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Executive Recruiters - A Perspective

Almost all of our career coaching clients have voiced frustrations sometime during our work together about executive recruiters.

The almost all of the complaints we hear come from the mistaken assumption that recruiters are in the market searching for job openings for them or that they have a large depository of open positions that they are ready to fill.

This is simply not the case.

We have to re-educate our clients that the operating business model for an executive recruiter - whether they are contingency or retained - is to identify and secure high quality candidates for open to fill positions they are working on for their client companies.

Your discussion - whether the recruiter approaches you or you engage the recruiter - will go smoothly if you are a close or exact match for the open to fill position based upon the preset list of criteria. If the recruiter objectively reviews your credentials and determines that you are not a close or exact match you will not go much further with them on that assignment.


Recruiters are practical and they are also business people. They want to deliver to their client - the hiring company - the best quality candidate they can. This means that someone who is the closest match (industry, channels, technical skills, location, compensation, years of experience) will be the safe and smart choice for them to present.

Recruiters do not want to “sell you”. They do not want their client company to question them why they are being presented candidates that do not match the criteria that has been set. In the recruiter's mind they see that there is unnecessary risk in presenting the "one off" candidate since there are enough potential candidates in the market that closely match the set criteria.

This can be frustrating for the job seeker since they know they can do the position well - or are willing to take a cut in pay - or who know that their skills are very transferable. All of this may be true but for a recruiter they will most often see that this represents undue risk or frustration for them. We advise our clients that you have to see this objectively and not be frustrated.

What should you do?

You should not put too much stock in using executive recruiters to find your next position. A Right Management study reported that recruiters only represented 11% of the new jobs found through their clients.

You should also find every means to connect with your target companies so that you can have a direct discussion with the hiring manager on why you are a quality selection even though you do not represent an "exact match".