertise along the way. Lean on your recruiter for compensation inquiries, confidentiality concerns, market insights, and most importantly, preparation and constructive feedback before and after conversations with hiring companies.