7 Ways a Retained Search Recruiter Can Help Your Career

Executive search firms today provide a wide array of services to their clients, but search consultants can also having a big impact of the candidates they recruit. A new report from Focus Search Partners outlines seven ways a retained search consultant can help your career. 

May 10, 2024 – With the increasing number of emails, calls and texts from colleagues and clients, it is understandable why someone would overlook unsolicited messages from recruiters, especially for professionals happy in their current roles. There is a perception that recruiters focus solely on filling immediate job openings, and nothing more—but nothing could be further from the truth, according to a new report from Focus Search PartnersSharon Long.

In actuality, retained executive search recruiters prioritize building meaningful relationships with professionals just as much as they prioritize executing searches for their clients,” Ms. Long said. “This shift in perception can significantly enhance and influence someone’s career trajectory and prospects—so the next time a recruiter makes contact via call, email or LinkedIn, consider the following benefits of responding to and building a relationship with them.” 

1. They help find the next, right opportunity—even when you’re not looking for one. 

The most common reasons for professionals to answer a recruiter’s call today are unhappiness in their current position or anxiety due to recent layoffs in their industry—but these are reactive stances, according to Ms. Long. “It is equally as important to take a proactive approach towards a recruiter by being open to new and interesting opportunities when they become available,” she says. “It is important to remember that professionals are never more employable than when they are making a career move out of opportunity, rather than out of necessity.”

The Focus Search Partners report explains that the right opportunity looks different for every person and what aligns with their career aspirations. The report says that engaging with a recruiter unlocks opportunities that may offer higher pay or better benefits for a similar position, a chance to move to a dream industry or city, or even the opportunity to work for an organization offering a very specific purpose or work culture.

“This information can make leaving a satisfactory position worthwhile and can also provide an opportunity to make a move up the corporate ladder sooner than expected,” said Ms. Long. “As an example, the current demand for private equity healthcare professionals with managed care or revenue cycle experience is creating enticing leadership opportunities. Retained search recruiters have explicit insight into these trends and emerging opportunities and can be invaluable in first hearing about them but also in accessing and getting connected to them.” 

2. They help identify career priorities so you’ll know what a great opportunity looks like for you. 

Not every recruiting outreach is going to lead to a dream job. It is important to consider engaging with a recruiter as a networking opportunity, where having in-depth conversations will help define what roles to pursue, according to Ms. Long. She says to remember talking to a recruiter does not equate to an obligation to accept or move forward with any one specific opportunity.

Related: Executive Recruiters Look to Diversification and Human Capital Tailwinds for Growth

“Engaging in these conversations will provide the recruiter with key information that identifies additional professional opportunities that may be a better fit,” Ms. Long says. “With additional time spent learning more about specific career interests and aspirations, it creates an organic opportunity to share professional and personal preferences like ideal responsibilities, location, advancement opportunities and more. These details help recruiters identify future positions that could be a fit, while simultaneously establishing and building an informed relationship.” 

3. They strengthen your network and they’re a great resource to refer professional contacts to. 

Even if the opportunity presented by a recruiter is not a fit for the initial person they contacted, it could be for one of that person’s professional contacts, the Focus Search Partners report explains.


Sharon Long is a senior associate and joined Focus Search Partners in 2007. She has extensive retained executive search experience and has been instrumental in the growth of Focus Search Partners. Ms. Long executes on searches across the healthcare industry with a focus on revenue cycle management (RCM). Her client portfolio includes private equity-backed, privately owned, public, and for-profit and non-profit organizations.


“This is a great opportunity to respond to the recruiter and refer someone by including details about their experience and expertise in the response,” Ms. Long said. “This could help them land an interview and potentially the role. Even if all that comes of it is the recruiter reaching out, the result is a stronger professional network and connections that could lead to continued professional collaboration in the future. A recruiter never forgets someone who proactively offers them strong referrals; it puts them at the top of their list when new opportunities become available that are more suited to their specific preferences.”

4. They help improve your job search skills. 

Navigating the job market today is challenging, and this is especially true if an individual’s job search skills are rusty, or they have not recently been in a position that required them to identify positions of interest, Ms. Long notes. “Establishing a relationship with the right recruiter creates a partner for professionals navigating the job market,” she says. “A recruiter provides impactful LinkedIn and resume tips, offers insights into the number of interviews to expect and helps prepare people by sharing tried-and-true networking strategies that can markedly improve and extend job searches and increase success rates.”

Related: Adapting to Today’s Evolving Search Market

A recruiter with inside knowledge of the role can identify which job requirements are absolute priorities, versus nice-to-haves. This is particularly helpful to female candidates, as research shows they apply to 20 percent fewer jobs than their male counterparts, and tend to only apply when they meet 100 percent of the qualifications.  

5. They provide insights into the organizations that are hiring. 

An essential responsibility of retained executive search recruiters is to spend as much time getting to know their clients as they do their candidates. “With this knowledge, professionals can engage recruiters to uncover critical company insights on topics like the caliber of the CEO and other executives of the company, the company culture, prioritized values in the company, the hiring manager’s style and preferences, and the team’s overall strengths and weaknesses,” Ms. Long says. “Combining these insights with details around salary, benefits and job responsibilities ensures a right fit between an individual and the hiring organization. This kind of dialogue also establishes a foundation of communication and trust, resulting in a professional relationship that can be leveraged now and in the future.”

6. They provide immediate support when your job status changes. 

Many professionals contacted by recruiters are considered passive candidates, but Ms. Long notes that one never knows when their status will change to active and this is a critical reason why taking the time to have a conversation and build a relationship with a recruiter is a smart professional investment.

“There are instances when people have the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive in a job search, but that is not always the case. For instance, if someone experiences a sudden layoff, having an established relationship with a recruiter allows them to quickly connect to new, suitable opportunities, expediting the process and reducing the time spent as an active candidate,” Ms. Long said.

7. As a hiring manager, you gain an invaluable talent resource.

Even if someone isn’t currently seeking a new job and doesn’t see the immediate need for a personal recruiter contact, developing and maintaining a relationship with one can still be beneficial, Ms. Long explains. “This is especially true if they later find themselves in a position where they are responsible for hiring,” she said. “For example, consider a scenario where a recruiter approaches a professional several times with job opportunities. Despite not pursuing these roles, the professional consistently responds to the recruiter’s messages and engages in meaningful conversation. These interactions establish a connection and builds a relationship with the recruiter.”

Later in their career, when this professional transitions into a management role and needs to build their own team, Ms. Long explains that the relationship formed with the recruiter serves another critical purpose. They now have a trusted contact to assist them in structuring their team or to provide guidance on the hiring process.

Identifying a Relationship-Oriented Recruiter 

Recognizing the significance of developing and maintaining a relationship with a retained search recruiter is a significant step in networking and career advancement, according to Ms. Long. Equally as important she says is the ability to identify when a recruiter is interested in forming a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

“A recruiter’s depth of knowledge about their clients and the roles they are representing is a clear signal of an invested professional looking to make the right connections,” said Ms. Long. “An attentive recruiter who listens actively and respects people’s interests by not pushing them into unsuitable roles indicates a relationship-oriented person and approach. Such recruiters are invaluable partners worth cultivating a relationship with.”

Related: How Search Firms Make the Most of Their Global Reach

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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