What Do Executive Search Firms Look For?

employees talking about what executive search firms look for at the office

updated October 12, 2023

Looking to get noticed by executive recruiters? Understanding what executive search firms look for in potential candidates can give you a significant advantage.

In this blog, we’ll explore what executive search firms look for in potential candidates. Read on and discover the secrets to standing out from the crowd.

What Is An Executive Recruiter? 

Executive recruiters are professional matchmakers of sorts, tasked with connecting top-tier organizations with the leadership talent they need to thrive. Often referred to as executive search consultants or headhunters, executive recruiters help companies find and hire high-level executives and executives-to-be for leadership positions.

Executive recruiters typically work for specialized firms, known as executive search firms, that exclusively partner with organizations seeking industry-leading placements for pivotal C-suite, specialist, and other crucial roles. Executive recruiters’ expertise lies in finding and attracting top talent for leadership positions. Executive recruiters have a deep understanding of the skills and experience required for various roles and leverage specialized tools, methodologies, and practices to identify, engage, and evaluate the right candidates for their partner organizations.

Executive recruiters’ secret weapon is their diverse network of executives across industries, specialties, and continents. They invest in developing unmatched networks of contacts across industries to widen their access to talented professionals for the organizations they partner with. These diverse, multi-faceted networks allow executive recruiters to streamline their partners’ hiring process while also significantly boosting their access to exciting and innovative candidates. 

How Do You Get Noticed By An Executive Search Firm? 

If you want to be noticed by an executive search firm, it’s important to understand what they’re looking for in potential candidates. Executive search firms typically seek individuals with strong leadership skills, a proven track record of success in their field, and a deep understanding of their industry. They also value candidates who can adapt to changing market conditions and have a strong network of professional contacts.

When selecting an executive search firm, it’s important to research its reputation, the types of clients it works with, and its track record of successful placements. You should also consider the size and focus of the firm, as well as the specific industry and functional areas in which they specialize.

Executive recruiters can make a lot of money in executive search, but it’s important to keep in mind that the role is highly competitive and requires a significant amount of hard work and dedication. To increase your chances of getting noticed by an executive search firm, it’s important to develop your professional network, maintain a strong online presence, and stay informed about industry trends and developments.

When it comes to what makes a great executive search partner, firms that have a great reputation, a track record of successful placements, and a deep understanding of their industry and the clients they work with are considered successful. It’s also essential that executive search firms have a great process in place to identify, attract, evaluate, and place top-level executives. Finally, a great partner will be able to effectively communicate with their clients and provide them with valuable insights and guidance throughout the search process.

What Are The Different Types Of Recruitment? 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all recruiters are created equal. Understanding the unique role that executive recruiters play in the talent acquisition market can be a game-changer for your organization.

Unlike your in-house recruiting team or generalist recruiters, executive recruiters have more in common with business consultants. Instead of offering one-size-fits-all solutions, executive recruiters take the time to understand the intricacies of your organization. They dive deep into your organizational structure, company culture, performance goals, and overall vision to create a strategic search framework that forms the foundation of their talent acquisition process. This approach enables them to identify and attract top-tier executives.

graphic of reasons to choose a boutique recruiter over a big 5 search firm

Why Choose Something Other Than One of the Big 5 Executive Search Firms?

Choosing a boutique executive search firm over a larger, well-known firm like one of the Big 5 or a major executive recruiting firm can offer several advantages:

  1. High-Touch, Customized Service: Boutique firms often provide more personalized services. They typically take on fewer clients at a time, allowing them to dedicate more attention and resources to each search. This means a deeper understanding of your company’s culture, values, and unique needs. Your organization’s needs will never be overlooked because we’re stretched too thin.
  2. Specialization: Boutique firms often specialize in specific industries, functions, or geographic regions. This expertise can be invaluable in identifying and attracting top talent with the right skills and cultural fit for your organization.
  3. Focus on Quality: Larger firms may prioritize quantity and quick placements to meet revenue targets. In contrast, boutique firms typically emphasize quality over quantity, ensuring that the candidates presented are exceptional for your organization.
  4. Consultative Approach: Boutique firms often take a consultative approach, acting as strategic partners in your talent acquisition process. They provide insights, market intelligence, and advice on organizational and talent strategies.
  5. Flexibility: Boutique firms are often more flexible in tailoring their services to your specific needs. We can adapt to changing circumstances and evolving requirements throughout the search process.
  6. Cost-Effective: While boutique firms may charge competitive fees, they can often provide cost-effective solutions compared to the fees charged by larger, more prominent firms.
  7. Faster Decision-Making: Smaller organizations typically have streamlined decision-making processes, allowing you to move more swiftly in identifying and securing top talent.
  8. Cultural Alignment: Boutique firms tend to place a strong emphasis on understanding your company’s culture and ensuring that candidates not only have the right skills but also align with your values and culture.

Ultimately, the choice between a boutique executive search firm and a larger one depends on your specific needs, the complexity of the search, and your preferences. Boutique firms excel in offering a tailored, high-touch, and quality-driven approach to executive search.

Look Beyond the Big 5 Executive Search Firms for a Custom Partnership 

Medallion Partners is a premier boutique executive search firm.

While the Big 5 firms have their merits, our boutique executive search firm offers something more: a partnership that goes beyond the transactional.

We’re not just finding you a someone to hire; we’re finding you the future leader who perfectly aligns with your company’s vision and values.

Our deep industry expertise, personalized service, and unwavering commitment to quality mean we take on fewer clients, giving your search the focus and dedication it deserves.


Speak with an expert and get clear on your 2024 organizational strategy.

About Scott Himes

4875429da7afdf141de2ce7c59713670?s=90&d=mm&r=g What Do Executive Search Firms Look For?Scott Himes has over 20 years of expertise spanning the business and nonprofit sectors, and seamlessly combines his technical and analytical mindset with empathetic leadership development. He excels in guiding executives, teams, and transitioning professionals through strategic talent, career, and growth with a focus on overcoming challenges and barriers. His role encompasses organizational strategy, team excellence, and executive search.

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