Advice for Candidates When Working with an Executive Search Firm

Danielle Evans our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 04 April 2024

Many of the candidates I talk with are naturally interested in the executive search hiring process and how we’ll work together when I hire on behalf of one of my clients. While I and my colleagues at Hanover tailor our work to the needs of a client, there are things that are important and useful for candidates to know when working with us.

To start off, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What is executive search and how is it different from “normal” recruitment?” 

The answer to that is executive search is a comprehensive, end-to-end recruitment process used to find highly-skilled candidates, typically for senior leadership roles. Rather than posting an ad or contacting candidates who are actively seeking a new role, executive recruiters work on behalf of one client to map the whole market and find ideal candidates - including those who aren’t actively looking for a new position.

And that difference is crucial - executive recruiters work for or on behalf of a company (our “client”). This means that we’re truly focused on that role and on getting the right candidate to fill the position.

Executive Search: what else should candidates be aware of?

It’s important to understand the intention behind executive search. It’s to work closely with a client to hire the best possible person into a role, whether that’s a leadership or entry-level position. If you’re contacted by an executive recruiter, it’s because they’ve identified you as a potential candidate for a role with a company that’s at least worth finding out more about. 

If you go further into scoping out the role and the company, it’s good to be aware of the following:

- An executive search firm is being paid by the client. That means you can typically assume that the client has both strong financials and a commitment to (and investment in) recruiting an outstanding candidate - and you have been identified as part of that field.

- Executive recruiters can help you access what you might call a “hidden job market” because many of the roles we’re tasked with finding candidates for are either confidential or at least aren’t generally advertised.

- It’s really important to be honest and transparent (and expect the same in return from good executive recruiters). For example, I’ll always tell a candidate where they’re at in the recruitment process, provide feedback, and keep in communication. I ask candidates to provide me with feedback in return, to tell me if a role isn’t right for them and why, and also to be transparent about any search processes they may be involved in with other firms.

- It helps to build a relationship with executive recruiters. Even if you’re not actively seeking a new role, or perhaps you don’t get the role you’re headhunted for, you don’t know what else may come up in the future. If you can build a rapport with the recruiter, you’ll be top of mind when a similar role comes along, or you can contact them proactively if you later decide you want to look for a new position

- It helps to offer your help. If you’re headhunted for a role that’s not right for you and you happen to know someone else you think might be a good candidate, let the recruiter know. This is something else that will help build a relationship - pay it forward, because you never know what might happen in the future.

- Asking smart questions is important. Ask about company culture, how the role fits into business objectives, what the company’s long-term growth plans are, etc. This will inform your understanding of how you and the role would fit into the overall business picture, while at the same time helping the recruiter understand how interested you are and whether you’re the type of candidate the company is looking for.

- As you get further through the process, executive search recruiters will help you negotiate with their clients. You can leverage their experience and knowledge of the company to support you in getting a package that works for both you and the client. 

Looking for a position in wealth management, banking or private equity? Connect with me on LinkedIn. If you want to talk through how an executive search firm can fill leadership positions at your company, contact me and let’s set up time for a chat.

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