Why Connecting with a Retained Search Firm Is Important to Your Career
by Robert Hennessy
Go to any online job board and search for C-suite, executive or senior management positions and you’ll find slim pickings. Worse yet, the chances of hearing from any of those companies or landing those roles are so low that job boards don’t even publish the data on it.
For executive-level candidates looking for new opportunities or those ready to move into leadership positions, connecting with retained search firms can significantly improve the chances of finding the job that keeps a career headed in the right direction. The reason for this is that most companies entrust retained search firms to fill their top spots, and those firms rarely, if ever, post positions on job boards.
Connecting with a retained search firm can be the difference between an upward career trajectory and a work history that resembles a flat line. But how do you build a relationship with a retained search firm whose clients are companies, not job seekers?
Retained search firms specialize in finding the top candidates in the industry. Therefore, if you are an established expert in your field or have the desire and the chops to one day add “chief” in your title, we want to know you, and you owe it to your career to connect with us.
Now, before you jump on LinkedIn to search for recruiters to connect with, let me give you some rules of engagement that will ensure your efforts are worthwhile.
Connecting with a Retained Search Firm Without Turning Them Off
Do Your Homework
Retained executive search firms generally cater to specific industries, and within those industries, you can also learn the types of jobs they typically fill. Spend time researching websites, LinkedIn, and social media channels to learn their practice areas. Search firms will sometimes list open positions, and many will list their areas of expertise. If you don’t see your industry or your job in there, don’t bother connecting.
Know What You Want
Write down the roles you would like and the locations you would consider working from before connecting with executive recruiters. Also, write down why you are a fit for these roles. If a recruiter connects with you, be ready to make a compelling case. You’ll be memorable if you project confidence in knowing where you want to take your career.
Include Your Resume or CV with Your First Message
I’ve seen recruiting firms advise against this, but they are typically big firms that try to cater to all industries, or they are headhunter shops using junior staff to dial for dollars. Experienced, high-level recruiters have email boxes that regularly fill to capacity, so sending a compelling first email that contains your resume or CV is important for getting their attention. Otherwise, your efforts are likely to be sent to the trash bin.
Find the Right Person to Connect With
If you get the cold shoulder from search leaders at large, brand name firms, know that this is typical. Consider contacting people further down the search firm’s org chart to ask which principal or associate below the partner might give you time and advice. Years ago, I was that guy.
Be Honest about Why You are Connecting
Believe it or not, some job seekers will feign like they have business to give the search firm to get in front of recruiters. This won’t help you. I talk to CEOs every day who are looking to make a change. Being honest about the fact you are in transition and need help is the only way to get my positive attention.
Make Yourself Accessible
Answer your phone. If you want a return call from a busy search consultant, then be available. Not all search firms will show their phone numbers, and by screening your calls using caller ID, you may very well miss the time a recruiter has set aside to talk with new contacts.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
In executive search, pedigrees and track records matter. If you have a medical degree, built a $100 million sales department, worked at a big brand-name company, launched a life-saving drug, own patents, wrote a best-selling business book, or are a Rhodes Scholar, tell me – upfront. I guarantee that I will want to know that immediately, and I don’t want to have to coax it out of you.
Avoid the Impulse to Check-In
Retained executive search firms are business partners for their client companies, and they are usually working under defined time frames to deliver top candidates for open positions. As such, if a search professional connects with you, they are doing so because they have something in mind. Likewise, they will follow-up if you are a good fit. Otherwise, consider not adding to the email churn when dealing with experienced recruiters.
While executive recruiters work for their client companies, we are only as good as the candidates we procure. We want to connect with the best and brightest candidates, both established and up-and-coming. I have worked with some candidates for years, placing them in positions that aided in their career growth. Connecting with a retained search firm is the right move for many candidates looking to boost their career.