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Executive Searching – A Headhunter’s Perspective

Executive search is a type of headhunting that focuses on filling very senior positions within a business. Typical roles appointed by executive search are Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Human Resources Director (HRD).

So what are the key approaches to executive search, and how can you be successful when using this tool? In this article, we offer valuable advice to help you make the most of the process.


Detail All Aspects of a Role Before You Begin

You will not be able to successfully appoint a new executive if you don’t thoroughly understand the requirements of the role yourself. Work with your team to determine all of the responsibilities and duties the position involves.

You should also consider how the role may develop and how the future of the company may affect it. All of this information should be carefully recorded and made available to your candidates as a part of negotiations.


Give Yourself Sufficient Time and Resources

 The search for a new major player for your company cannot be rushed. Give yourself more than enough time. After all, even if you find the right individual immediately, it’s likely that they will have to hand over a significant amount of information and instruction before they leave their current employment.

The reality is that you may be looking at several months before they take their place with you.

The time span you choose should include the hours you will spend planning and researching and selecting all platforms and tools that will be used within the headhunting process.


Make a Plan

 You need to think about the criteria you will use to select candidates, the best locations to search, how you will approach particular individuals and the initial offer that you will make.

Your approach must be set in stone before you start reaching out to your chosen executives. After all, a firm with a solid plan will appear much more organised – and therefore attractive – than one that is still grasping for the details. This is likely to give you the upper hand in negotiations.


Research Each Candidate

The most effective way to sabotage your own headhunt is to fail to develop a strong understanding of every potential candidate and their specialisms.

You should only make contact with an executive once you are well-versed in their track record, qualifications and the trajectory of their career to date. These details should inform how good of a match they are for your company.

It’s also a very good idea to try and pre-empt any objections they may have when it comes to the role you are offering. Ask yourself: can we afford them? Do we represent a logical next-step for them? What can we offer that goes above and beyond the capabilities of their previous positions?

Most importantly, you should try to determine how open your potential candidates are likely to be to an approach from headhunters. Were they headhunted for their last job? Are they listed on any business and employment platforms as available to take on new projects?


Approach Candidates Respectfully

Once you have a clear idea of how to present the role, your headhunting approaches are clearly laid out and you’ve done all of the necessary research, it’s time to get in touch with suitable candidates.

It’s sensible to undertake some polite networking as a part of this approach. The personal touch is often highly preferred over a single email stuffed with dry information. If you can find an “in” with your candidate, you can inform them of the opportunity you are offering in a far more personable manner.

Whatever you do, do not fill up their – presumably already busy – inbox with spam. Send a few concise and clear messages and wait for their reply. If you do not receive one, send one gentle reminder after a week or so, but do not push the matter further after this.

If they actively turn you down, check if they have mentioned any possibility for negotiation. If they have not, thank them for their time and move on.


Prepare to Negotiate

Negotiation is common in the world of high-level headhunting. Try to think of ways in which your offer could be made more worthwhile to the individual in question. What is their current salary, and how much further could your own company stretch?

What professional benefits could be made available that they do not currently have access to? How will this position help to fulfil their career goals? Have all offers planned in advance so that you don’t ever find yourself saying “I’ll get back to you on that”.


To make use of a well-established independent recruitment service specialising in executive headhunting, get in touch with Schward Recruit today. We’ll be happy to assist you.


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Dr Schultz spent 22 years working in psychiatry and then went on to qualify as a lawyer. He has spent 34 years helping people solve problems and the unique combination of medicine, psychiatry, law and mediation provides a unique academic and practical approach to life's challenges.

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