Definition of an Executive Recruiter
Executive recruiters, sometimes called executive headhunters, are the recruiting professionals who focus on filling executive positions within companies. Depending on the knowledge and experience of the individual recruiter, an executive recruiter can fill professional positions like doctors or lawyers, or they may be focused on filling high level management positions. Some executive headhunters only work within certain industries, or they may work for an executive recruiting firm.
It is important to differentiate between agency recruiters (headhunters) and corporate HR professionals who specialize in filling senior management level roles. When most people use the term executive recruiter (the focus of this article), they usually mean the people who work at executive search firms (companies that earn fees for placing applicants with their client companies.) However, large companies often employ specialized talent procurement professionals within the HR department that focus on building, grooming, and retaining the executive bench.
Search firms that focus on very senior level management positions often work on what is called a retained basis or retainer. This involves a structure whereby the client company “retains” or pays a recruiter to work on a particular high level job. The executive recruiter “owns” the job requirement exclusively, so the only way for a candidate to get that position is to apply through that external search firm. Firms generally use a retained strategy with high level positions, because the candidate search process can easily surpass six months in duration. The external search firms are called upon to do the search, but then also perform a variety of value added services such as assistance with salary negotiation, market research, interview set-up, candidate consultation, legal advice, and tenure and performance modeling.