Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Cultivation Of Executive Recruiters

If you scour the contact management files of most successful executives, you’ll often find the names of top recruiters at well-known search firms.

If you don’t have them in your digital rolodex, you should.

The world of executive recruiting is divided in two. One titled Retainer, the other Contingency. Both search for candidates to fill job openings and both are paid by companies. But that’s where the similarities end.

Retainer search firms are contracted to search for executives who can best fill a specific position. Their fee, anywhere from 25-33% of the first-year’s compensation, is paid regardless of the outcome of the search.

Entrusted to fill a company’s key roles, they typically present a well vetted slate of “top fits” for consideration. Often, they have long standing relationships with their client companies, understand their needs and culture, and are on the lookout for perfect matches that best meet their client’s requirements.

Contingency firms, on the other hand, collect their fee only when a candidate they present is hired. Companies inform them of their job requirements and they search for likely prospects. Because they’re aware of the needs of many organizations, they may circulate your resume among those they think could be a good fit.

Unless you’re comfortable having your resume widely circulated, you might want to keep contingency firms on a short leash. It’s wise to set ground rules with them up front and make sure you know where your resume is being sent before it goes out.

Develop key relationships …

At different times in the lifecycle of an executive, both retainer and contingency firms are worthwhile allies.

Most search firms, whether retained or contingent, have developed their own “sweet spots” based on industry and/or function specialization. Take the time to learn who the key firms and players are in the areas that reflect your needs.

The Directory of Executive Recruiters is the bible of the search industry. Updated annually, it lists virtually all the retainer and contingency firms and breaks them down by level, industry and function. Its online version can be found at http://www.kennedyinfo.com/.

Begin cultivating a handful of recruiters early in your career and advance along with them. Take their calls when they phone and acknowledge their emails when they write. Even when you’re not interested or less than an ideal candidate for their search, provide referrals or suggestions.

And no matter your function, industry or location, if the title “executive” fits you, remember there are certain search firms who are on everybody’s short list of career makers. They include Korn Ferry, Russell Reynolds, Spencer Stuart, Heidrick & Struggles and a handful of others.

Like a well-tended garden, careful cultivation of executive recruiters can yield bountiful rewards.

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