Will Retained Search Help Me Make a Career Move?

Most likely, not.

And it has nothing to do with your competence, your experience, or your likability.

Keep in mind the retained search firm’s business model. A search firm helps corporations fill key jobs (you have probably hired a firm to fill a senior executive role). They are under the gun from clients like you who need a position filled. They are also under pressure to get more business. Every senior executive job seeker reaches out to retained executive search recruiters. Their email, voicemail, and LinkedIn boxes are full of senior executives that want to make a job move.

Accommodating all job seekers means neglecting their clients and risking their business pipeline. As one very competent and prominent retained executive search consultant said to me, “For over ten years, I met with senior executive job seekers for courtesy interviews-and not one piece of business came my way from those same executives once they landed.”

Should I bother connecting?  Yes, but on their terms.

Retained executive search firms are a key source of senior executive job opportunities.

1) Create a list of all the retained search firms that are relevant to your search. Relevance is determined by industry and functional specialty.  Relevant partners, managing directors, executive directors, associates and researchers are all important contacts for your list.

2)  Don’t just call or email any contact you have been given from your network. If their specialties match your target market, then, you have the possibility of being relevant to them.

3)  Take the time to register on-line with each of the retained search firms on your list. This includes all the large, mid size and boutique firms that have an online registration system. The time invested will pay off  in the short and long-term.

4) Send the contacts on your list an email letting them know the following:

  • I am looking for…(role, geography, compensation range, industry)
  • My key qualifications are…(5 bullets of ten to fifteen words)
  • I have registered in your database
  • My LinkedIn profile address is…
  • You can reach me…
  • My resume is attached

5) If a networking contact has given you a retained search contact that is in your target market, add the following to your email: note the person who referred you and that you will follow-up with a call.

Mutual benefits.

If they reach out to you, be helpful.  If you are not a fit for the position they are working on-try and think of other qualified and competent candidates.

Connect with them on LinkedIn.

If you end up on the slate of candidates presented to their client company, ask the recruiter for advice on dress, company culture, interview hot buttons, and the prioritization of qualifications and experience listed on the specification.

If you have not heard a decision/feedback after any step in the process, reach out after 5 business days (unless the recruiter has specified that you should contact them after a shorter or longer time frame).

When you speak with the search executive, get as much feedback on each interview as you can-both positive and negative.

If you move through the process with their client, keep the search executive informed. Be sure to communicate any constraints and potential concerns at the beginning of the relationship and throughout the process.

Once you have accepted a position, send everyone on your retained search target list an email with the details of your new role and contact information.

When you are not looking to make a move, take their calls and help them with their latest search.

Believe it or not…

A President/COO had been sporadically looking for a new role. He wanted to ramp up his search, so he hired my firm. During our first meeting, he expressed frustration with retained search, and one global well-respected firm in particular. The Partner in Charge of his industry would no longer return his calls even though he had given him close to a million dollars of business in his last role. After investigation, I found out that my client had left the Partner in Charge no fewer than 20 voice mails-some of them extremely rude. As COO of a large global firm, my client was used to immediate call backs. When a call wasn’t returned quickly during his job search, he felt angry and out of control. My client apologized with an accurate and humbling explanation. Even though the Partner in Charge no longer felt comfortable presenting my client to his clients, he didn’t black ball him within the search firm.  Within a month, another partner within the same firm presented my client for an opportunity that resulted in an offer.

During a job search, treat everyone with respect, even if they don’t get back to you in the manner that you are accustomed. You will benefit by controlling your own behavior.

If they don’t respond to you, move on.

There are many excellent avenues for networking when finding a senior executive job. Heads of Talent within corporations are becoming a huge source of senior executive opportunities. Many companies now rely on internal executive recruiters to fill high level positions. Don’t waste your time or energy with any type of contact that is not responsive.

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