Whether your a recruiter at a contingency firm, an HR professional who’s looking to make a change, or a salesperson with an extensive network of industry contacts, becoming a retained executive recruiter is a great career option, but it’s also a lot of work to be successful.
According to Executive Recruiter Insider, “To become a successful executive recruiter, you must develop superb skills in networking, problem-solving, sequential-thinking, and staying organized. You must also have significant recruiting experience already – which requires patience.”
If you’re thinking about becoming an executive recruiter, odds are you already have some of these skills. For example, someone in sales most likely has a great network, but may need to solidify their organization skills. An HR professional has a great understanding of the hiring process, but may hot have as large of a network.
The first thing you’ll need to become a successful executive recruiter is passion for the work. The job requires you to be able to connect with people and build trust with both clients and candidates. This is easier said than done. You have to be open, honest, transparent, empathetic, and most importantly you must be able to listen. Another trait you’ll need to develop is the ability to say “no” to potential candidates. As you build your practice, more and more candidates will want your time, and you’ll need to be comfortable letting some know they’re not ready to work with an executive recruiter.
There are a lot of other great executive recruiters out there, so you’ll also need to understand what makes you different and how you can provide value to your clients. Working on your communication skills will help. From phone etiquette during a cold call to sussing out the motivation of candidates based on their body language and words they use, knowing how to effectively communicate can become a secret weapon for you.
The final area in working with clients and candidates is the negotiation process. You are representing your client. It’s important that you remember this, as some candidates who are not familiar with executive recruiters may believe you represent them. This aspect of the job can be difficult if you’re not comfortable with it. While you’re representing your client, you will sometimes have to be honest with them if their offer is too low. Getting the right candidate to fill an executive role means knowing the marketplace and understanding the dynamics at play. Are you comfortable pushing back when necessary? And are you comfortable keeping candidate expectations in line?
The next skill you’ll need to focus on is your organization skills. If you don’t have the ability to effectively manage your time, keep track of projects and related follow up, maintain meticulous records, you’ll struggle to build credibility with your clients and candidates.
There are a number of books, podcasts and training courses available for learning how to improve your organization skills. Becoming process oriented increases your productivity, improves your efficiency, and helps you to better serve clients and candidates.
Remember, much of your success is predicated on building trust and credibility. You don’t want to jeopardize it because you missed a meeting or didn’t follow up accordingly. Being process oriented is a behind the scenes skill that your clients and candidates will never see, but will appreciate. Make the time for it and keep working to improve your systems.
The third skill you need to master is technology. This may be simple for some of you, and scary for others, but it’s a must if you want to be successful. The main system to understand is your customer relationship management system (CRM) or your applicant tracking system (ATS). You’ll need to build and manage lists of both clients and candidates. An ATS or CRM system allows you to keep track of all your communications with them. You can log personal notes, emails, call notes, and the like. This way, you can pick up right where you left off or set reminders for birthdays and anniversaries.
There is a lot of competition to become an executive recruiter these days. As baby boomers retire, there are fewer great applicants to fill those roles. And the ones that are available are most likely only looking passively. If you think you meet these expectations, let us know. We’d love to learn more about your desire to join our ranks as an executive recruiter in Chicago, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis or have us create a new office where you live.