How to Identify Recruiters to Work With

One of the biggest and sometimes most frustrating mysteries for business professionals is how the executive search process works.  Last week I offered suggestions on how to go about developing relationships with search firms.  This week I share some suggestions on how to identify the most appropriate search firms and search consultants to work with. The most common mistake that business professionals make in contacting search firms is not being targeted in their efforts.  This has several downsides.  First, it is simply unproductive in that you are likely sending your background to consultants who may not conduct assignments relevant to your industry or job function.  Secondly, it shows poorly, giving the impression that you have not done your homework and research.

Over the past decade the executive search industry has become quite specialized. While historically consultants tended to be more generalists working across multiple industries and job functions. Today, client companies want to know they are working with specialists who have a deep understanding and knowledge of the talent base for specific functions or industries.  Additionally, some firms will be more focused on mid-level opportunities versus others who will be more active in senior and top level searches or placing board directors. The following suggestions will help you better define the list of firms and consultants that are most likely to be of benefit to you.

How to Identify Recruiters to Work With

  • Start by tapping your own network. Talk with peers who have been in the market and ask for introductions.
  • Scan recruiter directories available at resume distribution service companies such as or
  • You can also search for recruiters’ profiles online.  After determining which search firms are the best fit for your needs do some online research by visiting their websites.  The firm websites will often identify search consultants by industry and functional specialties, as well as by office location.
  • As you develop your list of firms and consultants you may also want to call into the office location and ask who the research associates are who work especially closely with targeted consultants. Today, frequently the research associates may make as much as 40-60%+ of the prospecting and sourcing phone calls to targeted executives.
  • Check trade or industry groups for referrals of search firms and search consultants.  Search firms will typically be association members of the industry sectors that they do work in.

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