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What Does an Executive Search Firm Do?

I am frequently asked what I do professionally and I find that people never really understand the role of an executive search consultant. I like to describe what I do as being a tour guide of sorts. The misunderstanding that people often have is that we represent individuals who are looking for positions. In reality, my firm is retained by organizations to find executive-level candidates for specific positions. For our clients, we do everything from writing a job description to negotiating an offer with their candidate of choice and everything in between. Simply put, we help design a leadership profile that describes the organization, the position concept, and the required leadership attributes and skills for both short- and long-term success. Then, we search for qualified candidates. My firm serves as a facilitator during the entire process. Our loyalty is first to our client, second to the candidates we present.

The next question I get focuses on how we might I help someone looking for a position. Unfortunately, we are not a great resource for someone who is looking for a new position or actively seeking a career change. If you see a transition in your future, fear not! Some of the best talent we discover is identified through someone else’s referral. As my colleague, Dana Behar, shared in her recent blog posts, you can advance your cause as a future candidate by being a good resource when you do get that call from an executive recruiter about a position you may or may not be interested in pursuing. Once you are in touch with a retained search firm, make sure to represent yourself well. Even if you are not interested in the position for which they are presently recruiting, always call back or respond to the outreach. It is okay to let the recruiter know that you are not personally interested, but describe what you might be interested in, or help them think about search strategy.

If you know someone who would be right for the position, refer that person as a possible candidate. By doing so, you have made a positive impression and will be likely to be contacted again with a role that could be of interest to you. I have placed many individuals into positions who were candidates in one search, weren’t successful, and we contacted them again about another project. While you don’t want to be the person who knows every search firm consultant, you also don’t want to be the person who doesn’t know anyone with a reliable reputation in executive search.


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