Search consultancies are often entrenched in particular market sectors. Their market sector networks are used along with various methods to seek candidates for a particular job. Normally the individuals are not actively seeking a new job. It is the job of the search consultant to approach these individuals with a view to taking them out of their current company and placing them in another, often a competitor.
Executive search is an extremely lucrative industry and successful search consultants can earn large sums. For this reason there is fierce competition to work in this sector. New recruits will normally start as a researcher to gain exceptional market knowledge and experience before progressing to consultant.
The service is paid for by the client company or organization, not by the hired job candidate. Potential job candidates are identified, qualified and presented to the client by the executive search firm based upon fit with a written or verbal Job Specification developed in conjunction with the client. Assessing degree of potential fit of the candidate with the job specification is a key activity for the search firm, since the most common reason a search consultant is engaged by a client company is to save time and effort involved with identifying, qualifying and reviewing potential candidates for specific leadership positions.
It is common for a potential candidate to be identified by the search firm via a telephone call. Often the phone call is the result of a recommendation from someone inside the existing network of the search firm. Quality oriented search firms work hard at cultivating and continually updating their network of contacts so that when a search assignment is awarded they will be ready to start recruiting potential candidates. Another way to identify potential candidates involves search firm "research", which is contacting targeted people in specific companies who appear to fit the job profile in some logical manner. Some of the best candidate referrals come from people who could be candidates for the job themselves but for any number of reasons are not interested at that particular time.
Job seekers who qualify for senior-executive level searches often mistake executive recruiters for career transition, or "outplacement" specialists. Executive recruiters work for their client companies. They do not actively place out-of-work individuals. This would not only be a conflict of interest, it would also be financially unwise. A job seeker does not pay a recruiter when he lands a job. The client company pays the recruiting firm when it fills a position. This nuance is lost on many. It may be worthwhile to contact executive search firms if you qualify, but do not expect them to take time out of their schedule to talk with you or see you. They are driven by their specific assignments for their clients: they find people for roles, not roles for people. Executive search consultants can be "career makers" for some individuals, but for most, this will not be the way they will find their next role. Some executives believe that retained executive search is a secretive industry, in which a select few qualified individuals are contacted, while others are never made aware an opportunity exists.