The Role of Executive Search Firms in Your Career Strategy


When asked how they intend to find their next job, many executives answer, “I’ll contact a headhunter who can manage that for me.” Unfortunately, that statement reflects lack of knowledge about how executive recruiters work and the role an executive search firm plays in the careers of individual executives.
global_executive_search_firmsCertainly, search firms are always on the lookout for talented executives, and if you’ve been “headhunted” in the past it’s normal to think this is the way it works most of the time – you do nothing but do your job very well, and the recruiter seeks you out for a new opportunity. If you’ve had that experience, consider yourself lucky, but don’t think that it’s the norm!
In fact, most executives spend 6, 9, 12 months or more in an active search. Those who use multiple channels (executive search firms + networking + targeted search + posted openings) are most likely to succeed more quickly and more enjoyably than those who pursue just one avenue.
As you are connecting with executive search firms, always keep in mind that their job is not to find you a job: Their job is to find great candidates for their client – the employer. If you meet all the requirements for a current search, the recruiter can be extremely valuable to you. If you do not, the recruiter will move on to candidates who are a better fit.
However, throughout your career, it makes great good sense to cultivate relationships with executive recruiters when you are not actively seeking a new position. Then, those recruiters become part of your network rather than strangers you reach out to only when you are looking for help.
Unique BlueSteps Member Benefit
Among all the organizations that provide career services to executives, BlueSteps is unique because of our relationship with the top executive search firms worldwide – the 350 member search firms of the Association of Executive Search Consultants.
Whether you are actively searching or just managing your career for the long-term, you can use this relationship to your advantage. Here’s how:

  • Upload a powerful executive resume/CV to your BlueSteps profile. AESC members search the BlueSteps database daily to find candidates with just the right combination of experience, accomplishments, and expertise. If your CV does not clearly communicate where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what you know, and how you’ve added value, you won’t rise to the top in any search. So whether you’re a passive candidate or actively searching, your first step should be to develop the resume/CV that lets others understand your value. And remember – the rise to the top is competitive! You’re not the only executive with expertise in your industry or a history of blue-chip employers or a great record of results. Your resume/CV must show what makes you unique and must connect to the needs of the search consultants and their clients. An average resume won’t help you.
  • Use the Executive Search Firm Directory. That is available only to BlueSteps members. Your aim is not to “blast” recruiters with your CV but rather to identify those who specialize in your particular industry and/or function. Conduct a systematic campaign to contact each recruiter personally and build a relationship. Chances are they won’t have an immediate opportunity for you. But they will remember executives who are polished, professional, and clear about the value they offer.
  • Understand recruiter challenges and priorities. Be alert to ways you can help recruiters in your network – by referring candidates, providing industry insights, or recommending them to companies that might retain their services.
  • Enrich your knowledge. Visit the BlueSteps Executive Career Insider Blog. Join the LinkedIn Group for BlueSteps members. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be for the ups and downs of a typical job search, and you’ll be ready to seize the opportunities that come your way.

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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 BlueSteps

BlueSteps empowers executives to reach their career goals with strategic career planning.


At BlueSteps, we thoughtfully create career management solutions that are designed to help leaders advance their careers, stay on track to build a long-term career playbook, and become a strong leader. Our tools and resources will help you:
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