What People in Executive Search Do
Executive search is a specific type of recruitment service, aimed at helping companies fill their senior and executive positions. Sometimes referred to as “headhunters,” these recruiters spend a great deal of time researching, networking, and building contacts in order to ensure they’ll find the right candidate for any given position.
Because people involved in executive search are typically only called in when an organization cannot find a qualified candidate on its own, having an extensive network and interpersonal skills is paramount. Recruiters also spend a fair amount of time listening to the needs and wants of both employers and candidates, to ensure a good match is made, and must also be able to help schedule meetings and negotiate agreements between the two parties.
Who would enjoy a career in Executive Search?
People with a solid background in the industry they serve have an edge in finding ideal candidates. Those who enjoy the “hunt” of the search and like networking also do well. Because the career is much like sales, those who enjoy negotiation and being persuasive enjoy it the most. It’s a good fit for resourceful people who are energized by the prospect of making money, as the commissions can be sizeable, yet also have empathy for candidates and employers alike.
Who mightn't like the career?
Executive recruiters may get told “no,” dozens of times a day by organizations and candidates, so the job not a good fit for people who are sensitive or lack resilience. The hours can be odd, as the recruiter must be available to talk with organizations during business hours and candidates whenever they’re free, which often means nights and weekends are interspersed with work. People who need clear work/life balance often struggle to carve out personal time. Lastly, much of a person’s salary depends on making a good match, so those who need regular, dependable income, will become disenchanted quickly.
Fortunately, there is not a single degree or career path that leads to a job in executive search. More often than not, people become a recruiter after working in an industry for an extended period of time and then transition into executive search for that industry. Top global executive search firms may require an MBA, advanced degree or leadership background, given of the clients they deal with are often at the Board or C-level who prefer to deal with executive search professionals of a particular calibre or profile.
It’s important to demonstrate tenacity when interviewing for a position, simply because those performing the interviews are adept recruiters. They know how to size up a candidate and may be more prone to asking challenging questions that may throw off the candidate to gauge real-world responses to stress. As potential recruiters must be able to “sell” organizations on a particular candidate, interviewees must be prepared to sell themselves during the interview process. This means knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as being able to demonstrate how the agency will benefit from choosing him or her.
Moving into Executive Search from another career
As mentioned earlier, there is no one-path to enter the executive search field. Many executive search professionals specialise in an industry-vertical like Pharmaceuticals, Technology and Financial Services, so are open to individuals who have held positions in those areas, in addition to high performers with a strong sales or relationship management background.
Role: Research analysts spend their days supporting tenured associates and consultants. They often help build up contacts, update databases with information about potential candidates, and generate leads for tenured recruiters to follow. This may be done by phone, online, in person, or through other means.
Role: People with previous recruitment experience and those who worked as a research associate for 1-3 years are generally referred to as associates and remain in the position for about 5 years. Associates complete the same duties as research associates do, but they may also be entrusted with screening candidates for particular positions and are often tasked with maintaining relationships.
Role: When most people think of recruitment, the consultant position is what’s usually in mind. Consultants handle all aspects of the executive search. They work with candidates to ensure companies can meet their needs and may help them polish their resumes or prepare for an interview. They help organizations perform market analysis, listen to their concerns to make sure the right candidate is found for their needs, and present potential candidates to company decision makers. When both parties have an interest, the consultant helps negotiate an agreement that works for all sides. Consultants also network extensively and develop strong relationships with the organizations they serve in order to ensure an ongoing business relationship is formed.
Role: Sometimes referred to as partners, managers, or directors, those in the upper echelon of executive search focus more on creating new business relationships. They spend a great deal of time attending events and seminars to generate new business and cultivate relationships with execs of firms that may need their services.
It can be difficult for recruiters to move outside their home country, simply because they also have to establish all new contacts if the move is extensive, unless they work for companies that target candidates from their home region. People who have advanced their careers in executive search, such as consultants and directors, travel frequently to meet with company heads and attend events.
Research Analyst: According to PayScale, the average salary of a research analyst is about USD$57,000 in America, CAD$50,000 in Canada, £33,000 in the UK, AU$70,000 in Australia.
Associate: USD$56,000, CAD$52,000, ₤31,000, AU$68,000
Consultant: USD$74,000, CAD$64,000, ₤36,000, AU$68,000
Director: USD$93,000, CAD$80,000, ₤45,000, AU$85,000
Bonuses and profit sharing are what make executive search a very lucrative career to get into. Skilled and experienced recruiters can easily bring home six (and sometimes seven)-figure salaries after their bonuses. Directors often earn double their base salaries once bonuses are included.
Why People in Executive Search move on
Some people enter into the field with misconceptions about how difficult executive search is. They erroneously believe that because they know a lot of people or enjoy helping people, that they’ll be successful recruiters.
In reality, the base salary is often not enough to sustain people and, without getting bonuses from placing candidates to supplement, they have little option but to leave the career. In most of these cases, people return to their original occupation, as the skills obtained through work in executive search do not generally improve future job prospects outside of recruitment.