4 Things You Wanted To Know About Executive Recruiters (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Demystifying the recruitment process.

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For most professional candidates, executive recruiters are a sort of black box. This article explains how to deal with them and how to avoid issues.

No, this is not the beginning of a Woody Allen cult film. Although strategising about your career mobility can feel just as odd.

Especially if you’re a senior executive who hasn’t had to look for a job in years. The dynamics of today’s digital job search landscape likely conjure up more questions than answers.

That’s why, today, we’re zeroing in on the human element of that landscape.

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The Trouble With Executive Recruiters.

For most professional candidates, recruiters are a sort of black box. Their inner workings, their motivations, remain a mystery.

Enter a few choice glimmers of clarity straight from renowned Australian recruiter, Greg Savage.

Greg is a bit of a recruiting legend—and not just in Oz. A veritable recruiter’s recruiter, he’s famous for coaching and counselling recruiters at all levels in their careers.

This post explores 4 burning questions that our executive clients often ask about the world of executive recruiters. Each question includes a quote from Greg speaking specifically to recruiters.

His advice to them is adapted here for your insider knowledge and guidance as an executive candidate.

Let’s dive into it…

Question 1: “Why Am I Repeatedly Cold-Called, And How Should I Handle It?”  

First off, a quote from Greg on the “why”:

“The future of recruitment is that everyone is a candidate – all the time. And it is up to us to convert them into active candidates, not wait for them to amble up to our ‘fruit stall’ and ask for a punnet of cherries.”

Fair enough. But if you’re like many executives, you may be cold-called several times a month—which can truly feel overwhelming.

According to Greg, the key is to determine which cold calls really represent career opportunities that will suit you. To souse this out, he recommends the following:

  • Start by asking how much the recruiter knows about your own background. A strong recruiter will have a career conversation with you BEFORE they begin to sell you on a job.
  • Before you agree to conversation, make sure you’re prepared to discuss your skills, your needs, your aspirations, and where you are in your thought process in relation to making a move.
  • DON’T engage with a recruiter who isn’t interested in you as a candidate, BUT treat each recruiter with respect.
  • Building up relationships with multiple influential executive recruiters in your niche will be extremely helpful as your career progresses.

Question 2: “Am I Really At Their Mercy?”

Even though it may feel like it, ultimately the answer is NO.

Here’s Greg on why:

“A candidate is the only product on earth that can say “no” before it’s purchased.”

  • This is your power in the job search process. You are, as George W. Bush once said “the decider.”
  • If you’ve been out of the job market for a long time, it’s natural to feel that the outcome is out of your control. So, remember—you’re the person in charge of your destiny.
  • When it comes to choosing a recruiter and selling yourself, make sure the recruiter appreciates you as a candidate and clearly understands your unique commercial value.
  • Most importantly, they should get how your skills are transferable across industries so that you don’t get pigeon-holed. However, telling that story is up to you.
  • Defining your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and having a clear elevator pitch will be essential to your success, among other personal branding tools.

Question #3: “Does Exclusivity Matter?”

Of course, you’re competing. But your recruiter shouldn’t be.

Greg cautions that agency recruitment is often a dysfunctional business model. Businesses often hand their openings over to multiple recruitment agencies in hopes of gaining efficiencies, or getting a better deal.

Everyone loses in this scenario.

But, according to Greg, the forgotten loser is the candidate, who doesn’t get the quality of service, feedback, and nurturing through the process that they clearly deserve.

Here’s his advice to recruiters on how to stay focused on what matters:

Every contact with candidate, clients or colleague is a ‘moment of truth’. Ask yourself after every interaction. ‘Did what I just did, or said, enhance or damage my reputation?’.”

Here’s his advice to you:

  • The onus is on you—the executive candidate—to ask the agency if they’re handling the role exclusively.
  • But don’t stop there. Ask probing questions about the role itself and the company doing the employing.
  • A recruiter who is handling the role exclusively will almost certainly have deep knowledge of both their client and the role in question.
  • Proceed with caution, though, as you don’t want to alienate yourself throughout the recruitment process if the intent behind your questions is misunderstood.

Question #4: “How Are The Best Recruiters Preparing For The Future?”

Prediction from Greg:

“There is only one group of recruiters that will thrive in a world where talent shortages get worse, clients build their own tools to recruit, and technology continues to disrupt. And those recruiters come from ‘Generation C’.”

Generation C = Connected.

Greg describes Generation C as the recruiters who envision the future of recruitment as “a beautiful sweet-spot where brilliant use of technology merges with highly evolved human influencing skills.”

  • This means that, although the best recruiters are required to be connected digitally and in social media, their super-power is making people feel special.
  • This also means that it’s your recruiter’s role to help you navigate the technological waters—to help guide you where you want to go.
  • And in the end, the recruiter should serve to rescue your applications and overtures from the abyss known as the AI black hole.

One Last Thing.

Of course, you have more questions.  Since this topic of executive recruiters is always evolving, it’s impossible for the conversation to be complete.

Another great resource is our 2018 Guide to Executive Job Search.

And you can always reach out to the team here at Arielle Executive to dig into the specifics of your next career move.

Because truly, all references to the decider aside, your destiny is in your hands.


– Irene


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