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What is an Executive Headhunter?

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

An executive headhunter - or executive search consultants - is often employed by an organisation specifically to find highly qualified executive candidates to fill leadership or managerial positions within those organisations.

They can totally transform the hiring process for any business and can play an important role in attracting top talent to growing companies

How does an Executive Headhunter Work?

An executive headhunter works as part of an executive search consultancy firm who specialise in finding and placing senior-level candidates.

What’s more, they usually offer industry specific services, which ensures they have networks of potential candidates who have relevant skills, experience and qualifications to match the roles they are recruiting for.

Rather than being employed by a candidate looking for a role, an executive headhunter works for the company looking to fill a position.

What is an executive headhunter?

What do Executive Headhunters do?

An executive headhunter specialises in searching for high calibre candidates, with expertise, experience and a high level of skill in their industry.

They work closely with the businesses who hire them in order to find someone who can bring value, but who is also a good fit for the organisation culturally.

It can be a very time-consuming process for an organisation to take this on themselves. Executive headhunters utilise their network of potential candidates, links with other businesses and search strategies to find a suitable candidate quickly and efficiently.

How do executive search consultants find candidates?

Finding this kind of candidate involves a huge amount of research. Often, at the executive level, where an individual can make a big impact on a business, it’s extremely important to find someone who ticks all the boxes we mentioned above.

As such, there are relatively few candidates out there at this senior level who are likely to meet such specific criteria. Furthermore, depending on your industry, your pool of potential candidates could be smaller than others.

To find someone who will be able to hit the ground running, there are a few key areas of research an executive headhunter will explore.


To get the most out of an individual, and to be reassured they have a sound understanding of your business, you’d be looking to find someone who has worked, or currently works, in your sector or industry.

With this in mind, it’s likely your executive headhunter will be researching competitors in your field. Their team will create a list of target companies, and identify potential candidates who might be able to fill a position within your organisation.


The executive search consultant will also be looking very closely into the experience and skills of the individual they’re looking to recruit. Using this to narrow the field of candidates down until they identify a handful of individuals with a track record that matches the need or your organisation.

This is absolutely key at this level, as it can take a while for someone to settle in to a new job, but the more specific skill and experience they hold, the quicker they can get to work and start bringing value in to your organisation,

What is an executive headhunter?

What are the benefits of executive headhunters?

In every business, the executive level employees are hugely influential, and have a significant impact on almost every aspect of the organisation.

As such, finding the right individual who can drive positive change is a very important task.

With that in mind, many organisations turn to an executive headhunter to support them in finding the right individual, who meets their unique criteria.

However, it might not appear to be a cheap option when you consider the fees that come with successfully placing a candidate. So, it’s a good idea to be sure of the benefits of an executive headhunter before you commit.

We’ve rounded up the key benefits of using an executive search consultancy firm like SPS International:

  • Expertise in the area - As we’ve established, finding the right individual to fill a leadership role is no easy task. It requires a combination of strategy, networking and hours of research to locate and place the right person. For a search consultant, like those working at SPS, this is their bread and butter. With years of expertise and a team of highly specialised industry experts, SPS has a proven track record of placing high quality candidates in incredibly specialised roles.

  • Efficient recruitment - Due to the strategies, connections and expertise of an executive search consultant, the recruitment process is often faster, and more successful than an organisation recruiting themselves. As we’ve established, traditional methods of advertising a role at this level don’t often bring about the intended results. Therefore utilising a professional expert executive search consultant can make for a quicker and more efficient process.

  • Place an excellent candidate - The result of utilising an excellent executive search consultant is, of course, a fantastic candidate who’s suited to the role and your business. The value of this can be immeasurable, as senior leaders hold a huge amount of sway in the direction, culture and success of their organisations. And, with the right fit, there’s also the likelihood that person will be staying with you in the long run, reducing your need to rehire in the near future.

  • Avoid the risks associated with a bad executive hire - in our recent whitepaper, we’ve explored the financial, cultural and reputational risks associated with hiring the wrong person. While an executive headhunter or search consultant might feel like a financial commitment initially, the fact is, the cost of hiring someone who isn’t right for the job could be far more than you think.

What is an executive headhunter?

How to find an executive headhunter

If you’re looking to find an executive headhunter or find an executive search consultant to fill a leadership role within your business or organisation, it’s absolutely key to ensure you’re working with a team you can rely on and trust.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when looking for an executive search consultant:

  • Track record - have they worked with a range of organisations and are they well reviewed for their services?

  • Do they come highly recommended? - word of mouth recommendations or online testimonials from real clients are a great way to find out

  • Do you get on with them? - You’ll be working closely with these individuals to find your new executive, ensure you get on well with them and have a strong working relationship

  • Do they specialise in an industry? - An executive search consultant with expertise in your industry will understand your business and provide you with the most suitable candidates.

These adept professionals collaborate within specialized executive search consultancy firms, focusing on the recruitment and placement of top-tier candidates for senior-level roles. Their industry-specific expertise enables them to tap into networks brimming with potential candidates who possess not only relevant skills and experience but also the qualifications that seamlessly align with the demands of the positions they are entrusted to fill. It is important to note that executive headhunters are not advocates for job-seeking candidates; instead, they diligently serve the organisations seeking to fortify their leadership teams.

At SPS International, our team of executive search consultants are highly experienced and highly skilled in placing excellent candidates in senior positions.

To find out more about the services we offer, visit our search solutions today. Or, get in touch with us to inquire about placing someone in your business via our contact page.

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