For a senior business leader, and those who are aspiring to become a business leader, an executive recruiter can play an integral role in helping you to manage your career. However, you must know how to build and retain relationships with these key career decision-makers. Each day, I hear negative comments about executive recruiters: “They never return my phone calls,” or “They are tough to communicate with,” or “They won’t find me a job.”
Okay, I understand this thinking, and that’s why I serve as the conduit between my senior level clients and the hundreds of executive recruiters I have worked with. A good, retained executive recruiter can receive up to fifty unsolicited resumes each day. Place yourself in their shoes. If they were to spend five minutes calling each of those fifty persons, that would almost consume their whole day. In short, they don’t work for the candidate, they work for the client who has engaged them to source top talent based on strict criteria for the job. A relationship with a recruiter should be ongoing and not halted when you find a job. They want to know you, not just when you are contemplating a career move or in career transition, but also when you are having fun and driving success. They can serve, as I do, as a sounding board for your career management and will keep you in mind if you maintain that relationship. That relationship, however, can be frustrating to build. Here are a few tips on how to establish dialogue with executive recruiters:
1. Find the executive recruiter who specializes in your particular function.
Recruiters generally work on geography and industry verticals: supply chain, CPG, marketing, sales, or retail. Their expertise is normally highlighted on the recruiting firm’s website. Only reach out to an executive recruiter who specializes in your field. If you are a finance professional, don’t attempt to connect with a marketing executive recruiter. The optimal approach to get introduced is via someone in your network. Sending mass emails to all the executive recruiters in a firm is not only impersonal and unprofessional but will also go unanswered.
2. Personalize your email.
Don’t use a template; customize your email to each executive recruiter. Firstly, review their LinkedIn profile — there may be some connection that will help you open up a conversation. Perhaps you went to the same school or university, or maybe you were employed at the same company. If so, there is instant synergy and mutual areas to optimize communications. Keep your email reasonably short, to the point, and personalized without any typos. Ask for a time to speak either in-person or over the telephone, but bear in mind, their time is precious.
3. Give them a directive.
Executive recruiters tend to work in niche areas, so you need to be specific in describing what function or geographic area you would like to work. Even be as bold as naming the companies where you would like to work. They are highly networked and this introduction might trigger a further introduction for you. In short, give them your target role, geography, company size and industry vertical.
4. Create an updated, performance driven ATS resume.
Yes, they still use resumes extensively. Executive recruiters formulate an impression of you based on the quality and format of this important document, which should max out at three pages. Invest in having a professional resume writer at least review your resume, as they are acutely aware of the format and trends employed today. Also, consider having your resume professionally prepared. The most important thing you need to bear in mind is that your resume needs to meet the strict criteria of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) so prevalent today. One mistake can count you out of being called for an interview.
5. Send your resume to the work email, not through LinkedIn.
Most executive recruiters prefer your resume to be delivered in an email directly to their work email address. If you have a chance to converse, ask them the preferred format, MS Word or a PDF document.
6. Ask to meet.
This is where candidates air their frustration at me daily. There are only a certain number of hours in a day, and networking time is at a premium for executive recruiters. They get inundated with requests for coffee, lunch, or dinner. Don’t be offended or consider yourself rejected if they turn the offer down.
7. Provide your contact information.
Make it easy for an executive recruiter to find you. In your email, have a signature line highlighting all methods of communication to expedite them contacting you.
8. Don’t expect a job.
It’s a complete fallacy that executive recruiters find you a job. They have a set number of projects and are always working on in partnership with their clients. They source talent, and, through intensive research internally and externally, only contact the candidates that they professionally believe will be best for the client.
Finally, maintain that relationship while you are gainfully employed. An executive recruiter wants to know you when you are actively employed, not only in career transition. Once built, a relationship with an executive recruiter should be nurtured and maintained.