When hearing the words Executive Search or Head Hunter, most people prick up their ears and listen. Head Hunting sounds exciting, secretive, thrilling, like something involving the créme de la créme of the business world, like something that only happens in the upper echelons of major high-end companies and boardrooms. Many, if not most of us, have heard of Executive Search and Head Hunters. Business magazines write about Executive Search and Head Hunters regularly. The Internet is full of information about them, about the Executive Search process, how to prepare for meeting a Head Hunter in an interview, how to answer their questions, how to write your CV. All this in a hundred different ways. So, one would imagine there are no information gaps left.
However, it is impossible to learn everything about an industry, just by, e.g. searching the Internet. Also, the information on the Internet could have been written by anyone, anywhere, and who’s to say that the information has always been written in everyone’s best interest. Not to speak of the impact the local conditions and cultural differences that exist around the world, may have on the information given. What someone says about Executive Search on the Internet might be perfectly ok in a particular country, but perhaps not where you live.
Business magazines writing about Executive Search are usually more professional, and you can always see who wrote the article, so it is rather easy to check the reporter out. That said, short articles in business magazines, even at best, tend to be fragmented. You get bits and pieces, but never the whole picture. You also have to look elsewhere.
Many of us have met Head Hunters in person. Meeting a Head Hunter gives you a personal experience of what Executive Search is like, but not all Executive Search Firms are alike. If you visit five different Executive Search Firms, you get five different experiences. Neither does meeting a Head Hunter, even many times, give a deep insight into their everyday work, how they think, what they are like and what they do when you are not there.
We cannot see behind the curtains of an Executive Search Firm, so despite all the information that´s out there, Head Hunting continues to feel exciting, mysterious and thrilling for most of us. Having worked in the Executive Search industry for over 32 years myself, I too would say it feels exciting, mysterious and thrilling, still after all these years.
What Executive Search is all about is dealt with in great detail in my book How to recognise excellence in Executive Search. The book has 272 pages, which is a good indication that we are here talking about a subject that is a little more diverse and complex than just a few lines on the Internet or an article or two in a business magazine.
Can Executive Search benefit me personally?
On a personal level, when hearing the words Executive Search or Head Hunter, many spontaneously start wondering, how can Executive Search benefit me? The answer to this question becomes particularly interesting and important for us when we decide to enter the job search, or we get a call from a Head Hunter, a job offer from a company or, e.g., unexpectedly become unemployed.
Today, meeting a Head Hunter seems to be a routine step in everyone’s career action plan. Nothing wrong with this, as long as we keep things in perspective. Think about this, statistically. If a Search Firm has, e.g. 100 Assignments a year, covering several industries and functions, everyone understands that you need a bit of luck to "get a hit", regardless of your background or professional expertise.
That said, contacting an Executive Search firm may at best benefit you big time. However, do remember what I said above, so you do not get disappointed, should the Head Hunter not call you according to your timetable. There is indeed a lot you can do to improve your chances. You cannot have any impact on when “you get a hit”, that is when the assignment suiting your profile comes in, but you can most certainly have an impact on the impression you make on the Head Hunter when approaching him/her, be it in person or by just sending him/her your CV.
Some time ago I did a Q+A article with Jason Starr from Dillistone Group, where I commented on issues related to the text above, I, e.g. answered the question: Your book gives advice to executives who are in the process of a career change. What is the most important thing for them to know? The answer to this question fits very well here, so please have a look at that article too (after you have read this one). You can find the Q+A article here.
Paying attention to finding the Executive Search Firms that you feel are in your best interest might further improve your chances. Look for Search Firms that are recognised by their high standards and high-quality service. That may sound more difficult than it is.
You do not need to be an expert plumber, carpenter or electrician when you are looking for one, do you? The same applies when you are checking out your Search Firm. You check their background information. Does everything look logical and ok? Do they look like they have the right type of professional expertise required? Do they have enough experience? Also, are the finances ok? A firm that is continuously profitable over the years is more likely to have things in order than an unprofitable firm. You can also try to find people from whom you can ask for references. It will be worth your while. It is always good to know who you are dealing with, in advance.
Here I have barely scratched the surface of the subjects discussed. If you are interested in learning more about how Executive Search can benefit you as a Candidate (or a Client), you can, e.g. read my book How to recognise excellence in Executive Search. I am not saying that my book is the only truth or the whole truth. It is not. It is only the opinion of one single person.
However, based on 32 years of experience in Executive Search, (the last 22 years in one of the worlds top-ten Executive Search Firms), and on over 1 000 Executive Search assignments, the book is in its own right, an excellent Best Practice guide for anyone into the subject of Executive Search.