An executive recruiter doesn’t work for you; they work for their client, who has set an agenda for the executive recruiter to go and source talent in a particular target niche.
Due to their extraordinarily hectic schedules, you will have very limited access to personal interaction with an executive recruiter, and the telephone will be the most likely platform for your initial conversation.
If an executive recruiter calls you, they are obviously interested in you as a potential candidate for one of their current projects, or they believe you might be able to generate a lead through your network.
When that phone call comes, be inquisitive. Ask the executive recruiter openly why they have selected you as a potential candidate. Lengthen the conversation by probing for more details about the appointment they have in mind for you.
Keep in mind that for many projects, the executive recruiter must source talent in confidence because there is an incumbent already in the position, who has no idea what is happening behind the scenes until they are given the pink slip.
If the executive recruiter is able to expand further on the job specifications, don’t hold back. This is now a conversation that could lead directly to a new opportunity. Ask their opinion of the corporate culture. If they’ve done their homework, and all executive recruiters do, they will have an extensive take on what the company looks like to internal and external stakeholders, and how they value their employees.
Advance the conversation to more details about the job requirements and responsibilities, and the specific attributes of the perfect candidate. Try to gain some insight into the time lines attached to this hire. How many interviews? What does the interview process look like? How many other candidates are being considered?
Generally, executive recruiters like to be asked these questions, because it demonstrates your commitment and interest in further conversation.
Be sure to take a long-term view of your relationship with the recruiter. Each executive recruiter specializes in a different sector, level or function. Ask for their opinion on hiring within the sector, and what they see coming down the pipeline in the months to come. Most importantly, always leave the door open for further conversation regarding the job in hand or other opportunities as they unfold.