Guide to Executive Search: From Trust to the Best Executive Search Software

A man is standing on top of a stack of books, showcasing the best executive search software.

A Quick Overview of Executive Search

Executive search is one of the highest paying recruiting models. And, if your firm is on retained search, that paycheck (or at least some of it) is almost guaranteed.

But this isn’t to say that it is without challenges. If your clients are on contingent contracts, your job becomes that much more difficult as you may be competing with other firms to fill the job order.

With low search volume, and longer sales cycles, firms who specialize in executive search don’t make near the same number of placements as a staffing firm who specializes in, say, warehouse staffing. This isn’t a bad thing – you’re going to have a larger fee for executive searches (anywhere from 25-45% of the position’s salary, which is usually $100K+).

Because of the nature of these roles, you’re going to have dedicated candidates and clients. The loyalty and rapport your teams develop from both sides of the desk are unlike what you would see in high turnover, high volume staffing. There’s generally time to develop a good relationship – and you really should build rapport because the stakes are high for all involved. But if you’re not using the best executive search software out there, this task just becomes even more challenging.

Finding the right people to lead a company – from executives to board of directors – is key to the success and growth of all businesses. The time without key leaders in place can be confusing for employees, leading to lower engagement at work, and lower profits overall.

Enter your executive search firm. You know when your clients lose key senior employees they can count on you to find the best fit. These searches need to be quick to prevent any further loss (monetary or productivity) to the client. But, they need to be candidates that are top notch and above and beyond what your clients can find themselves.

What Successful Executive Search Firms are Getting Right

Unlocking success in executive search is a matter of having the right tools in your arsenal. In short, the firms that are the most successful understand and excel in these 5 key areas:

  1. Partnering effectively with clients
  2. Building candidate trust in executive search
  3. Strong Candidate Acquisition Approach to Attract Top Candidates
  4. Elevating your sales game with MPC’ing
  5. Continued Communication with all parties

And, every good executive search firm needs the right tools to do the job. Which is where the *BONUS* tip comes in:

  1. Using the Best Software for Executive Search Recruiting

Read on to learn more.

Partnering Effectively with Executive Search Clients

When working with executive search clients, you know it’s not enough to do the bare minimum. To become a top-tier firm, it really comes down to the interactions your teams have with these customers.

Stop being transactional.

In executive search, relationships + rolodex > right time + right place.

This is an industry and a segment of recruiting where the relationships built over years, along with the rolodex of consistently A-player talent will almost always win the retained search over the hungry but transactional seller who gets lucky with a cold call at the right moment.

This means the “Need a guy? I’ve got a guy” transactional method of recruiting isn’t going to cut it. Executive search clients are paying top dollar, they know it, and they expect a proven, trusted, and white-glove process and team as a result.

How do you ensure your teams consistently go beyond the transactional? By creating and developing processes that build relationships from the outset, and put a repeatable, high-touch process in place before the search has even begun. This relational approach starts with truly understand the needs of your clients and may look something like:

    1. Developing relationships with 3+ members of the client’s team outside of just the hiring manager – think C-level, Director and Manager connections
    2. Taking notes detailing the must-haves of not just the job description, but the type of candidate that would best succeed in this role
    3. Outlining your process to the client
    4. Keeping the client apprised of your progress throughout the process by providing reports from your ATS. For example, this could look like:
      1. We’ve had 10 candidates apply to this point
      2. 7 candidates passed our initial screen
      3. We’ve held introductory phone interviews with 7 candidates
      4. We are now presenting you with the best 3 candidates
    5. Following up post-placement to gauge satisfaction of the client
      1. Use automations to your advantage
      2. Follow up not just the day of, but multiple times in the following weeks and months
      3. Continual follow up can help turn this client into a key account

Become a trusted advisor.

Your clients hopefully won’t continually need your firm’s executive search services. You both expect those searches to be few and far between, with great retention and low turnover. But, this isn’t to say that they won’t always need your counsel.

You can and should continue to provide value to your clients by being deeply knowledgeable in their industry and their business. Once you have a firm understanding of both, you bring value to the search and also to the relationship that turns you into an extension of the team. Together, these put you high on the list of people to call for advice or support when a talent issue arises in the future.

Don’t overcomplicate this. It can be as easy as offering to provide insights into the industry for their annual or quarterly reports. Keep them in the loop of new regulatory changes, or even a board meeting they may have to prepare for that includes industry statistics.

While not necessarily suited for all clients, this would be a great place to use your Key Account strategy to further develop these clients into lasting relationships and fruitful accounts.

Building Candidate Relationships in Executive Search

Trust in executive search is obviously a multi-directional relationship. Your candidates – both passive and active – need to trust that you’ll respect their confidentiality as needed.   That you won’t throw them into consideration for a new role without a discussion. And your clients need to feel secure that their search will be handled discreetly, in whatever form that requires.  In some cases that the search simply doesn’t get back to the exec that they need to replace.

Discretion and confidentiality

When a passive candidate – especially at the executive level – is approached by a recruiter, it’s understandable that they would have some level of reservation. A common concern they may have is, “I’m content here. Will this get back to my boss? This new opportunity sounds intriguing, but I don’t want to jeopardize the sure thing.”

Similarly, you’ll hear clients who are looking to replace existing employees voice concerns about secrecy. Your team’s discretion is especially important for a company who would prefer to have no gaps in the job, to decrease the amount of down time for the department.

Both groups have concerns about their current job security, and the success of your recruitment efforts depends on how well you can address these concerns. You’re building rapport with the candidate and confidence with the client. A big part of developing those relationships successfully comes down to how much they can trust you.

By being discreet and maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive information, your teams create a positive relationship with both the candidate and the client.

If you’re executing this the right way, the resulting increase in client retention and candidate referrals will be a clear testament to your team’s ability to keep trust, which ultimately contributes to the success and growth of your practice.

Developing relationships with passive talent

Building trusted relationships from the beginning must be a top priority when contacting potential candidates for an executive search. Even if you have an open search that you think they’d be excellent for, your initial outreach should be friendly and non-transactional. Spend some time getting to know the applicant and building a connection before getting into the specifics of the position.

This first communication should be reflective of the fact that you work with people like them all the time (passive candidates who are in this specific field). And that you’re here for the long haul, not just to make fast money off of their successful placement. This implies that you are mindful of their current circumstances and care about their professional goals.

When you do get in touch, make your message unique and demonstrate that you’ve done your research. To avoid sounding transactional or demanding, stay away from generic patterns and wording. Instead, concentrate on developing rapport with the candidate.

Understanding Candidate Motivators – The CLAMPS Framework

As an executive search recruiter or consultant, you know that candidates move for a variety of reasons. But are you aware of the most common motivators that drive top talent to make a change? Understanding these motivators is crucial to making successful placements that go beyond just a job offer.

Enter CLAMPS – the secret to unlocking and understanding candidate motivation. CLAMPS stands for:

  • Challenge
  • Location
  • Advancement
  • Money
  • People
  • Security

And truly, this covers the most common reasons why candidates would be willing to move or consider a change.

Differentiating yourself from other executive recruitment firms requires a deep understanding of these motivators and the ability to offer more than just a job. Understanding what drives each individual candidate will give you a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent.

So, let’s dive into each motivator:

  • Challenge: Candidates want to tackle new and exciting projects that will challenge them and make an impact on the company and clients they serve.
  • Location: The job itself is just one aspect of the equation, candidates also consider the location – these days this can mean in-office locally, in-office requiring relocation, or remote and hybrid work models.
  • Advancement: Top talent wants to grow and develop professionally, and they’re looking for opportunities to do so.
  • Money: While it may not be the top motivator, compensation is still an important consideration for candidates.
  • People: A positive company culture and recognition for a job well done can make all the difference.
  • Security: Candidates want to feel secure in their job and their future, both financially and professionally.

By understanding these motivators and offering them more than just another interview process, you’ll set yourself apart from other executive search firms and have a better chance of attracting and retaining top talent.

Bottom line:  do the work around CLAMPS every time – it’s the key to successful executive placements. And taking the time to solicit, reflect, and remember this level of motivation will naturally set you up to create long-term relationships with A-player talent for future searches as well.

Attracting Top Executive Candidates - Sourcing and Engagement

At a high level, engaging top talent for your search or your firm in general requires a combination of three things: a strong job description, foundational digital marketing knowledge and a touchpoint strategy that effectively personalizes the candidate experience from shoulder tap to signed offer.

Writing a Strong Job Description for Executive Search

A run-of-the-mill job description won’t cut it when your teams go to attract the best talent. To stand out, you need to write a JD that highlights not only what the person will do but also who they will become as part of the company and in this role.

This means including a value statement that highlights the skills and experiences the candidate will gain once they join this company. By focusing on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators like the person’s potential and career growth and the total comp package, you’ll be able to attract top talent who are looking for more than just a dollar figure.

Digital Marketing Foundations

To attract top talent, it isn’t just enough to have a strong new talent strategy. If you’re researching these top candidates, you can bet that they’re researching you, too. Or that they will be, both before and during any search.

(We’re going to skim across the surface of this topic, but to get a deep dive into social selling, listen to “Networking is a Compound Effort” on The Full Desk Experience podcast.)

This means you need to have a strong online presence for your executive search firm. Maurice Fuller, industry consultant and Founder of New Vector Group, said digital marketing was one of the must-have pieces for growing your business in 2023, and this encompasses a strong website and social media presence.

The topic of effective digital marketing for talent businesses is massive, but here are a few basics for a strong website presence:

  • Show your team- do they look and sound like the type of people you’d trust with your career?
  • What services does your office offer?
  • What sets you apart in your approach, from process, to team, to the type of talent that you represent?
  • What are your hours?
  • And of course how to contact you.

Once you’ve nailed the basics, and optimized your website with keywords and other industry-relevant information (again, beyond the scope of this article), it’s time to shift focus to your social media pages.

At a very basic level, there are two destinations to optimize on social media – the business page, and personal page(s) of your team.

Think of these as the destination or landing pages for everything you’ll be doing or posting later on.  The pages that you’re working to get people to view, as you get their attention and attempt to bring them closer.

The way you have your business page set up does matter. You want the information to reflect what can be found on your website, but not be copied word for word. And be sure to post from that business page on a regular cadence that includes industry insights, interesting and thought-provoking content, and of course your job postings. It’s important to post more than just jobs to show your value and relevance in the space, and the business page is a reflection of all that activity in a single location.

Pro-tip:  LinkedIn’s algorithm appears to significantly favor posts from people over posts from brands. This means it’s crucial to have social media best practices or recommended guidelines for your team, if you want to fully leverage this giant platform and your team’s collective hustle.

Multi-Channel Touch Point Strategy for Executive Search

When looking for the top talent, especially in executive search, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be working predominantly with passive candidates. In these post-pandemic days, where in-person networking events are few and far between, you’re going to have to find passive talent where they’re at. Email, social media, phone calls, texting, and snail mail.

We’ll highlight some of the key touch points below. But, for an in-depth look into this 16-step strategy, check out our Multi-Channel Touch Plan eBook here.

The first recommended touchpoint occurs in the same channel where you can also learn the most about your candidate before a live conversation. LinkedIn.

Tactically, make that connection request, and be sure to “follow” as well. Then, find a recent post from the person and like or comment on it. And please don’t just say, “nice post!” Go beyond the transactional or lazy check-a-box approach that your competitors could easily replicate.  Ask an engaging question, put in the time to think about what they’ve said, and make it clear that you’re both engaged, and ideally knowledgeable or at least curious about their space.

After the initial contact on social media, give them a call. The phone. Still. Works.

And leave a voicemail unapologetically if they don’t answer.  Let them hear your voice, and your genuine desire to connect.

Regardless of which touch ultimately gets you there, the goal here is to drive an introductory phone call about what the candidate is looking for in a potential new opportunity (remember CLAMPS?) and learn as much about them as possible. At this stage, you’re focused on quantifiable metrics and develop a FAB statement.

From there, it’s a mix of emails, LinkedIn interactions, and phone calls. The best executive search software solutions offer automation of some or all of these tasks.

Pro-Tip:  We know you’re wondering about snail mail. That should come in at the end – send a card with an interesting article and your contact information. Snail mail is still one of the best ways to get attention because you simply don’t see it leveraged often.

Elevate Your Sales Game with MPC'ing

One of the best practices for successful executive search is the ability to find passive talent. According to a recent study, 70% of the workforce is passive talent – meaning they are not actively searching for a new job. Don’t let this discourage you. This is where MPC’ing comes in.

What is MPC’ing?

MPC’ing, or taking your Most Placeable Candidate (MPC) to market, is a process used by executive search firms to gain new logos by marketing this MPC as a reflection of their overall talent pool. These top performers may be happy in their current role and may not be open to immediate, new opportunities. That’s ok, that’s not necessarily the goal when you first reach out with this approach.

We go much deeper into this topic in this podcast episode, but you’ll find an overview of the topic below.

Creating rapport with the MPC

Before you can even begin MPC’ing, you’ve got to start working with the talent. After you’ve identified an MPC through your sourcing or networking efforts, you’re going to run through CLAMPS. This groundwork will help you understand their motivators, and give you talking points as you start developing a relationship with them. It’ll even help when you pitch this candidate to prospective clients, too.

Pro-tip:  the best executive search software combines an ATS and CRM, and should have a dedicated MPC workflow once you’ve identified that top talent.  That purpose-built process should keep the A-players front and center in your database for both marketing your talent pool to prospective customers, and to stay in close touch with those rockstar candidates over time.

In order to build rapport over time, you should have reminders set for phone calls and text messages, automated emails set to trigger after you leave a voicemail, and anything else you define in your process to nurture the most important talent relationships. Keep notes of these conversations in the candidate record so you can remember more easily next time you talk.

Who doesn’t love an email on their birthday, a grilling recipe on the 4th of July, or an interesting and industry-relevant article. All of these small things add up and build a trusting relationship with the candidate. Especially a passive one who isn’t ready to make a job switch just yet.

Pro tip – create an MPC workflow inside your ATS, or whatever executive search software your team uses. This will help your teams stay on track with communications and regular check-ins for these top candidates.

Using the MPC as a Value Proposition

The ultimate goal of MPC’ing is to use this top talent as a value proposition for the company. So, while it is incredibly valuable to develop a relationship with that candidate, this is not an employment search activity. Placing that candidate with the prospective client today isn’t likely. But that’s not a bad thing.

By having a pool of highly skilled and talented individuals, your firm can pitch itself as an attractive option to new clients. This not only helps to win new business, but it also allows the company to attract top talent to its own ranks.

Executive search firms should view MPC’ing as an essential tool for their business. By understanding the benefits and challenges of executive search, and by utilizing MPC’ing to find passive talent, companies can increase their chances of success. The ultimate goal is to use top talent as a value proposition to win new business and create opportunities.

How to MPC effectively in Executive Search

Your recruiting team has identified an MPC and have started building a relationship with them. They’ve handed them over to sales (if split desk) or are ready to take them to a client (if full desk). But what should a sales team know in order to be successful with incorporating MPC’ing into your new client strategy?

You’ll want to first identify the list of new clients that fit within your firm’s wheelhouse. Don’t be afraid to reach out to bigger companies, just be sure you understand the industry they serve so you can have effective conversations. This isn’t necessarily a “dive into new markets” exercise.

It seems obvious, but then you’ll need to build an executive summary highlighting the candidate to match what you believe your potential client will need. This should be the highlight reel – share the candidate’s compelling skills, experience, and accomplishments tailored to the potential customer and job you’re targeting.

Now comes the fun part – presenting your candidates to passive customers. These are customers who aren’t actively seeking to fill a position but might be interested in hearing about a great candidate. The key here is to make your pitch compelling. Focus on the candidate’s accomplishments and how they can bring value to the prospective client.

When you reach out to a new client and pitch the MPC, it’s your time to show what kind of candidates your firm is able to obtain on behalf of the client. The key here is to find the people your client can’t find on their own. This is why building rapport with passive talent is so key. Your clients aren’t likely to reach out to passive talent. But your firm will, and really needs to in order to find those A players to bring in new clients.

And, when your client says, “That sounds like a great candidate, but isn’t what we need right now.” You get to say, “what kind of person do you need?”

And from there, listen.

This form of active listening is key because you can hear first-hand what type of talent the client is looking for. And you’re off to the races with a better understanding of how your firm can serve and sell to this client.

Taking it back to a car analogy, these MPC’s are the attractants of new clients to get them in to talk to you. Similar to how car dealerships put fancy cars out front.

Not everyone is going to walk away with a Ferrari. For whatever reason, it doesn’t fit their needs. It could be too expensive or not the right car for the size of your family. Maybe they walk away with a minivan from the back.

But the thing is, walking away with a minivan when you attracted them with a Ferrari is still a win. The goal here is to make a great placement for the candidate and the client. And there’s nothing wrong with minivans – they’re practical, affordable, comfortable, and do a great job hauling families around.

Pro tip – use the CLAMPS model with your clients here, too!

With CLAMPS as a foundational starting point, your teams can begin building a relationship with the customer. This is where you get to know them and their business. Find out what their pain points are and how you can help. Once you have established trust, then you can introduce your candidate. But be sure to do so in a way that’s not intrusive. Frame it as a suggestion rather than a hard sell.

The sales portion of MPC’ing and candidate marketing doesn’t have to be intimidating. By building a strong executive summary, creating a target list for placeable candidates, and presenting candidates to passive customers in a thoughtful and strategic way, your teams can excel.

Software for Executive Search Recruiting

Executive recruiting can be a bit of a balancing act. On one hand, you need to be constantly on the hunt for new talent to fill top-level positions. On the other hand, you need to maintain positive relationships with existing clients while keeping up with the never-ending demands of the industry.

That’s where executive recruiting software comes in. And if you’re lucky enough to find one that offers custom workflows, engagement tools, call recording, automatic reporting, and fingertip information, then you’re in for a real treat.

Executive Search Software that Works Like Your Team Works

Let’s start with custom workflows. As an executive recruiter, you know that no two processes are alike. One client might need a completely different approach than another. With custom workflows, you can set up separate processes for sales, recruiting, and MPC’ing that work for your specific needs. No more trying to fit square pegs into round holes!

Next up, engagement tools for passive and active talent. Sometimes you’re dealing with candidates who are actively seeking new positions, and sometimes you’re dealing with candidates who are content where they are. With engagement tools, you can keep both types of candidates interested and engaged in the process. This can include everything from automated emails to social media outreach to targeted job postings.

Of course, none of this matters if you’re not keeping track of your contacts. That’s where call and email record keeping come in. By recording all calls and emails, you can ensure that you have a complete record of all interactions with your clients and candidates. This not only helps with follow-up but also helps to prevent any misunderstandings down the line. Add in a place to keep notes on the contact record, and you’ve got everything you need to be successful.

Data and Business Intelligence

Now let’s talk about automatic reporting tools. As an executive recruiting firm, you’re likely dealing with a lot of data. And while data can be incredibly helpful, it can also be overwhelming. With automatic reporting tools, you can easily generate reports that give you a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not. This allows you to make data-driven decisions that can have a significant impact on your success.

Last but not least, information at your fingertips. With software that provides information when and where you need it, you can access all of your client and candidate data in one place. This includes everything from resumes to interview notes to contact information. No more scrambling to find what you need!

Executive recruiting software that offers custom workflows, engagement tools, call recording, business intelligence, and easily accessible information can be a real game-changer. By using these tools to your advantage, you can streamline your processes, keep candidates engaged, and ultimately find the best talent for your clients. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to upgrade your software and take your recruiting game to the next level!

Executive search can be a challenging but rewarding field for those who are dedicated to building long-lasting relationships with clients and candidates. While the search volume may be lower, the potential payouts are high, especially for top-tier searches.

Passive talent is key to success, and it is essential to attract the right people for the job. Building trust and maintaining communication with both clients and candidates is critical, and using MPC’ing for sales can help recruiters find the right talent for their clients.

Finally, the best executive search software can streamline the process and provide valuable data and insights. By following these tips and utilizing the right tools, executive recruiters can find success in their field and build a reputation as trusted advisors for their clients.

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