How do executive search firms find candidates?

ByHanover Team
Posting date: 22 April 2024

There are a number of different ways that recruiters can find candidates, but there’s a real difference in the way that executive search firms (as opposed to contingent recruiters), find them.

Before I jump in, I just want to clarify what I mean by executive search. Executive search is a comprehensive recruitment process used to find highly-skilled candidates, typically for senior leadership roles.

Executive search recruiters like me typically have invaluable insights, experience and connections specific to our niches. We commonly find candidates for critical positions such as CEO, COO, CFO, CIO and HRD.

The exact way in which an executive search firm finds candidates will differ from firm to firm, but many individual recruiters will specialize in a particular sector, much like I do in the wealth management and insurance spaces.

5 ways I find senior level candidates for key roles

1) Understanding the role

Key to finding the right candidates is getting an in-depth understanding of both the role and the company. It’s only when you know what the company is looking for that you can find the right type of talent.

Taking the time to appreciate a company’s culture, understanding their business and DE&I objectives and the exact role that needs filling leads to a tailored, collaborative recruitment process and means that an executive search recruiter is really able to represent their client’s brand.

2) Research, research, research

Following on from getting a good understanding of both the role and the company is to look wider. I’ll research competitors and the specific industry, as well as adjacent industries and companies that would have people already performing the specific role I’m looking for.

This research has two functions. The first is that I’ll have a complete map of the market. Secondly, I’ll understand who the key players are, or potentially could be. This research process identifies potential candidates that I can long-list.

3) Leveraging networks

A big part of successfully finding the right candidate in the executive search process is being able to harness the power of your network. 

At Hanover, for example, we have specialists across a range of industries who have many years of experience in executive search and who have a long list of contacts and extensive networks. When I start recruiting for a new role, this depth of knowledge and information is where I typically start. 

I’d also look back at previous similar projects I’ve worked on - it may be that someone who narrowly missed out on a previous role I was recruiting for would be a good candidate for this one.

LinkedIn is also a valuable source of information. You can use LinkedIn to find people already doing the same or a similar role you’re recruiting into, or doing a similar role in the same industry.

4) Contacting the candidates

Once the research is complete, the market is mapped and LinkedIn has been mined, you’ll typically have a long list of around 25-45 candidates who, on paper, could perform in the role you’re recruiting to.

When the client has signed off on this long list, the next step in finding the right candidate is to begin outreach. LinkedIn is, once again, a good place to start for the contact information typically held for each person that’s publicly available, and other contact plugins are available. 

But it’s not just about giving the candidate a quick call. A skilled executive search recruiter will know how to talk to potential candidates and what to look for in the right person for the role. I also find that when I speak to someone and the role turns out not to be right for them, they may know someone else who may be a good fit, and are willing to connect us.

5) The recruiter interview stage

At this point, you’ve found all the candidates who would be able to perform the role, and the next stage is to whittle this down to a short list of people who are the right candidates for your client.

At Hanover, we conduct interviews in which we are completely transparent with candidates about where they are in the search process and how many others are also being considered. This transparency is crucial to getting the best out of the search process, and it also facilitates the potential for any future relationships. We typically also conduct face-to-face interviews at this stage, so we get a real sense of how a candidate would fit into our client’s business.

If you need to fill a senior level position at your company, contact us and let’s set up time for a chat.

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