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How to Connect with Executive Recruiters


Getting in touch with the executive level

If you are at a job level where companies retain executive search firms to hire their talent, you need to understand how to connect with executive recruiters. The key to understanding how to connect with executive recruiters and the more reputable contingent recruitment agencies is to understand their motivations for talking to you. There are six reasons why an executive recruiter will connect with you.

Rule # 1: They work for their corporate client, not you

The basic starting point is that these firms and their individual partners, associates, or support staff, are under no obligation to talk to you. They owe you nothing. Harsh, but true. The client of the search firm is the hiring organization. That is rule one.

Rule #2: They need talent to do their job

Strong candidates are the raw material of successful search assignments. They need talent that fits their current and future assignments in order to do their job. That’s where you come in. So, let’s drill down a bit and examine what the reasons or circumstances are in which a headhunter might connect with you

Reason #1: You are a strong potential candidate for one of their existing, current search assignments

Whether you have applied to an ad, sent in a blind resume, have been referred, or called, you will get attention only if you are a strong match for the assignment they are working on. A search firm gets paid to attract people who are among the best in their field, not those just able to do the job. This is where a lot of frustration occurs among candidates.

Reason #2: Your background appears to be highly placeable for a future opportunity AND fits with the kind of work they do

Similarly, if they have the time, you may get their attention if your profession and industry are closely aligned with the kind of work they do, and your career trajectory is impressive. They will judge how placeable you are, that is, how likely it is that one of their clients would want to hire you. If there is a strong fit, then yes, they may make time for you.

Action item: Take the time to research the players in your market

Reason #3: You have been referred by someone they respect

The world of executive search and recruitment is about relationships and exchange of information. Yes, they post ads, but the ads are often failsafes. The real work occurs on the phones, speaking with people in their networks about who is good and who is ready to take on this challenge. Referrals. That’s how it works. So, search professionals tend to be highly attuned to incoming referrals from their network. The referrers may be current and past clients, industry experts, or former candidates. The later category is tricky. The power of the referral in this case really depends on the level of relationship that candidate had with the search firm.

Reason #4: They want to have a relationship with you

If they conclude that you are a player, someone who might hire them to do search work in the future; someone who is well respected in the industry; someone with a big and powerful network, then they may be very attentive in starting a relationship with you. Being an up-and-comer is also considered. You may not, in their eyes, be ready today, but talking to you now may in fact be a good investment of time on their part.

Reason #5: When the market is slow

The fewer active assignments they have, the more time there is to fill their pipeline. Yes, they will be out looking for new clients, but it is also a time to catch-up on meeting new candidates. In a slower market, they are likely to be a little more open in who they talk to.

Reason #6: When you target a junior, but motivated professional in the firm

You might not be able to get a partner or senior consultant’s attention, but you may be able to with an associate or researcher. Don’t underestimate the power of these folks to insert you into the search firm’s active system and assignments. And, they need to build their career with strong, relevant and productive relationships. It could be you. That’s it. Yes, you may get in because you catch someone on a good day, and they feel like helping, but don’t count on it. As a rule, these are the only instances when you can get an audience with a search firm. Have you noticed something? If you are smart, and I know you are, you will see that you can turn this around to employ strategically. Who do you know that can refer you? Who is an up and comer in the firm but likely hungry to build their rolodex? And so on.

I hope that helps.

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