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What is Executive Search?

Every hiring process has changed in the digital age. Gone are the days when recruiters could rely solely on personal contacts or LinkedIn, scouring through thousands of profiles to find the ideal candidate for the role. This method is now obsolete for a number of reasons: first, the candidate market is much too saturated. People are switching jobs far more frequently than before. Everybody has an online profile these days, so it’s simply impossible to give every candidate a fair shot. Second, recruiters now have better options than cold-calling. Communication techniques are far more advanced. This is a significant advance; if you are online, you are likely already inundated with emails and requests to connect. Most of us ignore these. The best search firms utilize a Talent Intelligence Platform to eliminate unnecessary and unwanted communications. Innovative technology is here to help recruiters win the fight for talent across all industries and positions. 

Now that recruitment automation software exists, recruiters save time and increase efficiency. While this is a positive advent, software is only one part of the solution to recruiters’ headaches. Some types of searches are more niche and require intense planning in addition to software tools. Recruiting agencies must be organized and specialized in order to stand out from every other firm performing the same job. Specialized firms have arisen to fit these specific needs, including hiring senior-level jobs. Enter executive search recruitment, the hiring arm focused exclusively on hiring corporate executives and white-collar professionals. 

In this blog piece, we’ll outline what the executive search process entails, its challenges, how it works, and what executive recruiters can do to ensure success. This comprehensive guide is useful for candidates and recruiters alike. Read on to learn more.

Executive search process

Companies outsource to executive recruiting firms for plenty of reasons; primarily, they want to find fresh candidates outside of their existing network. The company likely lacks the internal resources to perform an exhaustive search. Even if an internal human resources department exists, the HR team does not have months on end to devote to a single position. As a result, executive recruiters have no simple task. Their talent pool is highly sought-after, often with decades of experience and advanced degrees. These recruiters help to find CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and the like. Because they deal with white-collar professionals, these recruiters must remain as polished as possible.

It is imperative that executive recruiters thoroughly understand the relevant industry before the process begins. Executive recruiters have a responsibility to learn from their retained firm and note specific desired qualifications. This may be a certain number of years of experience, or a certain degree. Candidates should be a good fit for the corporate culture, so it is especially important to note requested soft skills. Often, retained firms seek those with Ivy League degrees. This will ensure that the candidates presented are top-notch. All of these steps are unavoidable in recruiting executives. Plus, it is always beneficial to retain an open line of communication with the client. The amount of client involvement varies from search to search. Some clients may request more frequent check-ins, while others take a more hands off approach. 

Recruiting executives

Recruiting executives is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, executive talent acquisition can take up to ten times as long as generalized recruiting. This is partially due to the arduous research required. Additionally, working for a retained firm necessitates constant contact with the client and candidates. Executive recruiting best practices include extensive research, interviewing, and offer outlining. Populating the candidate pool is a key step in how to recruit C-level employees. Loxo Source solves this problem, providing a talent graph of over 750 million verified profiles. 

There are challenges in attracting executive talent, especially because these top-level workers are not easily wooed. For one, most executives have been in their jobs for several years. As C-suite level employees, they are already earning handsomely with competitive benefits. Most executive recruiting firms will not help hire for positions with annual salaries less than $150,000. Candidates have likely already established a positive, sustained reputation at their companies. This veteran status is a pull factor for many to remain with their current job. They feel a loyalty to their job. As such, many executives qualify as “passive candidates.” This status makes them trickier to find, because their online profiles may be latent and contain outdated information. Loxo Source is indispensable in this instance. Loxo AI technology continuously refreshes billions of data attributes, ensuring information is up to date. 

Additionally, because of their years of experience, most of these professionals are older and established in their communities. This is a barrier to relocation (if necessary) as the candidates most likely have families. With the rise in remote-first work, this may be less of an issue now than it was in the past. Still, relocation is a significant hindrance if required. In a candidates’ market, top-level employees have plenty of options when seeking a new job. Thus, the offer must be as compelling as possible. Recruiters can find out what similar companies are offering, and research what relevant candidates find most attractive. This might entail asking candidates outright what would entice them to leave their current role. 

Executive search process timeline

As previously stated, the executive recruiting timeline is significantly longer than traditional recruitment. This is because the talent pool for executives is significantly smaller. Each step of the process can take several weeks. C-level employees have ample experience in their field and often, advanced degrees. For these reasons, the executive recruitment process flow is tedious and exacting. Additionally, the retained firm is likely spending several thousand dollars on this effort. Last year, the average cost-per-hire for C-suite level employees was nearly $15,000. This increases the pressure on executive recruiters. Seasoned executive search firms will have established timelines with goals and deadlines for both the hiring company and the retained firm.

The recruiters spend time with the firm, listening in order to understand the staff and corporate culture. This process is often referred to as “launch meetings” and the team sets priorities and deadlines. At this time, the offer details are finalized. Additionally, the job description will be crafted, along with ideal candidate qualities. This description includes reporting relationships and core competencies. Both teams may choose to create an ideal candidate profile, Then, the recruiters will tap into their professional network to identify qualified candidates. This network includes professional organizations, proprietary databases, social media, and candidates from previous searches. 

Once there is an adequate talent pool of qualified talent, recruiters will narrow down this pool and present a shortlist to the client. The retained firm is responsible for crafting candidate profiles as a part of this shortlist. While not the case for every search, clients often ask for references at this point in the search. Contacting and verifying references can be a tedious process. Requesting references is a process vanishing from many hiring companies. However, it is often a critical step in vetting executive-level employees. Once the firm has contacted references, the shortlist is narrowed even further. 

By this step, the shortlist contains as few as three candidates. Now, the executive interview timeline commences. This is the most time-consuming component of the executive search process. Loxo Outreach automates communication between recruiters and candidates, saving precious time and manpower. Users can sync their email and calendar to eliminate scheduling conflicts. The interviews typically occur in several rounds. The clients are responsible for interviewing the candidate, but the recruiter is often responsible for arranging the logistics.

The average executive search process can take up to four months. Failing to find a viable candidate will only increase this number. Of course, this number varies, but it is markedly longer than general recruitment, which can take less than a week. After choosing a candidate, the client and recruiter work together to extend the offer. If the candidate accepts, the search is closed. Depending on the client’s wishes, the recruiting firm may assist with the onboarding process. 

Executive search firms

There is specialization within executive search firms. Nonprofit executive search firms place leadership within nonprofit organizations. Other firms focus on healthcare C-level employees. As every industry has executives, a necessity for executive recruitment spans across the entire market. Some recruiting firms are now using executive recruitment tactics to attract lower-level positions. Executive recruiting services will only expand as the hiring boom continues. 

Because executive search firms seek to attract the best, they must utilize the best software available. Having an optimal toolbox sets firms apart from the competition. 

While every executive search firm utilizes different strategies, all of them could benefit from a Talent Intelligence Platform. Loxo is a great resource, offering a talent graph, communication automation, and world-class customer support. Loxo’s candidate pipeline and task management tools allow recruiters to stay organized. Loxo Source presents an ample number of qualified candidates for retained firms. We work with over 4,500 of the best executive search firms across the world. Schedule a demo to see why.

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