How Do I Become an Executive Recruiter?

Terry Masters

An executive recruiter combines elements of general business acumen, sales savvy, service experience and networking. Recruiters can work for a staffing firm that finds executives to fill positions for clients or as part of a human resources department for a large corporation tasked with staffing internal vacancies. You can become an executive recruiter by obtaining an undergraduate degree, spending at least three years recruiting lower level positions and developing the type of skill set expected of an employee in sales or marketing.

Solid communication skills are a must for an aspiring executive recruiter.
Solid communication skills are a must for an aspiring executive recruiter.

The basic educational requirement to become an executive recruiter is typically a college degree. In some instances, a degree is preferred but not required. This underscores that recruiting is ultimately about the ability to get the job done. There isn't a recruiting major or a required educational program that is standard in the industry but, if you choose to get a college degree to improve your chances for success, usually a business or communications major will be adequate.

A recruiter may place employment advertisements in various newspapers.
A recruiter may place employment advertisements in various newspapers.

Recruiters assigned to executive-level vacancies ordinarily have more experience in the industry than an entry-level recruiter. Executive placements generate the highest commissions for staffing agencies, and the clients that trust an agency with executive positions are often clients of longstanding. While there is no hard rule that prevents an agency from hiring an entry-level executive recruiter, the position typically requires three to seven years of recruiting experience with less important positions.

Generally, employers prefer recruiters to have an entrepreneurial bent because of the way recruiters develop a portfolio that operates somewhat like a firm within a firm. The position description typically requests strong written and verbal skills, service experience and salesmanship. To become an executive recruiter, your credentials have to demonstrate the ability to find and vet talent, cultivate new clients and manage the client relationship over time. Recruiting talent at the executive level, in particular, can be challenging, because it often entails enticing an employed individual away from his current employer, a practice often called head-hunting. This type of recruiting relies on the same sort of cold calling and networking that is common in sales.

You can choose to become an executive recruiter who works for an independent staffing agency, or one who works for a corporate human resources department. The executive recruiter at a corporation staffs internal vacancies and does not have to worry about cultivating clients. Instead, he focuses on developing the best sources of talent and making quality matches for the company. Corporations tend to want newly hired executive recruiters to have some previous experience, typically at a staffing agency.

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