An executive search consultant seeks to place candidate CEOs and upper-management executives with their client companies.
A company which is seeking to employ a new or replacement CEO, upper executive or senior manager cannot use a typical recruitment agency to fill the vacant position for them. This method is effective in replacing lower-level staff, but it is not appropriate for searching for people in upper management and director positions; these people are individuals who have strategic control over the development and direction of a company. They have a direct impact on the business’s rate of growth, regional development, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) efficacy and operating profits. A director cannot simply rely on the people under his immediate supervision; he or she must create decisive plans of action using their individual creativity, and inspire staff within the company by becoming role model leaders. Finding suitable candidates is a very difficult task.
Companies can choose to search in-house, but ticking all of the above boxes is a tall order for internal human resources staff. For this reason, many companies now turn to executive search agencies to find suitable candidates for top-level positions. The executive search consultant is the company’s point of contact with the search agency; they listen to the client’s demands, implement the search process, and liaise with the client regarding their findings and candidate suggestions. The role is heavily analytical and requires good project management and time management skills. Furthermore, the candidate must be a strong communicator and be able to negotiate firmly, both with the candidate and with the client.
New graduates can expect to be paid a basic salary and earn commission on top of this for “On Target Earnings.” Many new graduates can earn as much as £30,000 OTE in their first year if they work hard and reach all the goals set before them. Successful consultants have been known to earn £75,000 to £100,000 per annum within three years whilst working with a top executive search agency.
- Listen to the client and understand their precise demands in terms of candidate skill set
- Implement search using internal (database) and external (internet) methods
- Conduct candidate interviews at application or registry stage
- Work with internal teams to ensure paperwork, administration and invoicing are handled correctly
- Actively search for new candidates
- Actively seek to grow executive search company business by partnering new clients
- Hit sales targets in terms of fulfilled business (revenue)
It is an incorrect preconception that people who work for recruitment consultants, especially in executive search, require a raft of academic qualifications and CPD (continuous professional development) certificates. Actually, there are no formal requirements needed to become a “headhunter” for an executive search company, although most consultants with top agencies are graduates. Strong verbal and numerical skills are a must, so typically, qualifications that nod towards these skills will put the candidate in a superior position.
Executive search companies like to employ people with good business acumen who are keen to learn and are willing to push themselves; in this respect, a post-curricular business accreditation (for example, a BTEC) will be a large advantage. Candidates who do not have a glittering academic background need not worry though, as a strong background in sales, business management, training or marketing can be of benefit to their application also. Search agencies are very focused on the candidate’s ability to sell, and a large part of interview technique is being able to sell their particular skill set, whatever it may be.
- Ability to pre-plan an effective mechanism for candidate and placement search
- Ability to manipulate internal database to deliver effective search results
- Excellent projective interview technique
- Good understanding and ability to interpret client demands
- Strong negotiation skills, to be used with both candidate and client
- Have a team-orientated approach to workflow management
- Be personable, approachable and outgoing
- A good grasp of the fundamentals of closing a sale is a sizable advantage
The work typically takes place in an office environment, either at the office of the client firm, or at the office of the agency. Office work is generally classed as a low-risk working environment in terms of health and safety threats. Candidates should be aware of the usual hazards: incorrect lifting, trailing electrical cables, improper set-up of keyboard and display unit, and insufficient rest periods away from the glaring screen. These potential issues are usually covered by way of an induction programme, which the executive search agency will be responsible for implementing.
Experience in a sales background prior to joining the executive search company can be a big advantage, both for candidates lacking in formal academic qualifications, and in terms of negotiating for a better salary on initial application. Although a people-orientated job, candidates need to be aware that a job in the executive search sector is a high-pressure, target-attuned sales role. Several years working in the field of executive search will usually be enough for the candidate to apply with confidence for sales positions in other industries, as it is viewed as being quite high-profile in terms of the demands it makes of consultants.
Executive search companies often employ an administrative person (or team of administrators), and from this position, it is possible for a candidate be promoted to the role of consultant. This approach may be suitable for those who have GCSEs but no sales experience, for example. Candidates with sales experience (or even just a confident manner) can join executive search companies as consultants straight away; it very much depends on the status and outlook of the search company. Above this, they may look to becoming sales managers, team leaders or executive consultants; these are basically senior consultant roles, and different agencies have different names for these positions.
The executive search sector is becoming increasingly saturated by new entrants in the UK. Well known agencies with a significant reputation for being able to deliver results include Novo, Harvey Nash, Burns Carlton, Blue Fire, Odgers Burndts and Calibre One. Many standard recruitment agencies are attempting to realise added value in their own existing business by repositioning themselves as executive search consultancies, with varying degrees of success.
Also known as…
- Director search consultant
- CEO search consultant
- Senior search consultant
What’s it really like?
Dale Perrett is the Director of Novo Executive Search and Selection, which has offices in Bristol, London, Manchester and Glasgow. Novo has a fantastic reputation for the quality of its candidates in what is becoming a very competitive high-level recruitment market.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
After graduating, I worked for some years in the pharmaceutical industry. I joined the world of recruitment to broaden my skills within a sales environment. I started my career in recruitment in a typical agency environment, working as a consultant. After a number of years, I decided I wanted to progress my career by working within the executive search industry. Following a successful period in the last company I worked for, working as executive search consultant, two colleagues and I decided to set up our own Executive Search company, and we have been trading successfully now for 8 years.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
Executive Search provides a varied and stimulating career. As a Director of Novo, every day is different. It varies also for our consultants who handle their tasks day to day; they could be talking to a client about a role for which they are looking to recruit, then the next they could be interviewing very senior executives regarding a Senior Management or Director role.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
Typically, executive search comes into play where clients are looking to achieve positive change and growth, and require candidates who are highly skilled and experienced. Roles are typically very senior and influential, with candidates being very challenging to find.
What do you like most about the job?
Meeting CEOs and MDs in varied industries. I find top-level meetings to be enjoyable, as you meet a diverse range of personalities.
What do you like least about the job?
Unsociable hours. This can be the case for everyone here at Novo, and the consultants work very hard.
What are the key responsibilities?
As a Director of the business, I have various responsibilities with regards to the business and management, but as a Consultant, my key responsibilities are representing clients, bringing new business into the company and working on projects once we have been retained.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
The work is demanding, challenging and rewarding. This career path is not for the faint hearted. It is a fast paced role and many people underestimate the amount of hard work that goes into it to become successful. Research the industry well and be aware of what differentiates executive search companies from general recruitment companies.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
They need to be committed, hard working, have good communication skills, and be personable, outgoing, intelligent and team orientated.