Executive headhunting is a time consuming and complex task. Where do you start? Where do you advertise your executive level vacancy? What platforms do you use to headhunt candidates effectively? How do you pull together a quality shortlist?

There are 4 ways to start off your executive headhunting search, each with its own pros and cons to consider.

Job advert via a job board

This type of recruitment looks at placing an advert on commonly known job sites like Linkedin.


  • The advert is seen by a lot of people. Candidates can easily share job descriptions by text, email and word of mouth to other relevant candidates within the field
  • You can receive a good volume of applications
  • It can be a quick win. A candidate searching a job board is an ‘active’ candidate and therefore looking and willing to move quickly


  • Job boards do not allow for any confidentially. Often companies looking for senior executives keep the roles confidential initially, ensuring competitors in the market are none-the-wiser to leadership changes and/or strategy changes
  • Job boards only attract candidates who are active in the market, therefore a huge portion of the market isn’t missed through this recruitment method. Executive headhunting strategies can make up for this gap.


Known candidate network


  • Personal relationships with past candidates / clients / contacts are extremely valuable in the recruitment process. Personal relationships help build trust between the two parties and can lead to good success


  • The size of a known candidate network can be small and limited in terms of specialist skills. Here it is more useful to have access to a functional specialist recruiter who has a much wider footprint of talent, which they can access in a much shorter period of time.
  • Specialist functional recruiters will also do a better job at executive headhunting because they are experts in their functional field. They will be able to better engage a candidate in the vacancy, because they understand the role and the market more extensively

LinkedIn: profiles and Recruiter

The type of recruitment involves executive headhunting, seeking ‘passive’ candidates that may not be actively looking for a role.


  • Executive headhunting within your existing personal network is very effective – you are more likely to get a positive response and better traction from prospective candidates that you already have a personal relationship with
  • Using LinkedIn recruiter, you will have access to a wide range of candidates across the globe


  • The effectiveness of reaching out via LinkedIn is limited by your own network, and its relevancy and size. To complete executive headhunting effectively through LinkedIn, you’d need to have strong connections within the specific industry and domain that you are recruiting your executive level position for. Often this is not the case, and so enters the domain specialist recruitment agency, such as Intelligent People.
  • To gain access to LinkedIn recruiter, you would need a recruiter license which includes signing up for an annual fee.
  • In general, candidates respond better to recruitment agencies compared to the individual hirer on platforms such as LinkedIn. Candidates often trust this way of outreach more because it is perceived to be completely confidential.
  • For executive headhunting recruitment, candidates expect to be approached by a specilialist headhunter rather than directly form the hiring company and this is especially true of those senior candidates looking for executive or C-level positions. If you do approach an executive candidate directly. think about the seniority of the individual involved in the outreach – you’ll have a better response rate to messages sent by a senior member of staff.

Executive headhunting: create a shortlist

Our executive search and headhunting specialist Doug, has complied a step-by-step guide to executive headhunting and how to shortlist quickly and effectively:

  1. Identify the target talent pool by selecting outreach methods from the above 4 tools
  2. Make initial outreach to those executive level candidates which have the right experience, domain specialisms, skills and competencies that the executive vacancy requires. These are likely to be candidates that are within the competitor field. Here you would need to make a pitch to the candidate, make an initial assessment of their experience, openness to a new role and willingness to move from where they are
  3. Collate CV’s from all sources together and create a shortlist
  4. Make an initial assessment of all the candidates based on suitability, availability, experience, domain skills and importantly the risk of counter-offer. This is a key one to look out for – getting to the offer stage and losing your number one candidate to a counter-offer is frustrating and can add a lot of time to the hiring process
  5. For those that are relevant, schedule an informal initial assessment by phone or video call. Use this call to formally assess competencies and capabilities against a framework / against the job description
  6. Next, schedule a first formal interview to assess more domain specific skills. At this stage, you’ll also want to assess which of your candidates are a ‘bar raiser’ – if you were to benchmark internally would this candidate be above average for the same leadership level
  7. Start to assess internal candidates against the same framework at this point.
  8. Present your shortlist to key stakeholders to gain feedback and move forward to second stage interviews. Design the recruitment process here – how many interviews, is a task involved, what stakeholders do you need and when?
The next stage is preparing for an interview for these senior leaders. Read our guide to the top 7 senior management interview questions to ask.

Executive headhunting; summary

Executive headhunting is extremely time consuming and can be overwhelming for those who do not have the experience, spare time, resource or known candidate networks to do the search effectively. We are experienced executive headhunters within product, marketing and eCommerce disciplines, and can help you pull together a quality shortlist within weeks of receiving your brief.

Discover more about our executive headhunting and executive search services, and contact us today to kick off your confidential hiring process.

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