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Most organizations—from Fortune 500 firms to colleges and universities to small businesses—at one time or another have to replace an important executive or administrator. Because of restraints such as time, privacy, or resources, many organizations opt to use the services of an executive recruiter. The task begins once the search firm is retained, or notified of the job opening, and is asked to find the best possible candidate.
The recruiter first evaluates the needs and structure of the organization and the specifications of the open position. Then a written draft of the job description is made, detailing the title, job definition, responsibilities, and compensation. At this time, a wish list is composed of every possible quality, talent, skill, and educational background the perfect job candidate should possess. It is up to the recruiter to match these specifications as closely as possible.
Once a written contract is approved by the client, then the real work begins. The three traditional job functions in the recruitment industry are: researcher, associate, and consultant. Researchers conduct research to find possible candidates. They look through directories and databases, and network with contacts familiar with the field. They read trade papers and magazines as well as national newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Business sections of newspapers often include write-ups of industry leaders. Recruiters also receive resumes from people looking to change employment, which they may use for future reference. It's imperative recruiters stay current with the field they specialize in; they need to be familiar with the key players as well as important technological advances that may change the scope of the industry.
Once a long list is assembled, associates contact the prospective candidates, usually by telephone. Candidates who are interested and qualified are screened further; references are checked fully. Consultants conduct personal interviews with promising candidates who make the short list of hopefuls. Consultants also manage client relationships and develop new business for the firm.
The goal of retainer executive recruiters is to present three to five of the best candidates to a client for final interviews. Contingency recruiters, on the other hand, will present many qualified candidates to the client, to better their chance of filling the position. Executive recruiters will not edit resumes or coach on the interview process, but some will offer information on where candidates stand after the initial interview and give advice on perceived strengths and weaknesses.
A search for the perfect executive is a lengthy process. Most searches take anywhere from one month to a year or more. Once the position is filled, recruiters conduct one or more follow-up inquiries to ensure that the employee's transition into the company is smooth. Any conflicts or discrepancies are addressed and often mediated by, or along with, the search firm. Some executive search firms offer some kind of guarantee with their work: If the hired employee leaves a firm within a specified period of time or does not work out as anticipated, then the recruiter will find a replacement for a reduced fee or at no charge.
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