What Does an Executive Recruiter Do?

a group of people ask what does an executive recruiter do

Updated Oct 12, 2023 

An executive recruiter’s job is to find candidates that are great cultural and career fits for difficult-to-fill executive and specialist positions. Whether you’re a start-up experiencing a wave of growth that transforms your leadership needs or an established organization that’s ready to upgrade its executive recruiting strategy, partnering with an executive recruiter can be a great option. 

What Is Executive Level Search?

Executive-level search is the strategic process of identifying and recruiting high-caliber leaders to fill top-tier organizational positions. This specialized form of talent acquisition is reserved for executive roles such as CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and other senior management positions. It involves meticulous research, extensive networking, and a deep understanding of the client organization’s needs and culture. Executive-level search firms leverage their expertise to find individuals not only with the requisite skills and experience but also the vision and leadership qualities that align with the client’s strategic goals. Executive-level search is about securing the right leaders to steer the company toward growth and success in an increasingly competitive business landscape.

Working With An Executive Search Firm

The War for Talent is on, and organizations that want to scale their sales, build their brands, and gain an edge over their competitors are looking for ways to win it. 

For many organizations, taking the War for Talent seriously has meant upgrading their recruitment processes and strategies. Chief among these upgrades is oftentimes partnering with a reputable executive search firm. 

What Are Executive Search Firms?

Executive search firms are niche, highly specialized recruiting firms. Occasionally called “headhunters,” executive search specialists devote 100% of their time, energy, and resources to accessing the hard-to-crack executive and specialist talent market. 

Executive search firms’ laser-sharp focus on C-suite and specialist vacancies (like Ph.D. researchers or advanced A.I. developers) creates numerous benefits for their clients, namely access and hard-earned influence with world-class industry leaders. 

The best executive staff firms employ a roster of former executives across a variety of industries, each one of them providing their firm with invaluable insight, reach, and access through their personal and professional networks, memberships, and industry associations. 

Executive search firms’ boutique services also allow them to invest in niche talent acquisition tools that dramatically improve the objectivity, accuracy, and efficiency of the search process. This leads to faster fill times and more successful placements.

What do Executive Search Firms do?

Executive search recruiters are expert talent scouts on a mission. Their primary role is to identify, attract, and place top-tier executive talent within organizations. These firms specialize in the intricate art of matching exceptional leaders with the unique needs and culture of their client companies. Through rigorous research, networking, and evaluation, they cast a wide net to unearth the right individuals for critical roles. Executive search firms navigate the competitive landscape of executive recruitment, ensuring that their clients not only find leaders with the necessary skills but also the vision and cultural fit to drive the organization forward. Essentially, they are the architects of leadership, constructing the foundation for a company’s future success.

woman works as an executive recruiter indianapolis

What Is The Process of Executive Search?

The executive search process is a highly methodical and tailored approach to identifying and recruiting top-level executives. It typically involves the following key steps:

  1. Client Consultation: The process begins with an in-depth consultation with the client organization. This is where the executive search firm gathers information about the company’s culture, values, strategic goals, and the specific requirements for the executive role to be filled.
  2. Position Profiling: Based on the client’s needs, the search firm creates a detailed profile of the executive position, outlining the responsibilities, qualifications, and expectations for the role.
  3. Research and Sourcing: Executive search consultants then employ their extensive networks and resources to identify potential candidates. This can involve researching industry leaders, competitor organizations, and passive candidates who may not actively seek new roles.
  4. Candidate Evaluation: Candidates are rigorously assessed against the position profile. This includes evaluating their qualifications, experience, leadership qualities, and cultural fit with the client organization.
  5. Interviews and Assessment: Shortlisted candidates undergo a series of interviews and assessments to further evaluate their suitability for the role. This may include behavioral interviews, skills assessments, and reference checks.
  6. Presentation to Client: The search firm presents a select group of qualified candidates to the client along with detailed reports on their backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses.
  7. Client Interviews: The client conducts interviews with the presented candidates to determine the best fit for their organization.
  8. Offer and Negotiation: Once a preferred candidate is identified, the search firm assists in extending an offer and negotiating compensation packages.
  9. Transition and Assimilation: After the candidate accepts the offer, the search firm may provide support during the onboarding process to ensure a smooth transition into the new role. Some executive search firms offer post-placement support to ensure the long-term success of the candidate in their new role.

Throughout the process, executive search firms maintain strict confidentiality and act as trusted advisors to both clients and candidates, aiming to find the best match for both parties.

What Are The Different Types Of Recruiters? 

There are three main categories of recruiters: in-house, external generalists, and executive search recruiters. Each of these types play pivotal but distinct roles. 

In-House Recruiters

In-house recruiters typically work for large, multi-faceted organizations with regular hiring needs. These recruiters specialize in attracting, evaluating, and onboarding candidates with a promising blend of performance potential and cultural fit. The complete immersion in-house recruiters have in your organization’s culture makes them excellent at making good hires for the company. 

Generalist Recruiters

Generalist recruiters are external service providers that partner with businesses of all sizes to provide professional hiring support. Unlike in-house recruiters, generalist recruiters partner with a wide number of organizations (usually within a single industry) to fill vacancies ranging from entry-level roles, to seasonal work, to associate and mid-management roles.

Executive Recruiters

Executive recruiters exclusively partner with organizations experiencing challenging, complex, or competitive vacancies at the highest levels of their companies. Executive recruiters leverage extensive networks of innovative and inspiring executives, specialists, and industry leaders to generate one-in-a-million placements that position their partners and candidates for success.

What Are The Responsibilities Of Executive Recruiters?

Executive recruiters wear many hats during the executive recruitment process. 

At the beginning of a new executive search, the best executive recruiters take on the role of an experienced consultant. These executive recruiters place their years of experience and deep market insights at their clients’ disposal to ensure their executive talent acquisition strategy is competitive.

Once an executive search strategy has been developed, executive recruiters’ responsibilities shift toward recruiting duties. Your executive recruitment partner will work to access hard-to-crack talent pools around the globe to identify, engage, and evaluate promising candidates. 

After a thorough search, the best executive recruiters put their candidate finalists through rigorous, data-driven evaluation processes that refine their candidate roster to a handful of top-tier matches. They’ll present this short list of candidates to your company leadership for consideration, help set up and manage interview schedules, and guide your selection process.

After you’ve chosen your newest team member, your executive recruiter will take on their final and most important responsibility – closing the deal. The best executive recruiters use tried-and-true negotiation techniques to convince a world-class executive to leave their current position and take on a new challenge.

How Much Do Executive Recruiters Make?

Executive recruiter salaries vary due to a wide range of executive search services, industries, and business models. However, most executive recruiters can expect to earn between $80,000 and $115,000 a year, with the average executive recruiter bringing home around $105,000 annually.

Executive recruiting can be highly lucrative for top performers. Executive search specialists who consistently make placements that exceed their client’s expectations can earn as much as $250,000 annually.

How To Pick The Right Executive Recruiting Firm To Fill A Role At Your Company

Choosing the right executive recruiting firm can make or break your hiring experience. The wrong call can lead to higher recruiting costs, lackluster executive placements, and painful executive churn. 

Ensure your executive search partner is bringing value to the table by asking these questions:

  1. Which industries have you successfully worked in?
  2. How would you describe your firm’s approach to executive search?
  3. How do you source candidates?
  4. How do you compare and evaluate candidates?
  5. What steps will you take to understand my business’ unique character, principles, and needs?
  6. Are your strategies for accessing candidates discreet, effective, and professional?
  7. Will I receive presentations on multiple candidates or just the top contender?
  8. How do you assess candidates’ soft skills?
  9. Do you carry out thorough reference checks?
  10. Do you offer onboarding and assimilation services post-hire?

Medallion Partners is a Top Executive Search Firm

With 98 percent of our placements still in their roles after two years, we can confidently say our methodology works. 

The stakes are high, and so are the expectations. But that means an excellent executive hire can truly transform your organization.

If you’re serious about ensuring that your organization thrives in a fiercely competitive landscape, then partnering with an executive search firm is not just an option – it’s the answer.

We bring insight and clarity amid the noise, objective data that transcends guesswork, and expert skill at offer positioning and negotiation. We won’t let you miss out on the best leadership for your organization.

You’re investing in your organization’s resilience, longevity, and triumph. We’re invested in you.


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

About Abby Marshaus

7e4f30a7f6f0cd324150454914e1c426?s=90&d=mm&r=g What Does an Executive Recruiter Do?Abby Marshaus is known for optimizing operations and driving organizational growth. With an MBA and strategic acumen, Abby excels at crafting and executing cross-functional operational frameworks. Her expertise spans organizational development, talent acquisition from board to senior executive leadership levels, career management, and fostering innovation through connection. Abby is Hogan-certified with a track record of delivering impactful results.

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