Guide to understand the process of executive search

Inspired-Search | 15 June 2016

Written by: Mariëlle Wester

More than ever companies use recruitment agencies and headhunters for hiring talent and filling in senior positions. For many individuals the prospect of being approached by a headhunter could be an unaccustomed one. In the following blog series we’ll reach out to individuals, just in case an executive recruiter one day does reach out to them.

Keywords: executive search process, network, executive searcher, executive recruitment, executive recruiter, head hunter, heart hunter, recruitment company, interview, salary indication, vacancy, Inspired-Search.

In this blog I like to address the topic of what you can expect from an executive recruiter. Since I started to work for Inspired-Search, I noticed that sometimes candidates don’t know how to deal with an executive searcher when they are contacted by them. In some cases they become very reserved and in other cases they make demands. In this blog I want to explain that it is a two-way street and that the contact with an executive recruiter can be beneficial for you, now and/or in the future.

Why do companies hire an executive recruitment company?

First of all, it can save a company a lot of time to outsource the recruitment process, especially when they don’t have an experienced recruiter themselves. Secondly, a great advantage of hiring an executive headhunter is that they have a profound network and an in-depth understanding of the market. Mostly they are specialized in a certain market or industry, like Inspired-Search is specialized in logistics and supply chain positions. In this area they know the working experience, qualities and career wishes of the candidates in the market, they know the competitors and they know what is going on. As such, they can find the right match very quickly. Probably they already know the clients company and their (future) challenges. They probably also know the candidates who might be a right match. Hiring an executive search company will broaden the range of candidates who apply due to the active approach of executive headhunters. This is especially useful in the case of specific or executive vacancies. As such, this increases the likelihood of finding the right match, which contributes more to an organisation in terms of profits and savings compared to the costs made to find them. Further, an executive searcher can execute a discreet search to find the right match, which can be appropriate in specific situations.

How an executive searcher proceeds

Contacting the right candidate to fill a vacancy happens after a long process of maintaining their network. Executive searchers are continuous maintaining and expanding their network of candidates and companies. They stay in touch and truly need to be motivated to fully understand what is happening in the life of the candidate, the client’s company and the market. To mention a couple of examples: they plan business meetings, regular phone conversations, organise meetings, use referrals, attend conferences, workshops, trainings and company tours, use professional association membership lists, use (social) media and so on.

Initial contact

If you get connected with an executive headhunter, it is not a requirement that you are looking for a new job opportunity. You might, but as mentioned earlier, an executive searcher is also maintaining and extending his network when there is no possible matching vacancy. A good headhunter (hearthunter) will investigate what might be a matching and interesting career move for you. When the time is ready you can contact him or he contacts you. If they contact you, they first will investigate if you’re open to a career switch and sent you some information about the vacancy. When it interests you and when an executive searcher sees a functional match based on your CV and salary indication, you will be invited for a face-to-face interview with the executive searcher to further explore the potential match. In this order, the headhunter narrows down his list of potential candidates. So when a headhunter contacts you, the procedure will be comparable to a regular application: It requires further investigation from both sides.

Interview with the executive searcher

A good executive searcher mediates candidates and not only CV’s to his client. Your CV will be discussed to see if there is a functional match. Further, your career wishes will be discussed. This is of mutual interest to you and to the executive searcher and company, because it is in nobodies interest if you’ll leave the organisation after a very brief time. The executive searcher will also investigate if there is a cultural and personal match between you and the organisation. Further, the challenges in the position and organisation will be discussed. Best is to be honest in this process, a good executive recruiter does not only look if you match a certain vacancy, he will also keep in mind other vacancies.

Introduction to the client

If the executive recruiter sees a match on the requirements mentioned above, he will introduce you to his client. Mostly, two or three candidates will be introduced. The company selects the candidates they would like to speak. If you’re chosen, the executive searcher will set up an interview between you and the client. Mostly, two or three interviews will follow and often an assessment is required. An executive recruiter will manage the end-to-end process, from the initial contact untill the placement. The right executive recruiter will maintain contact and can also advise you and the company in the boarding process.

When a headhunter asks for your salary indication

A headhunter probably asks you to give a salary indication in the initial phase of the procedure. This is asked because the the right match will meet the specific salary range the client offers. If the salary does not match, there is no point exploring the vacancy together in more detail. The recruiter does not only checks your current salary, but can also advise you and the company what might be a right salary indication for you based on your experience and profile. If you are not so keen on sharing your salary indication right away, but you understand that it needs to be checked at the beginning, you can ask the salary range which the client offers. A good executive recruiter will appreciate this, because it shows that you know how the process works. Further, a good headhunter who knows the business already can estimate your salary a bit so there is no point to lie about big numbers.

Rejecting the invitation or offer of an executive searcher

If you currently have no plans making a career switch, you still can get/stay in contact with the executive recruiter and tell you’re currently not interested. It is up to you, but it can be wise to built up your network when you don’t need it. Ignoring executive searchers can stop them from contacting you in the future. When you’re already further in the process of investigating the vacancy, you still can reject the offer. But make sure to deal with an executive searcher politely, as mentioned, you might need him in the future.