Information and tips on working with an executive search firm, executive recruiter, or professional recruiter

How to Initiate a Candidate Relationship with a Search Firm Recruiter


A search firm’s commitment to their corporate clients, including priorities, deadlines, business process, search calls, interviews and client/candidate follow up can create a significant delays in responses to job seeker inquiries. Understanding the client commitment and the working method of a search firm will go a long way toward an understanding of how to initiate contact and establish the basis for a potential relationship. Keep in mind, unless your experience and skill is a direct fit with the client’s selection criteria, there will likely be some delay in contact.

Before exploring some tips for initiating contact with a search firm, it may help to define some terms:

Search firms are different from placement agencies or career counseling firms. Search firms are chartered by their corporate clients to identify and attract individuals meeting specific selection requirements. Search firms are compensated by their corporate clients for the performance of recruiting services- for the acquisition of the right talent for a specific role. Search firms are not compensated by candidates to assist in a job search or to secure employment. Search firm recruiters are not career advisors.

“Executive Recruiters”, “Executive Search Consultants”, “Headhunters”, “Recruiters” are all common references to search firm recruiters.

Clients are corporations, organizations, private equity firms, venture capital firms, partnerships, etc. that engage the services of the search firm. The client and the search firm work closely together for the purposes of acquiring talented business professionals. The client establishes the search requirements and the candidate selection criteria. The search firm is obligated to qualify candidates according to the client’s requirements and preferences.

Candidates are individuals discovered by the search firm or otherwise interested in a current opportunity who have been determined by the search firm to meet the client’s selection requirements. A working relationship is formed between the search firm and the candidate on the basis of cooperation and professional commitment. A candidate is introduced by the search firm to the client as a formidable contender for a specific role.

Prospective candidates are business professionals actively seeking or “passively” considering a new career opportunity. Prospective candidates make contact with a search firm with the understanding that, when the right search engages, they will have every advantage of primary consideration.  As business professionals, they understand that engaging with professional headhunters is a matter of mutual relevance, mutual interest, confidentiality and trust. Well-informed prospective candidates seek to make connections with specific executive search professionals in order to establish mutual awareness and visibility as part of their short-mid-long term career management strategy.

Tips for Initiating Contact with an Executive Recruiter

Most experienced business professionals recognize that headhunters [executive search firm recruiters] can be among their most valuable business connections. If you are seeking to expand your network and you are new to approaching professional headhunters here are some basic tips and recommendations for making initial contact:

  • Send an introductory email [a LinkedIn or other electronic message can work too, but if the headhunter is using a technology-based information capture as part of a recruiting system/process you should know that your LinkedIn message will not likely be captured in the system and may not be as visible on the executive recruiter’s “radar”]
  • If you have introduced yourself as “… seeking career assistance …”, “… I’d like to engage your firm in my job search…”, “… interested in networking…”, “…looking for advice…”, “… wondering how you can help me…” you may want to reconsider your approach with the understanding that a headhunter is not a career placement professional or career counselor.
  • Include your resume if you have it prepared. If not, a link to your professional profile will work just as well for an initial contact.
  • Make a professional introduction. Keep in mind that the professional impression you make starts at the subject line.
  • If your experience is directly relevant to an existing search and you meet the client’s selection requirements, an executive recruiter is likely to be in touch with you immediately to start discussions regarding your interests and relevant search engagements.
  • The best executive recruiters are extremely busy and fast moving. Time is a protected asset. Headhunters are business people working in service to their corporate clients with heavy obligations and deadlines. Keep in mind that there could be delays in reconnecting if your experience does not align with an engaged search.
  • Be patient and establish a course of professional protocol.
  • Make a LinkedIn connection. If you fear your employer discovering a connection with a known headhunter, then either your LinkedIn settings should be toggled or you may not be ready yet for deep business networking. “Make the connection!” is the best advice we can offer. Establish mutual visibility.
  • Follow or otherwise establish visibility via other social media sources.
  • Join professional associations and other business networking groups the headhunter may be part of.
  • Attend industry events and introduce yourself personally. Follow up with an email.

General Tips

  • Consider top/relevant executive search consultants as high-value, long-term network connections.
  • Know the top headhunters specializing in your professional space.
  • The best time to make connections with executive recruiters is when you are employed.
  • Don’t make the mistake of calling a headhunter to ask for career advice. Call a professional career counselor or a trusted business mentor.

Information to Consider and Tips for Working with DEARE

  • We are a specialized executive search firm that works both retained, exclusive contingency and contingency search assignments.
  • We work closely with corporate clients on time sensitive search assignments.
  • We are a “candidate friendly” and “network friendly” search firm.
  • Networking, connecting and establishing mutual visibility is fundamental to our working method.
  • We appreciate your contact and we will read your resume or your inquiry.
  • It is not logistically possible for us to meet or talk with everyone making an inquiry.
  • If you fit with an engaged search assignment. We will make contact immediately.
  • If you are not a fit with a an engaged search but your experience is relevant to our areas of specialization, we will certainly keep you on our “radar” for right fit opportunities. When discovered, we will engage you immediately.
  • We may have exactly the right opportunity for you and an immediate fit for our client at any moment.
  • Connect with us. Establish visibility.
  • Review our Candidate FAQ page for more…

To get your information in front of DEARE
Email your resume or CV along with a “cover letter”/professional introduction. If you have not yet prepared a resume, send a link to your professional bio or provide a brief professional introduction. Connect with us individually on LinkedIn [example: connect with Rick Deare].

To take advantage of opportunity alerts, updates and insider information and build your visibility
Connect with us individually on LinkedIn
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