Executive Headhunters: Definition and How To Appeal to Them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 24, 2022 | Published April 13, 2021

Updated August 24, 2022

Published April 13, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies often use external resources to meet their internal hiring needs. An executive headhunter is a third-party provider who is responsible for filling senior-level positions within an organization. Understanding what these professionals do can help you successfully showcase your talents and advance your career. 

In this article, we explain what an executive headhunter is and share tips for demonstrating your ability to succeed in an organization's senior-level positions.

What is an executive headhunter?

An executive headhunter is a professional who finds senior-level employees for a company. These professionals differ from traditional recruiters in that they actively seek candidates instead of accepting and reviewing applications. Executive headhunters find ideal candidates by assessing the needs of the company and determining who has the right skills and expertise. These professionals may look to promote internal employees or outsource talent from other organizations.

Related: 9 Tips for Working Effectively With Recruiters

Executive headhunters vs. executive recruiters

There is essentially no difference between executive headhunters vs. executive recruiters. The only significant difference is the job title these professionals choose to use. Both types of professionals work for organizations looking to hire their next executive and have the 

Since many companies keep their executive openings private, it's a recruiter or headhunter's responsibility to seek out potential candidates. Rather than having people apply to these roles, the recruiters reach out to people they think would be the right fit for the company, oftentimes people who are already employed. The goal of this role is to find the ideal executive for the organization.

Related: Tips From a Recruiter: How To Stand Out When Changing Careers

Tips for appealing to executive headhunters

While it's more common for headhunters to find you, there are a few ways you can connect with the right executive search firms. Those who are seeking an executive position can use these tips for appealing to headhunters:

Update your resume

The first thing an executive headhunter is going to ask for is your resume. That's why it's so important to keep your resume up to date at all times. You can show that you're ready for an executive-level position by emphasizing your leadership skills. Use your resume to highlight some of your greatest accomplishments and relevant experiences.

Related: How To Get a Recruiter To Notice You

Polish your online presence

Headhunters tend to search for candidates online, using keywords and social media to pinpoint potential candidates. Keep your LinkedIn and other social media sites up to date with your most recent accomplishments and experiences. Consider asking other business leaders to leave a good referral on your social media page. You may also want to start becoming more active on social media by sharing impressive content and engaging with other professionals' posts.

You may also consider building yourself a professional website. You can essentially use this platform as a digital portfolio, showcasing your most impressive projects and work. Use your website to tell your story, highlighting experiences that show you're ready for a top-level position.

Related: 13 Smart Questions To Ask a Headhunter

Research different agencies

There are certain agencies that are known for their executive headhunting services. Along with doing an online search, ask your network if they have any experience working with a specific recruiter. If you know any executives, ask them if they can share who they worked with to get their role. You may even want to connect with human resources specialists you know, as they may have the right connections.

Related: How To Find a Headhunter

Know your goals

Before reaching out to a headhunter, reflect on your goals as an executive. Think about why you're ready to help lead an entire company or organization. Determine which skills and professional experiences would make you the right fit for this job. Then, start to develop your career goals. Determine what kind of companies you wish to lead and what you want to achieve. By having all this background work ready, you can make a more compelling argument for an executive role.

Related: FAQ: What Is a Headhunter Fee and How Much Does It Cost?

Initiate the conversation

While you may get lucky enough to have a headhunter find you, oftentimes, you're going to have to reach out to them first. Since headhunters hear from all kinds of candidates, you need to craft a message that is going to capture their attention and leave a lasting impression. When writing your message, introduce yourself and give them some background information about your career. Share some relevant skills you have and what you hope to achieve by working with them.

Attach your resume and website link to the message. Include any contact information, like a phone number or email address. You can end your message by saying that you would enjoy chatting with them about any opportunities that align with your career goals. By being professional and forward, you demonstrate that you're serious about the opportunity to accept a leadership position within an organization.

Keep the conversation active

If you find a headhunter isn't responding, consider following up with them. Reiterate your career goals and why you think you're ready for an executive role. This extra effort may get you a response from a headhunter. Keep in mind, that they may be busy working with multiple candidates, so keep up the correspondence. Try to schedule a time to talk on the phone or in-person so that you can start establishing a connection with them.

Related: How To Get Head Hunted in 7 Steps (With Tips and Benefits)

Be open to new opportunities

There may be certain times when a headhunter reaches out to you when you aren't actively searching for a job. Rather than telling them that you aren't interested, give them a chance to explain their job opportunity. You may find that they are interested in interviewing you for an executive-level position. Even if you don't end up wanting the role, this is a good experience for your future job search.

Use this as an opportunity to establish a professional relationship with this headhunter. Tell them that you may be open to additional opportunities later on. Make sure they are aware of your career goals and aspirations.

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