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How to Be a Great Candidate for an Executive Headhunter

Connecting with the right executive headhunter can supercharge your pursuit of professional advancement. They’ll eliminate wasted time, prevent unnecessary interviews, surface opportunities that aren’t posted publicly, connect you directly to leadership contacts, and advocate for you in the marketplace. If you’re at the executive level and not working with a headhunter, you’re likely not tapping into some of the best opportunities in the market.

Who should work with an executive headhunter?

A partnership with a headhunter typically works best for mid-career top performers in search of a specific role or nature of opportunity, rather than those who are open to all types of work. The real value lies in making the most of your limited time and your ideal number of career moves. Some situations that merit working with an executive headhunter include a senior manager looking to ascend to c-suite, an executive very discreetly assessing new opportunities, or a seasoned leader relocating to a new city. If you’re in a position to make a move, these tips will help you maximize the value of your executive headhunter.

Clearly define success.

Working with a headhunter is a way to cut through the noise and connect with the highest-potential opportunities in the market. It pays to know what you want and to be clear and honest. Document and share your must-haves, your deal breakers, and where you’re willing to compromise. Inquire about the recruitment process up front, as well as your role as a candidate in engineering your desired outcome. It’s in the best interest of both headhunter and candidate to foster transparency and stay on the same page.

Get the receipts.

Let’s be clear. The candidate should not receive a receipt, because executive search firms are paid by the companies that retain them. We’re talking about proof. To move forward confidently with a headhunter, you need to see demonstrated success that’s relevant to you. “I’ve filled 127 roles” isn’t good enough, nor is “We know the whole city.” Ask for references from past candidates, representative searches, and the metrics the search firm uses to measure success.

Help your headhunter help you.

What defines a good candidate? Marketability. Put some time into aligning your CV with your ideal role or opportunity. This also means locking down your social media profiles, refraining from internet trolling, and minimizing red flags. Google yourself and take a proactive approach to what you find. You won’t have to submit applications or optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems, so use the time you save to purchase and connect it to an asset that showcases your value.

Show up.

Your first headhunting meeting is the first in a series of critical interviews. It is here that you will make your first impression on your personal advocate in the job market. Your appearance and affect matter here. Be polished and confident, smile, and offer a firm handshake. Make sure you convey respect, some flexibility, and a positive attitude. The firm will be extending its relationships to you; by remembering your role as a candidate, you’ll represent your headhunter and yourself in the best light. And this should go without saying — no ghosting!

Be patient and realistic.

Good news — we are unquestionably in a candidate’s market. However, finding the right position isn’t the same as filling a position. At CCY, the key metrics for our retained search practice focus on alignment, not jobs filled. The highest-value C-suite-level executive search considers an organization’s environment, culture, and existing leadership dynamic. In mapping a candidate profile, It seeks to prescribe not just a skill set but also an ideal mindset. It still takes time to get the right job when working with a headhunter, but it can only help you. Each retained search is laser-focused, so only a handful of candidates are suggested to the company for each role, but when you’re submitted, you’ve got a good chance at an offer.

Continue your job hunt.

You should absolutely consider your executive headhunter a partner and resource, but you should not rely on them to drive your career advancement forward. You are most important representative for yourself as an executive candidate, so be vigilant when networking and looking for roles. When you find openings of interest or organizations you’d like to explore, share the details with your recruiter. Their support can go beyond finding positions and pitching you, extending into preparing for interviews, negotiating compensation, and helping you identify your next next move.

Maintain a relationship.

Given Cochran, Cochran & Yale’s 40 years in executive recruitment, we’ve sustained candidate relationships for decades! Consider the long-term aspects of your career growth and how a headhunter can best help you get there. A genuine connection can lead you to new job opportunities now and in the longer term. Be open and honest about your evolving goals, consider this a two-way relationship, and keep in touch. When you acquire new certifications, degrees, or credentials, let your headhunter know. They may open doors you didn’t know could be an option.

Curious about working with an executive headhunter?

We’re here to help you make the most of your time. Your first conversation with a Cochran, Cochran & Yale recruiter will be an efficient discovery call to determine whether your professional goals align with the types of opportunities we can access. If it’s a fit, we’ll start evaluating existing opportunities and searching for new ones. If not, we’ll still keep you in mind for future roles. There’s no pressure, no commitment, and no fee. Submit your resume to be contacted by an executive headhunter.