How to Best Approach Executive Recruiters

One of the most frequently asked questions from members of Lead5 is how to approach executive recruiters. We have put together a sample email at the end of this blog that we hope is helpful, but let’s also highlight five key points to remember when connecting with search firms:

1. Understand the retained search business model. Lack of understanding of how retained executive search firms operate is the first clue you are not an experienced executive. Retained firms only work for companies – the hiring company is the client. The candidates are a commodity. We as search professionals try not to treat the candidates like a commodity, but the business model is structured in a way that, more often than not, leaves the candidate sensing this dynamic

2. You have a green light to send your resume directly to executive search firm consultants, but make sure you are doing your research. Every firm has partners and principals who recruit for specific industry sectors and functional roles. Determine the best contact by reviewing bios to ensure there is a match between your experience and the partner’s coverage area. The Lead5 recruiter database is a go-to resource for this research. There, you can quickly pinpoint the right targets using your My5 filters.

3. Most executives conducting an active job search connect with 5 to 7 retained search firms, typically with recruiters that have approached them in the past. This is fruitful, but candidates should send their resume to 25 to 30 plus search firms, given the executive search industry is highly fragmented beyond the top 4 to 5 firms. Take the time to complete the research necessary to make sure you are in the “flow” of available opportunities for your industry/function.

4. If you do not hear back from a retained executive recruiter to whom you have sent your resume, do not worry. The first priority is having your resume updated and marked in the proprietary database of the search firm as interested in opportunities. All search firms have a process to update resumes in the database and mark you interested for a 6-to-12-month time frame. In some cases your name is actually highlighted within the system. The baseline is to market yourself to 25 to 30 search firms by having your profile activated in the database. If the particular search consultant you reach out to has an active search that is a fit, they will reach out to you. Otherwise, you are a “seeker candidate” and the best path for a seeker candidate is to get tagged in the system so the entire firm can query and have access to your resume.

5. Personalization is key. If I recruit Chief Marketing Officers and a Chief Technology Officer reaches out, it is not a good look. Do your homework, as 15 to 25 highly targeted, thoughtful notes to search consultants who cover your areas of expertise by industry and function is much more effective than the spam blanket email sent to 100 recruiters. Start with the recruiters/firms you know and expand out with direct outreach to the firms who need to know you.


Sample Email to Retained Executive Recruiters

Hi Susan,

Good afternoon. I am a senior HR executive with over 20 years of experience in the consumer products and industrial services sectors. I am aware that you specialize in the HR center of expertise for SmithThompson Search and I’m currently actively seeking out my next role. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my background further at your convenience and I would also appreciate getting marked as active/interested in your firm’s database.

I’ve attached my resume, but my work experience includes the last four years as CHRO of Virtue Products, a PE backed, middle market global consumer company based in Phoenix, AZ.  I previously spent 8 years with Danson Corp, the publicly traded large cap environmental services firm where I served in a variety of divisional and corporate HR leadership positions. I have an undergrad in management from the University of Wisconsin, and an MBA from Notre Dame. Given the right opportunity and location, we would be open to relocation from our current home base in Arizona.

Please let me know if there is any additional information I can provide and thanks in advance for your time.

Best Regards,

Joe Sample