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How to Best Approach Executive Recruiters as a Candidate

There is little doubt in my mind that one of the most frustrating moments in life is when we realize that we need to find another job, or when we suddenly find ourselves without one. The sense of urgency is high, and the world just seems to move a bit slower when we need it to move a bit quicker. It's at that moment in time when people reach out to everyone they trust to ask for leads and the names of known executive recruiters to help them get a new job. That's when most people realize that executive recruiters are not exactly aligned with the immediate needs of job seekers as they are with the potential candidates their clients seek.  If you think job seekers, candidates, and clients are the same, keep reading.

executive_recruiter_contactRetained executive search firms are the gatekeepers to approximately 90,000 senior-level jobs worldwide every year. The clients (the ones who pay the bills) of these executive recruiters are organizations with a specific hiring need and so they seek candidates to fill those needs. The success and income of a recruiter is directly linked to finding the right candidates for their clients and doing it quick.

The life of a recruiter is very hectic, and it requires balancing their time between filling the positions that they have open with clients, proactively identifying candidates whom they feel their clients will need (a calculated gamble), and building client relationships.

Recruiters are typically so short on time and receive so many unsolicited resumes that most sit unread. In the best case scenario, a recruiter will open the resume, but if it does not catch their eye, it might not even make it into the database. You don't stay top-of-mind by just sending a resume, selling yourself and calling every month to see if a position is available.

If you want to approach an executive recruiter with success and stay top-of-mind, then give them what they need (hint: It's not always your resume).

Executive recruiters focus on a specific industry, region, or field to achieve a level of expertise that makes them more effective and efficient. So start by identifying and approaching recruiters in your industry, region, and field. Introduce yourself (don't sell yourself), let them know that you're in the market, briefly explain your area of expertise, and offer to help with any information or insight that can help them close their open positions. From there, build a relationship based on valuable interaction regarding trends and issues that affect the disciplines and industries where you have expertise. Help the recruiter stay on top of what is happening in that space. This level of interaction helps you and the recruiter build knowledge and expertise, making the relationship valuable for both beyond the specific transaction of a single job opportunity.

The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Connecting with Executive Search

As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to:
- Learn about executive search and how it differs from other forms of recruiting
- Discover the best ways to connect with executive search professionals
- Understand how the search process works
- Implement strategies that will help you become visible to the search community
- And more!

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About the author

Jose Ruiz's picture

As CEO, Jose is a provider of vision, strategic direction and the roadmap for the firm's future. He is involved in executive search work focused on board members, CEOs and senior-level executives; and consulting engagements related to leadership and organizational effectiveness, helping clients create thriving cultures. Prior to joining Alder Koten, Jose was a Principle with Heidrick & Struggles' Global Industry Practice, based in Houston, TX and Monterrey, Mexico. He is also a bi-weekly contributor at Forbes.com.mx, writing about executive leadership and career development.

About BlueSteps

BlueSteps optimizes your visibility to top executive search firms and positions you for the best executive jobs.

As a member of BlueSteps, your career details will be confidentially provided to hundreds of the world’s leading retained executive search firms, all vetted members of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants in over 75 countries.  Benefits include:

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About the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants

Since 1959, the AESC has set the standard for quality and ethics in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide. Because AESC members must commit and adhere to the AESC's industry and government recognized Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines, clients can be assured that AESC members are able to serve as trusted advisors for their most important engagements. As the voice for executive search and leadership consulting worldwide, today the AESC is comprised of more than 350 member firms, representing 8,000 executive search professionals in 75 countries. To learn more about the AESC and its membership, visit www.aesc.org.


Dear Jose,
Thank you for the tip. I liked the emphasis on the differentiation between a candidate and a job seeker (harsh but true) and helping the recruiters had not occurred to me. As a good number of energy/ oil and gas professionals, I became a job seeker last year after many years relishing the benefits of being a candidate and experienced the difference between the 2 categories. In order to keep things up after a solid career in companies like Petrobras, ABB, GE and Siemens I decided to start my own consulting business. It does not mean at all I gave up the corporate life, but consulting can keep me active and up to date, I think, until Energy/O&G (and Brazil's economy) recovers. My questions to you are: how would you see an offer of help through the consulting business and not by the individual? I.e. - would you remove a job seeker from your hot list on the assumption that this person's priority is no longer finding a job? Would you consider it mixed signals offering support/tips through the company and making it clear you are still looking for a good position? What do you recommend when submitting an offer support through the company?
Thanks and regards
Welter Benicio

Dear Benicio.

Thank you for taking the time to read the post and commenting. Don't lose sight that the relationship that you must seek is between two individuals. Not two companies, and not an individual with a company. That works both ways. You should not be looking for a relationship between yourself as a candidate and a recruiting firm, and you should not be looking for a relationship between your company and a consultant in a recruiting firm. You're seeking empathy, connection, and perhaps even friendship. That happens between two people. If you submit an offer of support via a company you are submitting an offer for a service, not a relationship. If a relationship is in place, you don't need to worry about hot lists. The best and most influential search consultants don't have or use job seeker hot lists. They have strong relationships with top talent, and it does not matter if the person is looking for a job or not. When the right opportunity comes along, they have potential candidates top of mind, they reach out and explore.

All the best,

Yes, this post has many useful tips that will help candidates. I have a friend who is preparing for getting a job in the IT industry and I found some tips that mentioned in this post might be helpful him. So I will share this post with him. Keep posting Jose.

Thank you for this article. I'm in the situation where I left a job with stability but lacked substance to a new position. I did not move on a whim and did my homework, however once in, I realized they oversold their stability. Now I'm looking again but still employed. I am very interested in the executive recruiter as they usually have the type of jobs in desire. Thanks to this article I will approach them with a letter rather than a resume. Wish me luck.

Julia Salem's picture

Thank you, Susan. Wishing you good luck in your search!

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