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Tips and Lessons Learned
from Recruiting Executive Roles

See also: Interviewing Skills

Each day, hundreds of resumes cross recruiters’ desks for various open positions.

It’s a different ball game for executive roles because 97% of senior candidates want recruiters to personally headhunt them for relevant vacancies. However, the biggest challenge for 76% of recruiters lies in attracting quality candidates.

The nuance of recruiting executive roles is that they vary dramatically – not just from each other, but also from one company to another. This makes the recruiter’s work even more challenging.

What Makes Executive Recruitment Different from Other Roles

We’re willing to bet that you’ll hardly see an ad for an executive role on a recruitment website or in your local daily.

Nonetheless, executive recruitment is critical to the company as is hiring non-managerial staff. However, the main difference between hiring for both levels is that many executives don’t actively look for jobs.

Most senior level executives or managers are already in employment, so you won’t find them constantly browsing the web for vacant C-suite positions.

Consequently, companies need to hone their art of finding and approaching prospective candidates for executive roles and establishing long-term, trustworthy relationships with them.

When a company needs to fill an executive role, sourcing the promising candidate isn’t the challenge - getting them to sign on the dotted line is.

So how do the best staffing agencies and recruiters manage to find and recruit top executive talent every day? We’ll share some insights, tips and lessons gained from recruiters that could help professionals in any field.

Top Executive Recruiting Tips and Lessons

Every recruitment professional wants to excel and achieve success in their job. But what does it take to get the best executive candidates through the door and into the right role?

You could have the right tools and a passion for knowing your candidates better. But getting tried-and-true strategies from expert executive recruiters can help you achieve higher recruitment return on investment (ROI) and win the best talent.

Here are the top tips and lessons from executive recruitment experts that'll help you find the best executives.

Do Your Research

The first and most important step in executive recruitment is to understand the job and industry. It should go without saying that you must be well prepared to find and hire the best executive.

It starts by crafting the perfect job description and customizing it to your company’s needs. The next step is to define the kind of candidate who would fit the job description not just for that position, but also for your company culture and industry.

When crafting the job description, don’t define the position in exquisite form by listing a dozen different skills.

Instead, focus on identifying and evaluating the most essential skills needed for the role. In practice, this forces the recruiter to think critically about what the company needs at that juncture, and keeps them from optimizing the desirable attributes.

Leverage Employee Referrals

Networking is critical when it comes to recruiting executives. Your personal and social media contacts are indispensable as are employee referrals.

In fact, 48% of businesses say their employee referrals are their top channel for quality hires. Plus, referred candidates are 55% faster to hire and produce 25% more profit than hires from other sources.

Whether it’s an investor, partner company or anyone who has a stake in the company’s success, make sure you use their contacts to help you during the recruitment process.

They may know your targeted executive candidate or can suggest a few who would be suited for the position. Explain how the role you’re hiring for will complement their skillset, take work off their plate, and alleviate pain points for them.

A focused job description serves as the reference-check process. So instead of asking the referrer to tell you about the candidate and what they’re good at, orient it to the specific attributes you’re evaluating.

For instance, you can say you’re looking for a team builder who can help your company grow from 10 to 100. This elicits more concrete, targeted feedback from the referrer than asking what the candidate is good at.

Be Discreet and Maintain Confidentiality

You have a solid job description and a list of potential candidates. The next step is to contact them. You could call or send an email, but you still want to be discreet through the whole process.

So how do you reach out to top executives about a position you’d like them to interview for?

According to an Experteer study, 77.9% of executive candidates prefer to be contacted via online networks, with 86.9% of them preferring private email addresses.

Make sure you demonstrate high-level professionalism by maintaining confidentiality and being discreet when contacting executive candidates. Contacting them this way protects their reputation and privacy while giving them the cushion time to consider a response.

Meet Their Expectations

People work for different reasons. It could be for money, to make an impact in the company and industry they’re in, lead high-performance teams or gain positions of power and influence.

Once you’ve established the first contact with the potential candidates, don’t just ask them what motivates them. Ask them what accomplishment they’re most proud of in their career to discover what drives them so you can provide the relevant incentives.

Build Relationships with Your Candidates

One of the most critical parts of executive recruiting is building relationships. You should always put the candidate as the focus of the recruitment process and adopt a highly personalized approach with each candidate.

The best executive candidates aren’t easy to find or persuade to sign on the dotted line. So, take your time and focus on knowing the candidate first before selling your company’s position.

Even if the company eventually goes with another candidate, you still need to preserve the established contact. It’s also good practice to contact each of them and let them know whether they made it through to the next stage or not.

New positions may open in future thus making it worthwhile for companies to seek to maintain long-term relationships.

Work hard to provide a great candidate experience because the same candidates are probably being courted by other companies. Make sure your company’s executive search experience really stands out from the crowd.

Be Patient

Executive recruitment is a long, arduous, and delicate process.

A typical executive director or CEO search can take about 4-8 months to complete. On top of that, you’ll need to give a lot of reassurance to the top candidates before they can even consider your offer.

Be prepared to invest the time and effort needed in today’s highly competitive environment to get the right candidate.

Go the Extra Mile

Executives are high in demand and approached by many different companies, so they’ve probably seen and heard it all.

Differentiating your approach shows how much you’re invested in and committed to hiring them.

Some of the ways you can make them feel special include:

  1. Offer a face-on-face time with your company’s director or CEO

  2. Listen to them carefully and be ready to accommodate their needs

  3. Be prepared to meet them outside work hours

  4. Discover what they like and treat them to their favorite hobby or restaurant


Reinvent Your Executive Recruitment Approach

Finding a high-level executive to fill a role at your organization takes time, effort and some finesse. While these aren’t all the secrets to finding the right executive for your team, they’re a good place to start from.

Whatever you decide, make sure you reinvent your hiring approach based on a deeper understanding of the potential executive candidates. This way, you’ll find someone that will serve your company for years to come.


About the Author


Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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