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“I Know Lots of People" and Other Reasons Not To Become an Executive Recruiter

Last week we blogged on what separated good executive recruiters from the not so good and commented that most of us stumbled into the executive search field. Many times I meet people who comment, "I bet I would be really good at executive search because..." and give a reason. I hate to dissuade them but if any of you are reading this blog, save yourself a lot of pain and a visit to a halfway house if you are thinking about becoming an executive recruiter for any of the following reasons:

1. I just love to help people. Executive Recruiters are hired by organizations to recruit executives for a specific role. If finding the best person for your client helps the candidate, great. After all, it should be a win-win. But the road to a successful search practice is strewn with people who don't complete searches because they can't resist talking to every person who calls or needs career help. It's wonderful to want to help people but not at the expense of paying clients who want your time focused on their needs.

2. I know lots of people. Most people are under the illusion that search firms complete engagements by simply calling the people they know. While this could be true for a local search firm or one with a very specialized niche, it is not true for global search firms. Our firm conducts more than 100 searches a year, so if you consider that the searches are scattered throughout the world and include positions ranging from Chief Executive Officer to a Vice President of a Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, the odds that a recruiter would already know people for each of those searches is highly improbable. Most recruiters have access to research tools and a research staff who help them identify individuals who may not be looking for a position but may be the right fit for the client.

3. I love to travel. We get this comment quite a bit, especially when we post pictures from our San Francisco office or from our travels on Facebook or our blog. Many people comment when I say I'm going to New York, "You live such a glamorous life." I have to chuckle as I'm waiting at the airport for a flight that is four hours late, and arrive only to learn my hotel room was given away to someone else. Don't get me wrong, travel can be fun but the type of trip executive recruiters typically make is incredibly demanding. Unlike many corporate executives who may visit a satellite office for a week at a time, executive recruiters typically stop in three or four cities during a week-long client or candidate trip.

4. Recruiting is a great stepping stone. A position as an executive recruiter doesn't have a specific career path. This has changed somewhat with the development of high level corporate recruiting functions for which executive recruiters are often sought to lead. More often, though, the stepping stones lead right to another recruiting position.

5. I would love not being a slave to office hours. This is a tough one because it's true - we're not in the office much of the time, however, we are always "connected" and many times we are on the phone with clients late at night or on weekends. Executive recruiters often travel on Sunday nights and return Friday nights, too late for dinner with the family or the kids' basketball game. It's the consultant lifestyle, which can be exciting, but it is not an easier lifestyle than working in a predictable 8am to 5pm position.

6. The perks must be great. The intangible perks of being an executive recruiter are phenomenal. Interacting with talented and successful executives who have accomplished so much in their lives is a high of its own. It is also a high to have long-term clients with whom you have grown up and grown old. However, most search firms, unless they are publicly-traded, do not offer stock options, a company car, an athletic club membership, or a fully paid supplemental medical plan. Search firms are structured much like law firms and other professional service firms which means that the income potential is high, but the perks are not in the same league as a corporation.

7. It has to be less stressful than climbing the corporate ladder. It all depends on your point of view and what causes you stress. Your success at being an executive recruiter depends on how well you manage an unstable product - people. This means you have to be comfortable with things spiraling out of control at a moment's notice. The client didn't show up for an interview, the candidate received a counter offer, or the position location has changed from Paris to an industrial town of 800, 100 miles outside of Frankfurt. Your success as a recruiter depends on how you handle problems and challenges over which you have no control.

If you still think you'd be good in executive recruiting, please give us a call - we're all ears. We are passionate about what we do and we love talking to people of like mind, just not the mind outlined above.

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Jane Howze

Jane S. Howze, J.D.

Managing Director