How much do you know about finding and working with executive recruiters?
In my initial “let’s see if we’re a good fit to work together” consultation with prospective clients, I always ask those who are job seekers what they’ve been doing to accelerate their search.
When we address networking, I ask if, as part of proactive networking, they’ve sourced a number of recruiters who specialize in their area(s) of expertise, and been busy building alliances and staying top of mind with them.
Some of them disdain working with recruiters, mostly because they have unrealistic expectations for the recruiter/job-seeker relationship.
Many don’t grasp the fact that recruiters don’t work for job seekers. Their role is to find the best candidates for their client companies.
How to Build Winning Relationships with Executive Recruiters
I’ve pulled together advice and tips from various experts and voices in the recruiting and careers fields, plus some of my own.
How Recruiters Work With Candidates
Before I get into how to find and work with recruiters, let’s take a look at how THEY work and what their process is.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) describes the distinction between types of recruiters:
“Though the terms ‘recruiting’ and ‘executive search’ are often used interchangeably, there’s a notable difference between the two. Recruiting is focused on filling the wide variety of roles necessary to make a business run, from skilled labor to senior manager positions. Usually this is referred to as a contingency search, where recruiters are paid only if they fill the position they’ve been contracted for. In many instances, a client may hire several contingent recruiters to go after candidates for the same job.
Executive search, on the other hand, is about finding the people who develop policies and strategies and oversee the organization’s far-flung operations. These are leaders like the CEO, other C-suite officers, vice president of product development or the head of an individual business unit. Often, these searches are conducted on a retained basis, where the search firm gets paid whether it finds a winning candidate or not. Also, executive searches usually are exclusive, meaning only one firm is at work trying to fill a particular role.”
How executive recruiters get paid
Amy Sullivan, senior talent acquisition specialist at advisory practice Think said:
When executive recruiters work for the company with an open position, they are paid by the employer. These retained searches are typically high stakes, and the executive recruiter is being paid a portion of the recruiting fee upfront. They are normally expected to deliver three ‘A’ candidates to an employer within a 30-day period.
Executives should not pay an executive recruiter already working with a company on a specific job opening, as they are already being paid by the employer. Savvy job seekers also will avoid working with only one recruiter, as they likely represent other candidates for the same job.”
According to Michael Knight, co-founder and head of marketing at Incorporation Insight, a business consultancy:
“If the executive does wind up hiring a high-level recruiter, the same payment model that companies use will apply. It’s common for independent third-party recruiters to be paid on a contingency basis, which means they don’t get paid unless their applicant is hired. The normal charge is from 20% to 30% of the entire first-year compensation in a new job.”
How to Find the Right Executive Recruiters
Here’s a quick rundown. Read more in my post, How to Find Executive Recruiters Specializing in Your Niche.
- Re-connect with the executive recruiters you’ve used in the past
- Ask your network(s) for recommendations
- Search LinkedIn for executive recruiters
- Check your trade or industry associations for referrals
- Check out Forbes Best Executive Recruiting Firms for a list of the big firms
How Recruiters Find Candidates
The vast majority of recruiters use social recruiting to source and assess candidates.
They scrutinize potential candidates’ social networks and social media activity to qualify or rule them out.
Initially, to find candidates, they typically search LinkedIn using relevant keywords and keyword phrases.
To qualify candidates they have identified, they will Google each one’s name and see what they find across the search results.
Anything posted on social media accounts and elsewhere online that is open to the public will be visible to them, and they’ll take it all into account when deciding whether someone is a viable candidate.
Where they find candidates
- LinkedIn and other social media
- Their professional network
- Job boards
- Candidates’ referrals
- Resume submissions
- Online job postings
- Career fairs
How to Engage with Recruiters Through Cold Outreach
Ron Beck, Director of Healthcare Leadership & IT Recruitment at Carecor Health Services Ltd. has these suggestions:
“What I seek most is knowing which of my job vacancies the job seeker is attracted to. I appreciate when their message provides the exact job title how they discovered the opportunity. I also like seeing the resume as an attached file, or even a short bio that briefly shows how the candidate is qualified for the vacancy.
What recruiters don’t like, is a vague approach. Many notes I receive say something like, “I’m a Project Manager (or Analyst or a Sales Rep, etc.), so do you have work for me?” I typically disregard these types of approaches, but if the message was respectful and professionally written, I’m likely to reply and request more precise information.
So, when conducting outreach to a recruiter, it’s important that the person be specific about the type of work they seek and along with including a brief overview of their matching credentials and experience to support that type of work. When a message is concise and matches a current vacancy, of course any recruiter worth their salt will reply and either request their resume or direct them to a link to the job posting, or both.”
What Executive Recruiters Look for in Resumes
If you’ve been sending your resume to recruiters and you never hear anything back, you may assume that they didn’t even look at your resume. Or, that they don’t review most of the many resumes that are submitted to them.
In fact, the vast majority of recruiters do indeed review every resume that comes their way.
According to tech industry recruiter Tejal Wagadia, here’s how they review each and every resume:
Top to bottom
Unless a quick scan reveals that the candidate is underqualified for the position, recruiters will start at the top and read all the way through.
“When I’m looking at resumes, I personally go over everything — line by line — starting with the work experience. We look for job duties you’ve done and accomplishments.”
What about employment gaps?
“I always recommend putting a one-liner saying you took a personal sabbatical.”
Recruiters won’t care too much about length unless the resume is too long (say, 6 pages or more).
They understand that executives with at least 10-15 years experience may need 3 to 4 pages to describe it.
Jobs that you had 15-20 years ago can be left off the resume, unless the role you’re seeking requires that many years’ experience.
What to leave out
People sometimes forget to delete the default text in a template.
“People use templates and then they don’t edit the template correctly.”
And fancy formatting is not as important as
“Your experience, what you do, what you did and how it applies to the job you want.”
The Skills That Most Impress Executive Recruiters
Research by Cappfinity shows that
“By having these five behavioral skills as a foundation, individuals can acquire new skills and talents and continue to utilize them throughout their careers”:
- Curiosity. Asking great questions, investigating the world around you, and perpetually expanding your horizons.
- Learning Agility. Enjoying learning new things about a wide range of topics.
- Growth mindset. Having the desire to conquer new challenges, even if they require persistence to succeed.
- Critical analysis. Having the capacity to look at issues from different perspectives and enjoying consulting with multiple people to identify next steps and make informed decisions.
- Collaboration. Knowing that working with others is the best way to achieve results, and enjoying contributing and delivering on shared goals
How Your LinkedIn Profile Is Turning Off the Right Recruiters
Most recruiters spend a lot of time on LinkedIn sourcing and assessing candidates.
That’s why you need to be there with a robust profile, proactively using LinkedIn.
Give recruiters plenty of info about who you are. Show them that you know how to use LinkedIn. Give them what they need to see in your profile or they’ll move on to someone else.
- Your profile headline isn’t customized with keywords and doesn’t generate chemistry and interest
- Your profile doesn’t position you as the right fit in terms of qualifications
- It contains very little substantive information about you
- You neglected the Featured and Activity sections of your profile
- You didn’t use storytelling with hard facts and metrics
How to Alienate Recruiters
Your goal is to cultivate positive relationships with several recruiters. Doing things that will turn them against you makes no sense.
Cutting the recruiter out: The candidate learns of an opportunity from a recruiter, then reaches out to the firm directly or via a friend who works there.
Feigning interest: The candidate uses the recruiter to get a competing offer, with the goal of building leverage against their current firm to gain a promotion, a higher salary, or enhanced remote-work flexibility.
Setting false criteria: The candidate declares they won’t move unless it’s for X amount of money. The recruiter convinces the firm to increase its offer by a six-figure sum, exceeding the candidate’s threshold. The candidate still rejects the offer.
Hiding the ball: The candidate fails to tell the recruiter about competing interviews or offers, causing the recruiter not to press the firm to speed up its process, and causing the candidate to miss out on what could have been an offer.
Ghosting: Candidates, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Whether in the dating market or the job market, ghosting people is a bad look!
How to Maintain Winning Relationships with Executive Recruiters
When I first wrote this post more than 10 years ago, I included the following advice from two former recruiters. It all still applies.
How to get recruiters’ attention
Jennifer McClure answered this question:
“How do you get a Recruiter to pay attention to you when you contact them because you want to make a career change, or change industries?”
“My advice? (And it applies to anyone who contacts a Recruiter directly.) Treat Recruiters like you would any other networking contact! It’s not likely that you’d pick up the phone and start calling other professionals that you don’t know, and expect them to “get” you or to go find you a job without knowing anything about you. So I would suggest choosing a few Recruiters to try to build a relationship with first – before asking for their help.”
Here are a few suggestions on how you can start that process:
- If possible, try to meet Recruiters “out in the wild” (i.e. networking/professional development events/volunteering, etc.) so you can introduce yourself in person.
- Get an introduction or referral to a trusted Recruiter from someone in your network.
- Interact with Recruiters and build effective virtual relationships with them via the various online professional or social networks they inhabit.
- If a Recruiter contacts you about an opportunity that is not of interest, offer to assist them with referrals or to be a resource for them in the future.
Keeping in touch with recruiters
Jeff Lipschultz suggested:
“Stay in touch with your recruiter, but not too often. He/she may not be able to follow-up as often with you as you’d like, but you certainly can keep the line of communication open from your end (especially when there is recent activity to follow-up on). Many appreciate emails over phone calls so they can manage their day better. Communication is essential when your situation changes (i.e., another job offer pending).
Consider a recruiter a life-long friend in your career process, not two ships passing in the night. If you have a well-established relationship with a recruiter, he/she is more likely to go beyond the norms to help you (or a friend) when you need it most. And, the recruiter will know you as a person, not just as a candidate. With this in mind, keep your recruiter appraised of all career changes.”
The best way to return a favor to a recruiter is to network him/her to a new client you know is hiring.
In Recruiting Your Recruiter in the Job Search, Part II he polled several experts, including Jennifer McClure, who advised job seekers to:
“Always ask the recruiter how their process works, what happens to their resume if they send it to the recruiter and what they should expect from the recruiter in terms of follow up or actions.”
She added that many recruiters do not operate the same way, and
“If job seekers would ask these questions of each recruiter they interact with, it would go a long way toward eliminating some of the frustrations with recruiters.”