How Do Executive Search Firms Find Great Candidates?

by Mark Nancarrow in career , employer, industry insights

This is a frequently discussed topic among job seekers. Particularly those searching in the global market. Over the course of your career, you’ve likely heard the term ‘headhunter’ thrown around the office and at conferences or functions. These headhunters use a number of different tactics in their executive search to ensure their client receives only the best executive candidates.

Far removed from the persona played in gory films, a ‘headhunter’ in the professional world is an individual or firm contracted to find the right person for a specialised job. Frequently used in the fields of life sciences recruitment and pharmaceuticals, headhunters are the lifeblood of the staffing industry.

So how does this whole situation work, and what steps can you take to maximise your return with an executive search firm?

Let’s take an inside look at what firms like ours desire in a candidate, and how to give yourself the best shot at catching the eye of the recruiter and leveraging that authority into an augmented executive position.

Executive Staffing Firms and Their Recruiters Look Beyond the Traditional CV.

During an executive search, the main role of the search firm is to identify the best passive and active candidates for their client. Often, real-time interaction or referrals are used to complement prior accomplishments. Your CV may state that you bring a firm grasp of life sciences industry ethics, but what does your personality do to complement that claim? Will people put faith in your decisions without knowing you personally?

Social media completely altered the network capabilities of executive recruiters. There are dozens of sites connecting industries, putting pharma and medical devices professionals in touch with life sciences recruiters. Staffing firms prefer candidates with thoughtfully curated profiles and attention-grabbing social engagement.

Industry Blogs, Events, and Social Activities Regularly Turn Up Candidates.

Recruiters also regularly monitor industry blogs related to their clients. Frequent guest posting, social sharing, or comment board discussions will not only lead to interaction and learning among industry professionals, it just might catch the eye of an agency specialising in life sciences recruitment diving deep in search of that perfect project manager for an upcoming biological study.

The same goes for social interactions outside of the workplace. We can’t stress this enough: those who regularly attend seminars and other industry get-togethers develop connections and referrals that fly right by those who opt to stay on the couch. From the interview room, down to the casual blog post, this is a surefire way to command attention and respect from recruiters and corporations. We like to see these traits in a candidate:

  • Able to maintain thoughtful, knowledgeable discussion on a specific niche or topic.
  • Shows passion for his or her field, posting and commenting for the betterment of the community.
  • One who can present new angles or add relevant points to a controversial discussion.    

They Work Closely with Clients to Specially Qualify the Position.

Large companies typically don’t need an executive search firm to fill commonplace roles and complete mundane tasks. We are there to help them identify candidates who can really take a project or team to the next level. The goal is finding an efficient, successful candidate with a burning passion for progress.  Companies use executive search for a smart, quick hire. At Kinetic, we start with the basics – identifying our client’s specific needs, followed by CV search and run through our network.

In the field of life sciences recruitment, for example, the headhunter is going to go through a stringent organisational process with their client to specify the unique characteristics they desire in an employee. Then, he or she will go through their networks (see the point below) to narrow down potential candidates.

Networking – and Lots of It. 

It’s hard to find someone more socially active than a recruiter. Headhunters, such as pharma and medical devices recruiters, are regularly attending events, monitoring work-related social media and apps, and generally keeping their nose in as many people’s business as possible. Here are a few ways to familiarise yourself:

  • When attending a conference or other work function, find meetups, happy hours, or breakfast meetings built around the event but not necessarily affiliated with it. This is where you’ll have the best shot at a one-on-one time with people outside your inner circle.
  •  Handshakes and social media. When you meet someone in a professional setting, maintain that contact. They may have a recruiter in their network.
  • Keep your name in a recruiter’s mind by following up on email and phone contacts. Keep your social profiles active and professional.

Working in Pharmaceuticals? Pharmaceutical Headhunters Learn Your Job Description.

Recruiters want to see how you’ve applied your abilities to better your company and evolve that job description. The perfect candidate leaves a stamp on their current position that is virtually impossible to fill. By looking beyond basic corporate hiring, executive search firms put together a small pool of the most talented stars in the field with which their client works.

Not to overhype the benefits of social media and blogs, but the more a candidate establishes themselves as an authority, the more of these specified pools he or she will wind up in. The most desirable executive has the ball in their court and must make the tough call on which position to pursue.


Online Searches Return Results.

An executive search firm looking to find the right candidate from abroad for a Saudi Arabian company may head to Google. By typing in ‘CV and (KEYWORDS)’ they can instantly peruse resumes and put together a list of potential candidates for further investigation.

Following this, the firm may contact candidates directly, or begin with the afore-mentioned steps for further vetting. There are two important things to note here:
  • First, having a current CV on job boards, LinkedIn, and other sites including common keywords and job descriptions optimise your chances of being discovered.
  • Maintaining a positive online reputation is critically important for executive candidates. You can never be sure which link the headhunter will elect to click when searching your name on the web.


Key Takeaways for Candidates

Executive search firms are charged with the task of locating specific candidates, often from specific regions of the world and vetting them to identify the strongest possible options for their clients. They will use a variety of tools including the web and their personal network to ensure the best return.

As a job seeker, whether you’re in the United Arab Emirates or the United Kingdom, maximising your chances of landing the perfect executive position requires a 360-degree approach to your image and networking efforts. Headhunters are looking for that perfect fit. By taking the time to present yourself professionally from all angles, you’ll begin to see an increase in opportunities.

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