Tips Finding Top Executive Search Firms
Executive headhunters do not advertise widely nor do they have a strong presence as they tend to operate discretely in the background. Therefore, it is necessary to research potential headhunting firms based on different elements. The objective is to establish the right contacts by geographical location, industry sector or specialist niche. Success relies on effective research to identify the best headhunter to partner with and build an ongoing relationship.
We recommend going for 2-3 headhunters within a specific geographical area, nearby city or wider region, though if broadening the job search out then 4 or 5 headhunters give additional scope. So, what are the best ways for finding executive headhunter contacts and how to optimise search results?
Finding Headhunters: Research
General Internet Research: Using various search engines (i.e. Google) to type in keywords, phases or search terms can yield a list of headhunting firms. Search by geographical area, city location, job titles, industry sector or specialist niche. Some headhunting firms will be more general, whilst others will specialise in very few sectors (niche) or higher profile global, international or national roles. Check out the company website (gives a good impression of company and assignments handled), select a shortlist and identify key contacts (names of recruitment consultants) to send across CV.
Business Directories: Executive headhunters often list themselves in business directories and can include core company and website information for finding useful contact details and making further enquiries. Again, companies will have an online presence, so review the website to clarify contact details and any opportunities they may have on offer. Websites give tremendous clues about the type of assignments headhunters offer, customer testimonials, client profiles, services offered and any areas of specialisation.
Job Boards: These are where vacancies from a number of sources are aggregated into a job search engine, enabling website visitors to refine searches using different attributes. Some executive headhunters (not all) use job boards to advertise current vacancies. It is important to look behind the vacancy and find out which headhunter is ‘sponsoring’ (advertising) the opportunity. This again gives a lead into finding company details, names of consultants and profiles headhunting activities, plus other vacancies offered by the same company.
Headhunter Lists: Experteer.co.uk is a good example of an extended job board with a headhunter search function. This is where headhunters collectively list contact details, location and company profiles. However, this is part of a premium service and requires a subscription, so we recommend considering all the options before choosing to enter into a third party subscription (we do not openly endorse third party services; it is up to individuals to decide on what is best for them).
Networking Industry Contacts: Top executives have normally built a large network of contacts through business dealings, special events, industry associations, professional development and membership bodies. Very often executive headhunters align themselves with such groups, memberships or bodies, even having headhunter employees as active members. It is inevitable at some point in time executives would have come into direct contact with headhunters at events. So, keep aware of potential contacts and continue to build networks.
Personal Recommendation: People who have been headhunted are often quite forthcoming about their experiences, especially if they have secured a top-level position in the past. Some experiences may have been very good, so top executives are more inclined to personally recommend firms that have offered an excellent service and have an outstanding reputation for hiring talent.
LinkedIn Tools (The Proactive Headhunter): LinkedIn is rapidly becoming a favourite tool for the executive headhunter as it is a cost effective way of proactively identifying potential candidates, developing leads and contacting top talent directly. Some headhunters will research candidates and make contact using LinkedIn by email or asking to join that person’s network.
LinkedIn Tools (The Proactive Candidate): The idea is to follow groups (most headhunters will have a company LinkedIn presence) or directly link into specific contacts from headhunter firms. This can help put candidates on the radar of headhunting firms, which frequently advertise latest vacancies through their groups or activity feeds. However, some groups are closed and top executives need permission before joining (i.e. prevents more mainstream candidates from joining and restricts competitors from seeing latest opportunities). For the executive job seeker, LinkedIn is also a fantastic research tool to help seek out executive headhunter contacts.
Finding Executive Headhunter Contacts: Conclusion
These are just some of the most useful ways of researching and building executive headhunter contacts. It is worthwhile remembering that only highly credible, talented and experienced people will be able to get through the door and gain face-to-face contact. Executive headhunters are not designed to cater for mainstream jobs. They perform a very specific purpose and have to be very selective by focusing on recruiting the most talented 1-2% of business people with a blend of exceptional leadership credentials, specialist expertise and proven experience.
- Alternatives to Finding Tier 1 Executive Headhunters London
- Understanding the Executive Headhunter Search and Selection Process
- Interim Executive Appointments or Interim Management Opportunities
- Understanding the Changing Nature of Executive Headhunter Firms
- Preparation Tips for Meeting Executive Headhunter Contacts
- Tips for Building Stronger Relationships with Headhunting Firms