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      How Do Top Executive Search Firms Find Candidates?

      Organizations commonly seek the expertise of executive search firms for senior level recruitment. However, due to the often confidential nature of their assignment, the activities of these companies can seem opaque to an outsider looking in. 

      Executive search companies typically employ a combination of industry contacts, personal connections, and job adverts to carry out their remit. But how they fulfill their assignment often depends on the specific position being filled and the client company’s unique preferences for the role. 

      Executive candidates may also employ the services of search firms when prospecting for new opportunities or roles. These firms, called executive job search firms, employ different tactics from executive search firms. 

      How Does Executive Search Work? 

      An executive search involves employing the services of an executive search firm as a third party to help a company find and employ the best executive candidate in the labor market. 

      The executive search firm works closely with the client company to know the company’s needs and requirements, which will be used to find the most eligible candidate for the client company. 

      The executive search process is research-led because the executive recruiting firm has to:

      • Analyze and map the market
      • Find the most suitable clients

      That means that the executive search firm does far more than simply submit CVs and resumes to the client company. 

      There are five major elements in the executive search process, and they are: 

      1. Establish search priorities: The executive search firm must first deduce the required knowledge, skill set, and abilities of the client company to enable them to create a customized brief that outlines specifically what the client company wants. This brief will also include the goals, roles, responsibilities, and even some of the challenges associated with the position looking to be filled. 
      2. Define search strategy: A search strategy must enable the search firm to conduct targeted research based on the required qualifications, skills, and experience. 
      3. Develop a pool of the most qualified candidates for the role: The product of the targeted research should be a pool of the most suitable candidates for the role. The executive search firm will not stop at submitting a list of names to the client company but will contact the prospects and evaluate them based on the client’s specifications. The executive search firm will put the candidates through assessments and interviews to develop the right candidates to be presented to the client company. 
      4. Complete the search: Once the list of candidates is sent to the client company, and their preferred candidate is selected, the executive search firm will carry out background checks and other assessments to ascertain the selected candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and competencies.
      5. Post-search services: The executive search firm will maintain regular contact with the client company during the transition and carry out regular check-ins with the company after the process to keep track of the progress. 

      An executive search firm is not an employment agency

      Executive search firms are not employment agencies. Whereas employment agencies are concerned with getting entry and intermediate-level candidates temporary jobs, executive search firms are more concerned with getting top-tier executive candidates permanent placements. With executive search firms, the candidate is not the priority, but the client – the organization that wants to hire – is the priority. This is because the search firm is paid by the company and not the client. 

      How do executive search firms find candidates?

      Good executive search firms do more than submit a list of candidates pulled from their database. They employ several measures and strategies to find candidates. These measures include activating their peer network to find and attract top industry candidates.

      An executive search team will identify people that have been successful in companies similar to their client company. They research through social channels and other databases to find the most suitable and qualified candidates. This intensive research will produce certain prominent names. 

      However, search firms do not want to rely too much on their networks. They do their best to create a pool of diverse candidates for their client companies from different sources. 

      How executives use LinkedIn to find jobs 

      Social media is not the ideal place to find executive candidates. Many of them either do not see the need for social media in their career, do not have the time for social media, or do not know how to maximize social media for their career. However, LinkedIn is one platform that many executives employ to find jobs and get noticed by recruiters. Here are some tips on how executives use LinkedIn to find jobs. 

      • Understand how recruiters use social media: Search firms apply different techniques to find candidates for their clients. Understanding these techniques will help executives position themselves properly during job searches. LinkedIn provides a filter for company followers that allows search firms to identify candidates already interested in the company. Following a company one would like to work with on LinkedIn will put a candidate on the recruiter’s radar.
      • Get the basics right: Just like other social media platforms, a good online presence goes a long way to establish relevance on the platform. There’s no doubt that countless executives will be vying for a single job opening, and some may be more knowledgeable about social media than others. For an executive who’s new to LinkedIn and is not much of a social media savant, nailing the basic aspects of LinkedIn will put them in a great position to be discovered by recruiters. Setting up a standard LinkedIn account with an updated and well-detailed profile will enable an executive to stand out to recruiters. 
      • Use LinkedIn as a platform to establish thought leadership: LinkedIn is a great platform to sell services to companies and recruiters. Instead of having a dormant LinkedIn account, executives can grow their accounts by creating and posting content in their niche and area of expertise and engaging with relevant content from other people on the platform. This enables executives to develop a presence for themselves on LinkedIn.
      • Constantly update skills and experience on LinkedIn profile: One benefit of LinkedIn is that users can list over 20 skills on their profiles which is a great way to attract recruiters. As one continues to grow and expand their knowledge base as a recruiter, constant updates about their skills and new experiences should be on their profile. This makes the profile appealing to recruiters and other hiring authorities. 
      • Grow your network: Network in business or career is essential for growth, but sadly people pay little or no attention to this. An executive with a rich network of other top-tier executives, companies, influencers,  and relevant people in the field stands a better chance of being noticed by recruiters than those with little or no networks. LinkedIn makes it easy for people to connect with others in the same field or similar interests. 

      But don’t rule out the offline option. Yes, social media is vast, and LinkedIn can be very productive for executives and recruiters alike. Recruiters still source candidates through referrals. This is why executives should build offline networks in their industry. 

      Conclusion: How Executive Search Firms Find Candidates

      Ultimately, what differentiates executive search firms and executive job search companies is their employer and tactics. While the former works for the company looking to hire an executive, the latter works for the executive seeking a job. 

      Good C-level hiring is very crucial in any organization, as a bad recruit at the top can affect other parts of the organization. This is why stringent measures are taken to find and employ the right candidates. 

      Why Cowen Partners Is a Top Executive Recruiting Firm Across the U.S.

      Our hands-on executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000 companies or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion.


      Successful placements span the entire C-Suite and include CEOsChief Operating OfficersChief Financial Officers, Chief Sales Officers, Chief Marketing Officer, vice presidents salesgeneral counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Cowen Partners delivers 3X more qualified candidates than the competition. Through our proven retained executive search process, our executive headhunters find, vet, and deliver the top 1% of candidates for positions across the C-suite. Our process works for all industries, including technologyhealthcaremanufacturingretailreal estatefinancial serviceprivate equity, and more.

      Check out our industry-leading resources to see why Cowen Partners is a leader among the best executive search firms in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond:

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