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Are you curious about the methods headhunters use to find talented executive-level candidates? As part of our content series on executive search and recruitment, we’ve put together this brief primer for the executive recruitment process.

After reading, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the methods and strategies executive recruiters use to identify and, hopefully, recruit the right candidate for any role.


How Do Executive Headhunters Find High-Quality Candidates?

It’s often the case that companies turn to executive headhunters when they’ve tried, and failed, to find candidates on their own. They want to be sure that the executive recruitment company they’ve chosen has a demonstrable ability to achieve results.

As well as a track record of testimonials and a portfolio of roles filled, clients will want to understand the process that executive headhunters use to source, communicate with, and, ideally, recruit the perfect candidate for the role.

Here’s a little peek behind the curtain at what the process looks like:


Step 1: Build general and specific knowledge

Successful executive recruitment is about putting in the legwork and building an effective strategy over time. This isn’t a skill someone can learn at university; rather, it’s a set of skills developed and nurtured as careers progress and successes mount up.

The skillset includes things like - 

  • Having a clear understanding of the quirks and nuances of any industry in which they operate.
  • Having a clear understanding of the individual needs and goals of potential candidates.
  • Having a network of individual contacts and contacts in companies, so that opportunities can be identified and shared with the relevant parties.
  • Being diligent and tenacious, ensuring that the work is put in when and where it needs to be to secure results.


Step 2: Client and market analysis

To understand client demands, and to reduce the risk of a bad hire (and the related costs), executive search firms look to gather key pieces of information about the client, the role and the ideal candidate:

  • What sort of offer is the client willing to make?
  • Which skills and experience are compulsory in a candidate? Which are negotiable?
  • What is the scope of the role?
  • If it’s an existing and newly-vacant role, are they looking for a candidate similar to the person who held the role previously? Or is some different in background and experience acceptable?

Information will also be gathered to answer questions prospective candidates will have about:

  • the nature of the role;
  • the location;
  • the corporate culture at the company or organisation;
  • the remuneration package.

Having sourced this information, an executive headhunter can analyse the market for the companies and roles where suitable candidates may be found. 


Step 3: Leveraging existing contacts

Peer review is of paramount importance in executive search. A skilled executive recruiter builds an ever-increasing pool of contacts which acts as both a database of people to tap into whenever an opportunity arises and a means of soliciting opinion on the suitability of any prospects.


Step 4: Networking and events

Part of building an increasingly valuable pool of contacts is meeting new people. At an executive level, this means more than just attending generic networking events; it means going to industry-specific events, workshops and seminars, and striking up conversations with as many people as possible. It means forging connections based on a real understanding of the industry in which you’re recruiting.

Even though traditionally, this took place in the form of in-person events, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us that such events can work just as well online. Essentially, headhunters remain vigilant for any event that aligns well with current and possible future recruitment contracts.


Step 5: Social media 

The internet is an incredibly powerful tool for recruiters, but success relies on so much more than posting job adverts and hoping for the best.

Successful executive recruiters spend time understanding where prospective candidates spend time online and curate their outreach strategy accordingly. By actively participating in the conversation, rather than just posting and praying, you can expand your network and build rapport with prospects.

LinkedIn is perhaps the most obvious recruitment social media tool, but it’s far from the only one (or even the best). Twitter, for instance, is incredibly powerful, especially when combined with tools such as Followerwonk, which let you search bios. 

What better way to narrow down the field than by finding prospects who have certain qualifications or use certain words to describe themselves.


Step 6: Job boards and career websites

Executive headhunters will leverage their detailed candidate specification and market analysis to craft effective and inviting opportunities - the sort that will attract potential candidates to them, further expanding the pool of prospects.

As interest builds and people request information about the role or apply for it, an executive headhunter can get a better feel for the skills, interests, career plans and potential suitability of each. This information is the basis for ongoing conversations with prospects who fit the bill.


Step 7: A willingness to go the extra mile

As a conduit between a company and candidates, two parties with potentially different priorities, recruiters must be energetic and organised. They need to facilitate conversation and ensure that all information is conveyed accurately and that all concerns are addressed and resolved.

Sometimes this involves working outside of regular office hours or having long conversations with no guarantee whether or not the candidate will apply.

This is all part of the process, however. No matter how deep their understanding and how well prepared they are, an executive headhunter who can’t facilitate the conversations at the required level will struggle to find the top talent.


Working with Carrot Executive

As executive recruiters, we understand the challenges you face and the importance of finding the right candidate. 

Our recruitment process includes a comprehensive talent mapping report which provides a clear understanding of the talent pools in your industry. We pay special attention to the levels of supply and demand for particular types of talent, information on who they work for, what they do and where they’re currently located. 

Our research will provide you with key information on these talent pools such as their work experience, educational backgrounds, managerial skills, previous employment, average tenure and likely mobility.

We also offer a competitive and unique pricing model to ensure finding the right candidate doesn’t break the bank.


A Few Final Words

Often, companies turn to executive headhunters if they’re short on resources, don’t have access to a big enough network, or encounter one or more of the many other potential roadblocks.

When this happens, it’s important to be sure that your executive headhunter’s selection process is not only suitable for the task but is also demonstrably effective as well.

At Carrot Executive we take a distinctly different approach to recruitment. We aim to offer a genuinely knowledgeable, friendly and supportive service to both clients and candidates. 

If you’re looking to find or fill a role, get in touch with us today

Alternatively, why not read our Guide to Executive Search and Recruitment? 


Carrot Executive

Carrot Executive work in partnership with a large number of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences companies and consultancies, supporting with a range of executive search and bespoke insights projects to support clients in their strategic decision making in relation to talent attraction and retention, market penetration and competitor benchmarking.

For more information, please contact Martin Anderson via, call +44 (0)1625 541 032 or use the 'schedule a call' link below:

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