How Does The Executive Recruitment Process Work?

If you’ve ever wondered about just what happens behind the scenes during the executive recruitment process, the information below will go a long way toward enlightening you. For everyone involved – candidate, client, and search firm – the process can be a little nerve-wracking, and none of the three parties is ever really aware of all the events and occurrences which are in progress throughout the ordeal. However, these employee searches usually do turn up good candidates, so the process works as it should, even if all the parties are not always aware of what’s happening.

Initial Meetings

The first step in the process calls for the hiring client to meet with a search firm so that the requirements for the candidate can be discussed. At this meeting, you should consider the timelines for finding candidates and hiring one of the candidates. In subsequent meetings between these two parties, the search firm will discuss with company executives the job market as well as how a new employee will fit into the company culture and organizational structure.

At one of these sessions, you must create a job description, so that potential candidates will know exactly what you expect from them, and whether or not they qualify for the job. This job description will serve as the primary reference for search consultants and clients throughout the executive recruitment process. The job description will outline detailed information regarding the role and responsibilities expected of the new hire, and will often contain a list of the skills necessary to be successful.

Accept a Search Plan for Executive Recruitment 

Once the responsibilities for the new employee are set, a plan will be considered and accepted by the client and the search firm, relative to how candidates will be found. This search plan may include a database maintained by the search firm itself, standard analysis of the market, social media networks such as LinkedIn, and any contacts which the search firm personnel may have. In some cases, the hiring company may also want to list the position in some classified ads, or on the popular job listing websites.

Candidate Qualification

As a list of potential candidates begins to accumulate, the search firm will scrutinize these candidates relative to their fit with the hiring company, as well as their skills match up with the job description. It’s fairly common during this stage to accumulate a long list of more than 100 candidates, and this list will have to be whittled down so that only the best candidates receive further consideration.

From this long list, a much shorter list will be prepared by eliminating many of the candidates who are not the best fit for the hiring company, or who may lack critical skills desired by the hiring company. At this point, the search firm will begin meeting with some of these candidates to narrow down the list. By this time, the number of really good candidates should be no more than 10 and is more likely to be between four and six.

This shortlist of candidates will then undergo a background check so that the search firm can be confident that each candidate it passes along to the hiring company has been screened and has no obvious drawbacks. This screened list of candidates will then be presented to the hiring company so that the next step in the process can be initiated. Usually, during this phase of the process, reference checks on each of the candidates will be performed, so that previous work experience can be confirmed and some insights into the candidate’s character can be obtained.

Candidate Interviews

This shortlist of candidates, which is now only about four to six qualified individuals, will be used to arrange for interviews with each of these candidates in a face-to-face setting, either at the hiring company or via teleconferencing. It’s a standard process for the hiring company to discuss the resume of each of these candidates with the recruitment firm before an interview takes place so that qualifications and candidate strengths can be considered before the actual interview.

In many cases, candidates will work with the search firm to better prepare themselves for in-person interviews. The search firm will always be more knowledgeable about the hiring company and its practices and objectives, and this information can be conveyed to candidates. If there are any particular qualities that the hiring company is known to be searching for, these can also be passed on to candidates to give them a better chance for success during interviews.

Negotiation and Job Offer

During the interview process, it will be normal for the hiring company to narrow down the list of candidates even further to perhaps two or three individuals. These candidates will then be invited to interview a second or third time so that the candidates can meet with other individuals in the hiring company’s organizational structure, and so other opinions can be formulated about each candidate.

Then all the individuals who actually interviewed a given candidate will usually get together and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the individual candidates, with each interviewer generally expressing his/her preference for a candidate. When a consensus has been reached, the hiring company will then contact the selected candidate and negotiate such details as salary and benefits. If an agreement can be reached on the basic details of this negotiation, a formal job offer will be presented to the candidate, and a formal response will be forthcoming from the candidate.


Many times, the search firm will actually become involved with the process of onboarding, to help the successful candidate merge in with the new company and get acclimated to the environment. The level of involvement that the search firm takes on will be in agreement with what was considered at the outset of the executive recruitment process, in those initial meetings between the search firm and the hiring company.