As a senior-level executive, it is likely that during the course of your career you will have encountered an executive search professional, either as an employer or a candidate. It is widely known that search firms have the ability to transform executive careers and improve trajectories, so understanding what executive search firms do and how they operate is vital to your own career progression and job search.

faq_about_working_with_executive_search_firmsIn order to help executives understand more about the industry of search and how to engage with retained search professionals in a meaningful way, we have provided some of our top FAQs from executive candidates on working with search consultants.

What do executive search firms do and what do they stand for?

Search firms work with their clients, the hiring company, to find talented executive candidates to meet the leadership needs of the company in question. Search firms provide their clients with industry-specific knowledge and expertise to ensure the most qualified and appropriate candidate is selected. This process involves thorough research, confidential networking, detailed screening and a meticulously thought-out selection process to gain a successful outcome for the client.

Executive search consulting is a specialized form of management consulting that often provides significant benefits beyond search including assessing an organization and its culture, integrating a new leader for optimum success and advising executive leadership and boards.

There are two types of search firms, retained and contingency, and it is important to familiarize yourself with the differences between the two. To learn more about retained vs. contingency search and why it is important to ask whether the firm is retained by the client, click here.

What can executive search firms offer executive candidates?

Since search firms are paid by the companies who hire them to source candidates for a positon, their main priority is their client, the company. However, search consultants can offer advice and suggestions to candidates who build successful professional relationships with them.

As a candidate, your career information will be held in the strictest confidence by the executive search professional, who will act as an intermediary between you and hiring company and will connect you together should your experience and background be deemed suitable for the role in question.

How can you gain visibility among the executive search community?

Since the type of searches handled by retained executive search professionals are not usually advertised on job boards, to be considered for the opportunities they are sourcing candidates for, executives must ensure that they are visible to the executive search community. There are many ways in which this can be done, including:

  • Building relationships with executive search consultants before you need to: If you are contacted by a search consultant but are not actively searching for a new position, use it as an opportunity for building relationships for later in your career. You can do this by explaining your current situation, or even suggesting an alternative suitable candidate.
  • Make sure your profiles are visible and up-to-date: The importance of your online presence is ever increasing and social media platforms, when used correctly, can be a great way to promote yourself as an industry thought-leader and qualified candidate.
  • Networking online and offline: Building relationships, not only with search professionals, but also with those in your own industry can be a great way to bolster your profile and increase visibility. LinkedIn networking and in-person events are particularly useful when networking at the executive level.
  • Break into print and media: To make sure that you get noticed, having your name in print, giving interviews or quotes and being included in your industry’s trade publications can all be useful methods to achieve this aim.


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