A Concise Guide to Executive Recruiting

Hiring Success Glossary
Hiring for a C-suite position can be a daunting task. In fact, it can be so daunting that you’re stuck with a list of questions before you can even get started.  Do you leave it up to your internal hiring team to find the best candidates or do you outsource the recruitment process to an executive search firm? Should you hire a full-time executive recruiter instead? What are the pros and cons of each option?  These are all valid questions that need to be answered before recruiting for a top executive position. In this article, we’ll explore all aspects of recruiting for the C-suite and help you decide which method for executive recruiting is right for your business.

What is executive recruiting?

Executive recruiting is the process of identifying, screening, and selecting highly qualified candidates for executive-level positions. This process can be done internally by your company’s hiring team or by an external executive recruiting firm.

Executive recruiting vs. Executive search

Executive recruiting typically refers to a company using an internal strategy and methodology to approach recruiting.  Executive search, on the other hand, refers to the use of an external recruitment firm to identify and recruit senior executive talent. Executive search is sometimes referred to as headhunting.  For example, if your company is looking to fill a CFO position and wants to outsource the work, you may use an executive search firm that specializes in placing finance executives.

The costs and benefits of hiring an executive search firm

Not sure if hiring an executive search firm is the right move for your business? Take a look at the major pros and cons in terms of costs and benefits. 


  • Very costly on average. You’ll need to pay executive search firms a large investment upfront and up to 50% of the new hire’s starting annual salary. 
  • Temporary fix to recruiting issues. You can hire a search firm to help you with one specific hire. But, when you need to hire again in the future for a similar position, your team still won't know the right strategy to use.
  • Limited learning opportunities for your internal hiring team. By outsourcing the work of recruiting C-suite professionals, you're not giving your internal team the chance to learn how to do it themselves.


  • Efficiency. Executive search firms have a vast network and can quickly identify potential candidates that meet your specific criteria. Candidates are also fully vetted and pre-screened by the firm which saves your hiring manager time. 
  • Research and knowledge. Because you’re hiring for an executive-level position, a professional executive search firm will likely have a better understanding of the market and what skills and experience are needed for the role.

Should your recruiting team hire a full-time executive recruiter?

There are many factors to consider when making this decision. For example, you’ll want to consider: 

The size of your company

If you are a large company, it may make sense to outsource the recruitment of C-suite candidates to ensure you find the best talent. If you’re a small company in the initial stages of expanding your team, it could make more sense to have a full-time executive recruiter on staff who can help your company continue to grow. 

The number of executive openings

If you only have one or two executive openings per year, it may not be in your best interest to hire an executive search firm.  If you expect to have many executive openings throughout the year, it would be better to hire a full-time executive recruiter. 

The complexity of the search

If the position you are hiring for is highly specialized or difficult to fill, it may be worth your time to hire an executive search firm. If your hiring team has experience successfully vetting and hiring candidates for similar roles, you may just need a full-time executive recruiter to lead the recruiting process.

How and where to source executive candidates?

There are a few different ways to source executive candidates. For example, you can: 
  1. Use platforms like LinkedIn to post job advertisements and connect with potential candidates.
  2. Reach out to your network, within and outside of your company, for referrals.
  3. Work with an executive search firm to outsource the process of finding and vetting quality candidates.
  4. Use an AI-powered recruiting tool, such as SmartAssistant Talent Discovery, to source top talent and rank candidates using machine learning and natural language processing
  5. Hire an executive recruiter to work full-time at your company. 

Executive Recruiter Job Description Example

If you decide to hire an executive recruiter, here's an example of a job description you can use to attract the right applicants to the job:

The Executive Recruiter will be responsible for sourcing, screening, and interviewing candidates for senior-level positions within the company. They will work closely with hiring managers to identify key qualifications and skill sets required for each role. The ideal candidate will have previous experience recruiting executives or other high-level positions.

This role will own searches for multiple positions at one time and will be responsible for full-cycle recruiting. The Executive Recruiter will work to build relationships with both candidates and hiring managers in order to better understand their needs. They will also develop creative sourcing strategies to identify the best talent in the market.

As an Executive Recruiter at our company, you will be responsible for:

  • Sourcing and recruiting executive-level candidates
  • Conducting interviews and reference checks
  • Coordinating travel for out of town candidates
  • Negotiating salary and compensation packages
  • Extending job offers to successful candidates


  • 5+ years of recruiting experience required
  • Proven experience recruiting executive-level candidates
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment
  • If you are interested in this opportunity, please submit your resume and cover letter. We look forward to hearing from you!

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