For senior executives, building and maintaining strong relationships with executive recruiters/search consultants can be an important - and mutually beneficial - way of moving forward in your career and taking it where you want it to go. For job seekers in the earlier stages of their careers, engaging with recruiters is a transactional numbers game: getting as many resumes in the hands of as many recruiters as possible. For senior leaders, though, it pays to be more strategic. For those in Director, or C-suite roles, strong relationships with a smaller number of executive recruiters/search consultants are your best bet. But how do you go about doing this?

At the risk of stating the obvious, the first step is to make sure you can be found, and to optimise what a recruiter will find there. There are several platforms to help you do this, but let’s focus on LinkedIn, since it’s the most widely-used. Your career history on LinkedIn should mirror your executive resume, not only highlighting your progression through increasingly responsible roles, but also showcasing your achievements and accomplishments along the way. The right titles, keywords, and phrases that accurately describe your work will help the right people find and connect with you. Occasionally sharing high-value articles and insights from your industry keeps you visible, and more likely to be top-of-mind for those looking.

Happy with your online presence? Great. But there’s no need to wait for others to find you.

Seek out the right relationships

Once again, this isn’t a numbers game for you; prioritise quality over quantity. Seek out recruiters who’ve done extensive work in your industry or areas of specialty. Search engines can help, of course, but colleagues and business acquaintances are a good source of personal referrals. While specialisation is key, rapport is equally important. As you speak with and meet recruiters, focus on building a relationship with people who ‘get’ you: people who take the time to listen, to understand your experience, and what you’re hoping to accomplish in your career and your life. Being discriminatory at this stage will help you keep the number of key relationships to a number that is manageable, forming foundations for mutually beneficial relationships over time.

Foster your relationships

As you identify recruiters you want to keep in touch with, the way you build and maintain the working relationship is the same as any other in your professional life. In short, keep the lines of communication open at an appropriate frequency, and in a way that adds value.

Naturally, you’ll want to pass along any updates to your own career - a move to a new job or company, changes to your role, notable achievements or recognitions, and the like. But if you only get in touch with updates about your employment situation, you’re missing an opportunity to take the connection beyond a transactional level. For executive recruiters/search consultants, a strong network is the most valuable asset we bring to our work. That being the case, referrals and networking opportunities are one of the highest-value things you can offer: referrals to colleagues who might be a fit for a search the recruiter may be working on, or hiring executives with other companies who might be additional clients for the recruiter.

These kinds of warm introductions are an expression of trust, and are of significant value to any recruiter. Information is also greatly appreciated by those in our field: industry insights, your unique perspectives that can help us better understand your business also helps us to serve our clients - and our executive candidates - better.

It may go without saying, but when you’re working with a recruiter to explore a specific role, it’s especially important to protect the relationship. A good executive recruiter/search consultant understands that you’re very busy, juggling multiple priorities and responsibilities. We’re accustomed to working around those busy schedules, but reciprocating - being as flexible as you’re able to, and as responsive as possible throughout a recruitment process - will keep the relationship strong, whether or not the outcome is your placement in a new role.

Build for the long term

If a relationship is only active when one party needs something - for example, if one is actively on the market and seeking a change, or is recruiting for a specific role - it remains transactional in nature. Don’t let a relationship stagnate just because you’ve achieved a short term goal, such as being placed in a new role. Regardless of which recruiter has assisted you in the transition, it pays to keep those lines of communication open. Over the course of a career - a recruiter’s and an executive’s - relationships evolve and change.

One-time candidates become candidates again later, candidates become clients, and clients become candidates as well. Once you’ve formed relationships with several people in the business who understand you, and with whom you have a strong rapport, treating them as career-long relationships will pay dividends.

Relationships with several executive recruiters/search consultants can be a cornerstone in the career you’re building. As with any professional relationship, nurturing and fostering the relationship over time will take it far beyond a transactional level, and position you for greater success.

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