Evaluating Executive Recruiters


It’s another in a long line of busy days at your desk when the phone rings. An executive recruiter is on the line, and he wants to talk to you about an opportunity. You are flattered and thrilled at the prospect, and eagerly go into “interview mode,” striving to impress that recruiter with your exceptional qualifications.

But wait. A relationship with a recruiter is a two-way street, and you have every right and need to know some things about that recruiter before you proceed beyond a very preliminary conversation.

Firstly, the recruiter should be willing to clearly identify who he or she is, what firm if any they are affiliated with, and give you full and verifiable contact information — address, telephone, fax, website. Obtaining this information is only prudent in today’s employment market full of scam artists and identity thieves. If you can get the recruiter to mail or fax you his or her card and materials about the recruiting firm, this is also a good idea.

After you have hung up from that initial call and before you send them any personal documents, look up the recruiting firm online. See what you can learn regarding their longevity, clientele, specialty areas, and reputation.

If they are a member of the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants), this is a plus, as this organization’s membership is comprised exclusively of retained executive search firms, and membership requires meeting certain criteria, rather than simply writing a check. The process requires an application, 2 AESC references who are willing to be sponsors, client references, a site visit, and review by the AESC Council. I routinely advise the senior level clientele of my executive resume service (Creative Keystrokes) that retained recruiters are the preferred resource for their executive search (versus contingency recruiters), and that AESC members are the cream of the crop.

You’ll want to confirm that the recruiter is to be paid by the company, and that you will not be asked to pay a fee of any kind. If there is a fee for you to pay, this is NOT a bona fide executive recruiter. Run, do not walk away.

The next step is to learn about the process this firm uses in conducting a search and working with you. The recruiter should not be vague about the client and the opportunity, but should display in-depth knowledge of both. They should exude professionalism to the core and not high-pressure you in any way. You should get a strong sense of their sensitivity to your privacy and the value of your time. It must be unequivocally established that your name or your executive resume or other credentials will not be provided to any company without your express permission.

Once all of the above information has been obtained and the ground rules established, you can work with confidence with that recruiter.