Navigating Success: The Art of Partnering with an Executive Search Firm

At SRI Executive, we get numerous questions from candidates about how to best partner with us. Launching a new career can be daunting, so here is some of the best advice for you. 

How Do Executive Search Firms Work? 

Executive search firms utilise an array of approaches to identify potential candidates. These include networking, referrals, specialised industry research, collaborations with other recruitment entities or educational institutions, and fostering connections with key industry figures. The primary goal is to curate a thorough roster of eligible prospects ideally matched for an open role. After pinpointing suitable candidates, the firms conduct interviews and comprehensive background checks to determine the most fitting individual for the position. 

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What Should I Consider When Selecting an Executive Search Partner? 

Assessing various factors is vital when choosing an executive search partner as a candidate. Consider the firm's industry experience and track record in successfully placing individuals in organisational leadership roles. Ask about their approach to gathering candidate information and frequency of communication with clients throughout the recruitment process. Equally important is establishing a comfortable working relationship since they play a pivotal role as your partner in this search journey. 

Understand the firm’s project management approach to executive search. Ensure you understand how they partner with clients and communicate with candidates throughout the journey. Clarify how frequently they update and engage with clients, as transparent and consistent communication is vital for a seamless and informed process. 

Ensure the search firm is utilising best practices in diversity and unbiased assessments. Question the firm on how they mitigate biases in their assessments. This could include anonymising candidate information, using standardised scoring, or having diverse interview panels. Enquire about their approach to diversity and inclusion in candidate assessments. A firm committed to unbiased evaluations will have strategies or policies to ensure fair treatment for all candidates. 

Understand the Firm’s Focus and Open Roles 

Every executive search firm has a different specialty, so find one aligned with your goals. Many have geographic or sector focuses. At SRI Executive, we focus on finding candidates for organisations working on the most significant international development challenges. Our clients include non-profits, consultancies, impact investing firms, international organisations, academic institutions, governments, private sector organisations for CSR, and more. 

Verify the search firm has connections to the suitable regions and cultures for your search. For example, if you seek roles in Latin America, please ensure the firm has regional offices and a strong track record of experience there. 

Remember that search firms are very client-focused and will only be doing active searches for roles specified by their clients. However, most will be transparent about the roles they are currently searching for. They may not always have a position available that is a fit for you at the time, but that doesn't mean they won’t in the future. You can view SRI Executive's current open roles here. 

Think Through Your Story of Change 

If you're contacting an executive search firm, you want to make a change. However, it's critical to understand and vocalise to executive search firms why you want to change so they can find the best match for you. Here are some potential questions for you to think about: 

  • What is the gap in your current role that you’re seeking to change with your next position? Are your strengths or creativity not being best utilised? Be able to articulate the points of dissatisfaction that you want to remedy by changing roles. 
  • What would be the top 3 ideal roles that you would consider next and why? Be as specific as possible. 
  • Is there a particular organisation that you have in mind that you'd love to join? Why that organisation?
  • Are there any specific requirements such as location or salary range? Answering these questions beforehand will help ensure your goals are aligned with the search firm’s. This will also enable them to better match you with potential roles that fit your desired profile. 

Being open and honest when discussing your career goals and aspirations is also essential. If any elements are essential for you—such as flexible hours, remote working options, etc.—communicate them up front so the executive search firm can consider them when presenting opportunities. Being transparent about what matters most to you will help ensure that the roles offered by the search firm provide precisely what you need and want from a job. 

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Optimize Your CV and LinkedIn 

Having a current and updated CV is vital when approaching a search firm. It may have been a while since you've looked for a new role, so having the most current information on there is essential. 

There are a few lessons that we like to give to candidates when partnering with us on their CVs: 

  • Make sure to include relevant data on your CV, including the number of people you've directly or indirectly managed, the budget or revenue sizes that you've managed, and the direct impact you've had. 
  • Show your impact, not your responsibilities. Many people list what they've done at their organisations but not the so what. You must show how you made a difference at your organisations, which initiatives you led, processes you've updated, and more. 
  • Reference your regional and global experience.   
  • Mention all your leadership roles, mainly how many people you managed. 
  • Include your language skills. 
  • Most importantly, ensure all this information matches what the role is looking for. You must align your experience with the requirements and competencies for the position you seek. 

Many organisations these days look for talented people on LinkedIn. Ensure your LinkedIn is active and updated with overviews of your current roles. It doesn't have to be a line-by-line reproduction of your CV; your descriptions can be briefer if you include important keywords. 

You can always ask executive search firms for feedback on your experience and qualifications. However, they may not always have time to answer your questions and provide that feedback. If you are still trying to figure out where to start, there are many web resources you can use before approaching an executive search firm with your CV. 

When it comes to adjusting your compensation and benefits, search firms can be strong partners. With access to salaries and benefits across sectors and organisations, they can help you benchmark your salary to a given role. This is important if you’re changing sectors or changing locations as that can mean your salary needs to be adjusted. 

Stay In Touch 

If it's been over six months since you've last checked in with an executive search firm, feel free to follow up with them. Let them know you're still looking, update your CV, etc. In the interim, things about your search might have changed, so it's good to keep them posted. 

Reaching out to and connecting with a search firm is confidential. Executive search firms, including ours, are committed to helping candidates find their next roles and will never share or publicise your interest without your explicit consent. Your privacy and professional journey are handled with the highest level of discretion. 

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Connect With SRI Executive 

You can find our open roles listed here. You should also subscribe to our newsletter here, where we can keep you posted on updates and new roles. 

For executives interested in their development, SRI Executive offers Executive Coaching to gain self-awareness and reach their full potential. Our consultants are accredited leadership coaches and psychologists backed by a wealth of experience working with organisations and leaders in the international development space. They understand the complex challenges leaders face today. Our approach: Our consultants offer a personalised and confidential service that examines why you may struggle to make a clear decision about the way forward. 


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