Working with an Executive Recruiter as a Candidate

Whatever the reason, you have decided to look for a new position, so congratulations on taking a step forward in your career. In addition to your network and job boards, you may be considering enlisting the help of a recruiter (aka headhunter). If you’ve never worked with recruiters before, there are a few guidelines to be aware of, especially if it is your first time working with an executive recruiter as a candidate.

Types of Recruiters

Recruiters fall into three categories. The first is in-house recruiters also sometimes known as a talent acquisition specialist. These are recruiters that work for a specific company looking to fill a position on their own. Their job is to identify and screen candidates that would be a good match with their organization. These are the people who filter resumes received through job boards and other website listings and pass along relevant resumes to the hiring manager.

The second type of recruiter is a contingency recruiter. These 3rd party recruiters typically focus on junior and mid-level roles. They are asked by a company to help fill a position. But this doesn’t mean the company isn’t working to fill the role as well. Often contingency recruiters are competing with other contingency recruiters and the company itself to fill the role. If the contingency recruiter doesn’t fill the role, they don’t get paid. For them it’s a numbers game and they are willing to put as many people as possible in front of the company.

The third type of recruiter is a retained recruiter, often called an executive recruiter. These recruiters focus on senior level executive roles within a company. They are paid in stages and the roles are not typically listed on job boards. Retained recruiters, like contingency recruiters, work for the company, but there are a number of differences between a contingency and retained search, foremost being the desire to only present the best candidates.

Working With An Executive Recruiter

Working with a retained executive recruiter is a different experience than working with a contingency recruiter. An equal amount of a retained recruiter’s time is spent with their clients, the organizations with openings. They tend to source candidates through active and fresh research that align with the needs of their clients, as well as getting referrals during the search from their network.

If you lob a call into a retained search consultant, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back. They receive so many unsolicited resumes, they can’t respond to everyone, and their number one responsibility is to work on the searches they are being paid to fill by their clients. Unless there is an active search for your skill set, your resume will most likely go into their database.

As a first step, identify executive recruiters with a focus on your industry and region, and connect with them on LinkedIn. Once a dialog has been started, simply ask them if based on your profile, is there anything they are currently working on that may be a fit? If not, ask them to please keep you in mind as other opportunities arise.

Be honest and transparent since you’re not selling yourself to them. Executive recruiters are looking to see the real you. Speak to your background and why you’re looking. The best way to establish a relationship with an executive recruiter is to be yourself. Also, remember that retained search firms are being paid to fill their existing roles that they have become engaged on with their clients and do not market candidates to firms. There are some contingency firms who will market your resume to prospective employers hoping the timing is right and uncover the right opportunity for you.

Now that you’ve introduced yourself, be an asset for the recruiter. Offer to help them with your knowledge and network. Remember, retained search recruiters don’t work for you, they are trusted advisers of their clients. To remain top of mind beyond your current situation means investing time and energy into the relationship, creating value for them as well.

Sheer Velocity is an executive retained search firm based in Denver, with offices in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Scottsdale. The firm focuses its searches with a variety of companies (private equity, venture capital, publicly traded, and privately held) within a multitude of industries including manufacturing/industrial, advanced technology, consumer goods, energy, healthcare, and industrial searches among other practice areas.