What Does an Executive Recruiter Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2020
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An executive recruiter seeks personnel to fill openings in the executive staff of clients, usually large companies. These executive search services are tailored to the needs of the client and can include a range of procedures to locate and screen prospective job candidates. Some executive recruiters work as freelancers while others may be employed by agencies that specialize in this kind of work. Fees vary, depending on the firm and the nature of the search.

The first step usually involves a meeting to discuss the specifics of the position. The executive recruiter needs to know what kind of requirements any candidates must meet, and wants to be familiar with the compensation offered. This includes not just base salary but bonuses, benefits, and other elements of a compensation package. The recruiter may also be granted some power to negotiate, and discusses the boundaries of negotiations, like offering a salary increase to an extremely talented candidate, at this initial meeting.


Some companies run a private search, where a position is not advertised and the recruiter works discreetly to fill it. In other cases, the opening is made public. The executive recruiter can seek out candidates to make them aware of the position and encourage them to apply. The job usually involves research to see if any people currently on the job market are available to fill the position, along with an evaluation of people working in comparable positions to consider wooing someone away from an existing paid position.

This work can involve travel as an executive recruiter conducts research in a variety of locations and meets with candidates. The recruiter can write up any good prospects in a detailed report for review by the employer, which can decide which, if any, it wants to interview for the position. If the executive recruiter cannot fill the position on the first round, the search can start again, taking the results of the last search into account. For example, a company may have expectations it did not discuss at the initial meeting that had an impact on the suitability of candidates.

Work as an executive recruiter generally requires familiarity with the business world and human resources needs, along with excellent communication skills and an attention to detail. A neat professional appearance can also be important, as the work requires meeting with people in high powered positions and representing a firm in initial negotiations with potential staff members. Some people come to a career in this field from prior corporate or human resources experience, while others may work their way through the ranks at a recruitment firm to develop the needed skills.


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