Executive Recruiter?

July 3, 2008

I hope this one does not come out like a rant. It doesn’t feel like one…I just need some input and education on this term. I have never quite understood OR identified with the term Executive Recruiter. I am glad headhunter seems to be losing its stigma because it is not just descriptive of what I sell…it also keeps me on my toes…because ,by definition, headhunters can’t afford to do much resume-shopping and I like telling my clients and potential clients and even candidates why I embrace the term. You hire me. I get you what you want.

On the other hand, I never could figure out whether executive recruiter meant I was a recruiter who recruited executives … I do some of that now but my practice still mostly involves individual technical contributors… Or did it mean I was a recruiter who was also an executive. I cannot and never could sell myself on that one even with my modest amount of maturation and wisdom. Many people will simply laugh out loud if I ever try to refer to myself as an executive anything. Executives are suits like Darren on Bewitched who make lots of money doing things that normal people cannot believe they get paid anything for because they don’t have a clue what they do. (Ok, by that definition there are some people in my hometown who might think I am an executive after all, except for the suit part). I am not knocking the term at all… I’d just like to hear more about what it means…

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4 Responses to “Executive Recruiter?”

  1. JimS Says:

    My feeling on this is that the “Executive Recruiter” is one that spends their time working on the taskS of getting executives (CEO, CFO, COO, EVP, VP) for their customers. The rest of us are just plain old recruiters. I used to work exclusively with recruiting engineering talent – I had the title of Engineering Recruiter on my business card.

    Many recruiters have tried to change their titles to make them look more important but what is more important than finding the right person for the position?

    Talent Acquisition Specialist is another term that has tried to improve upon the recruiter title. Unfortunately it always makes me think of the TV show “America’s Got Talent” and I don’t think that’s the image that was supposed to be portrayed.

    Over my 30+ years in the busines of recruiting I have had various different titles, now I don’t have any title on my business card. Just my name. The title doesn’t change what we do or how we do it.

    But that is just my opinion and I know that titles mean more to others so call them what they want I guess!

  2. BW Says:

    I echo that sentiment. The term “Executive Recruiter” has been used to give the impression that one recruits executives or senior positions within organizations. Unfortunately, I’ve also met Executive Recruiters who recruit Administrative professionals. In this business, titles are meaningless. If I produce, my name and reputation are enhanced regardless of my title. If I don’t produce, I fade into the mist along with whatever title I might have.

    Actually, I’m quite fond of the term “headhunter.” Everyone knows what it means, even if they chuckle a bit. I really can’t think of a better title or term that really gets the point of what we do faster. Everything else is just an effort to dress it up a bit.


  3. When I started in this business in 1980 the term Executive Recruiter referred exclusively to the professionals who were involved in middle management and higher recruiting work and were retainer firms. Anyone who worked on assignments at a level lower than that was in the agency business and worked on a contingent fee basis, and in those days the dividing line was candidate salaries above or below $50k. Because of the changes in American business since that time and also because of the low cost of entry for the recruiting business, those distinctions are no longer valid and the term Executive Recruiter has become, in my view, as generic as Kleenex or Xerox.

  4. Gavin Chase Says:

    In Europe we don’t have quite the same terminology. Executive Search Consultant has been the norm for many a year and traditionally this would have been on a retained basis for senior management roles, if you like the elite of the recruitment industry. As the art of the executive search consultant becomes more mainstream due to better training(!) we tend to find that the term has been adopted by the midle manager recruiter who has the ability to work retainers, but does not always..

    In 18+ years in the industry I have used the term headhunter to describe what I do and Im proud, like you Dave, that I go and find the talent my client is looking for.

    I guess the question should be – do clients look for their recruiter by job title? If not, why should we get hung up on what anyone wants to put on a business card.


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