So you've gotten a call from an executive search professional...what's next? Watch this video for a quick overview and read below for more details about each step you should take during the call.

Make yourself accessible.

First of all, you need to make yourself available to receive a call from an executive search professional. One of the biggest frustrations of many search professionals is assistants who refuse to put the call through to the executive or executives who never call back. Make sure you always accept a call from a search professional initially. You can screen them out later or become a source (more on that later) if the role they’re calling about isn’t’ right for you.

Be prepared ahead of time.

Are you prepared for initial contact from an executive search consultant? You should always have the following prepared in case you receive the call:

  • Your updated executive resume information.
  • Your elevator pitch: A brief summary of your current role and selling points based on current responsibilities.
  • Readiness and willingness for full disclosure and a mindset of trust as it is all strictly confidential—the recruiter needs to know accurate information about you in order to best make a decision on whether or not you are a fit.
  • Accurate compensation details (knowledge of full package).
  • Openness to networking: The recruiter might be calling you as a source, to see who you know and not work with you directly.


Find out if they’re from a reputable firm and why they’re calling.

Finding out the nature of the call up front will help you with the rest of the conversation. Is the recruiter interested in you or researching the market? Are they an executive search firm or contingent firm? Are they a member of Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC)? When were they established? Who have their previous clients been? The more information you can find out about the firm’s reputation, the more comfortable you should feel about getting involved with their search assignment.

Are you a source or a prospective candidate?

Even if you’re called as a source, you have a unique opportunity to build a relationship with the executive search consultant. A source is someone who can be of value to the search firm in terms of directing them to suitable candidates, getting a lead, or offering market, industry, or company insight. A prospective candidate is someone who the search firm has identified as a potential fit for the position. The search professional contacts them to find out more about their qualifications and experience, and to gauge interest in a potential opportunity.

If you’re a prospective candidate, get as much information as you can about the position.

As a prospective candidate, the search professional will give you the name of the company (unless it’s still confidential), details of the position, and information on reporting relationships. Feel free to ask for this information if it is not volunteered, but do be aware that some assignments are treated as completely confidential. As a potential candidate, you should also ask to see a copy of the job description. If there is no job description due to the high confidentiality of the search, spend some time researching the search firm after the call to double check that they’re legitimate.

Define next steps and exchange contact information before ending the call.

Ask the search professional if they would like you to send your resume/CV. If the consultant considers you a potential candidate, he or she will inform you of the next steps in the search process. Be sure to tell them how to get in touch with you and what times are best to call.

It’s OK to say no (respectfully).

Don’t let the search process move forward if you’re not interested in the position. Instead, let the search professional know that you’re not interested in this particular opportunity (and what kinds you are interested in). Then, offer up any helpful information you can offer, such as other sources or candidates. This will earn respect and benefit the relationship so you remain on the recruiter’s radar screen when they next have a suitable assignment.


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