Manage Your Relationship with Executive Recruiters

Executive recruiters are those who help companies find the best candidates for the most senior and highest pay positions including the C-Suite level. It is extremely important that you develop and maintain a sound relationship with these executive recruiters so that they have you in mind whenever they conduct a search for their clients. It is largely a personal question of how proficiently you interact with these recruiters and there is no exact science of doing it. However, there are several techniques that you should bear in mind. Do not underestimate the power of such relationship. Like it or not, you may not realize that they have a significant influence on the employer’s decision as to whom they hire eventually.

Be honest and sincere

These executive recruiters are usually expert in the field they are hiring the person for. Some may even have past experience working on certain important roles in the same industry sector. Don’t lie to them or exaggerate about your experience, field knowledge, specific skills or accomplishments . Remember: they are trusted and empowered by the C-Suite to conduct the search so they expect only the highest quality and credibility from whomever they put forward to their clients.

Be affirmative

Executive recruiters expect someone who indicates his/her interest does so in a positive and affirmative manner. Try to avoid using words like “maybe”, “perhaps” or “not sure”. If you are sure you are not interested, give the recruiter a brief reason. Remember: recruiter is also a type of marketer. Every professional marketer wants to know why their customers rejected them so that they can improve and adjust their strategy. At the same time, this can help them get a better understanding of your job aspiration. Conversely, if you are convinced that you are interested, then you should give a firm signal to the recruiter that you want to go for it (even though you still have a long way to get to know the entire picture of such hiring).

Offer to help even if you are not interested in the post

If you find you are not interested in the position, offer to help by suggesting other names that you know who might be interested. However, do not disclose their contact information since this will violate personal privacy. Instead, give them only their names and their company.  Recruiters will find their way to contact them. LinkedIn is always their best friend. However, do note that you only offer the names who have the background that matches the position. In other words, do not offer any names irrelevant to the context.

Be specific about your limitations

It is quite common for a candidate to say he or she is open to the various circumstances that the position may bring himself or herself. For example, irregular work hours, exotic locations, travel requirements, staying in contact while on vacation, late conference calls. As a professional in your field you should let the recruiter know if there are any specific conditions that you are really reluctant to accept.

Don’t be surprised that the recruiter knows something already

More than often, these executive recruiters have done a bit of homework to understand your background before they approached you. They either did that via LinkedIn or from someone else who knows about you. To a certain extent, they are usually well prepared whereas you are not when they call. Don’t be overwhelmed by the fact that they know some of your background. You also do not need to challenge them on how they got your contact information, unless you suspect that they are not actually from a recruiting company.

Ask the right questions in a professional manner

If you are keen on the position, ask the right questions to show that you are a professional who looks at the big picture as more important than anything else. Overview type questions about the size of the company, its culture, its management style, its geographical presence, its major lines of business and customer base are good questions to start with. Specific questions such as what competencies they are looking for, what role this position will play in the corporate governance model, what the company’s medium term goals are, what immediate targets/problems they expect this position to achieve/resolve, are also good ones to show you are taking a holistic approach to the opportunity presented to you.

Ask for the job description

After all, this is a job, and every job has a description. Nowadays many well-established companies have their governance and compliance requirement to approve a headcount (be it a replacement or a new one) and what is required in the process is to have an approved job description for the position. Job description typically states the what the position is expected to deliver and the requirements that are expected of the candidates who are applying for it. The job description document is useful for you to assess if you match what is required and subsequently align yourself correctly to the expectations. Ask the recruiter if you have anything unclear about the job description. This will show the recruiter that you making good use of the information available and that you are paying attention to every detail.

Make good use of references

Having a few good references will give you a myriads of advantage over the other contestants. These can be your former managers, co-workers or subordinates. However, screen the references carefully and select only those relevant ones that reflect your strengths specific to the position you are applying for. You can also consider to use a reference which highlights your personality besides your professionalism. References from your old college may not be useful if your tenure in the industry is long enough unless you are applying for an academic-related position.

Make good use of social media

Nowadays recruitment companies will also look at the candidate’s social background before they put forward their recommendations to the client. In some cases this is a mandatory part of the recruitment process to evaluate the candidate based on his/her social reputation. For instance, you should highlight it to the recruiter if you actively participate in contributing professional articles to certain social forum or online community. This adds to your social reputation and presents yourself as an activist in your area of expertise even though it is not necessarily a demand from your job. (I will write an article specifically to talk about how to maintain a good social reputation. )  Also, make use of LinkedIn’s Recommendations and Endorsements functions to get as many recommendations and endorsements from your connections as possible. Read this story: Everything Everything You Need To Know About LinkedIn Endorsements

Elicit feedback

If you have been set up with an interview, remember, besides thanking him/her, give your recruiter feedback on how it went immediately after the interview. This will show that you respect the recruiter’s arrangement and are completely engaged in the process.

Maintain your visibility

Keep the executive recruiters updated on what is happening around you once every few months. I recommend three months, but it depends on the industry that you are in and how dynamic it is. A simple and quick phone call to catch up on recent matters can do the trick very well. The purpose is to make sure your remain a visible target in front of these executive recruiters.


Maintaining a sound relationship with executive recruiters is an important part of your successful career. You respect this relationship by showing honesty and sincerity. Treat the executive recruiters as your partners and collaborate with them in every aspect of your career exploration.  This will be one of the long term relationships that you will find worth developing and maintaining as you grow your career.


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