Job Search 101 Guide

Part 3: Working with Executive Recruiters and Tracking Your Job Search Progress



Read other parts of this guide:

Part 1

Creating an effective resume and writing your cover letter

Part 2

Beginning Your Job Search

Part 4

Preparing for a job interview and creating a job interview thank-you letter

Working with Executive Recruiters

What role will executive recruiters play in my job search?

Recruiters are used by employers to fill specific job vacancies. They are tasked with sourcing candidates that meet their client’s detailed requirements. Recruiters are nicknamed ‘headhunters’ because they are actively seeking or hunting for the ideal candidates for the client companies they represent.

Contingency-based executive recruiters only get paid when they successfully place a candidate with an employer. Retained recruiters are paid on an assignment basis, but to maintain a long-term relationship with a client they also need to produce results. Both types of recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates who will make a strong impression with their clients.

Although you will want to include working with executive recruiters in your job search, you shouldn’t rely on an executive recruiter to find you a job, since that isn’t their responsibility. Executive recruiters spend their time finding candidates to fill job vacancies, not finding a job for a job seeker. The client they serve is not you, but rather the company that pays their fees.

The ideal candidate

An executive recruiter wants to present to the client company candidates that meet all of the company’s requirements to demonstrate to the client company that they provide value and to earn their fees by successfully placing the candidate in the position.

If the client wants candidates with MBAs and 5+ years of medical device experience, and you lack an MBA and don’t have any experience in the medical device industry, it’s unlikely that an executive recruiter would present you to their client. You will have the most success with an executive recruiter if you are looking for the same type of position you last held in the same industry and possess the level of education that client companies require for that type of position.

An important interview that isn’t with an employer

Executive recruiters are not willing to invest their time and expertise in candidates they don’t think they can sell. That’s why one of your most important interviews is the one you have with the recruiter. If the recruiter isn’t impressed, they aren’t going to send you out on job interviews with their client companies.

Here’s how you can increase your chances of having executive recruiters pass your resume on to a client company:

  • Recognize that executive recruiters aren’t an appropriate resource for you if you hope to change career fields, if you want to work in an industry where you have no related experience, or if you want to pursue opportunities where you lack the level of education that position requires
  • Write a cover letter that clearly indicates the type of position you are seeking and provides target job titles
  • Make sure your resume contains keywords that are applicable to the position you’re seeking
  • Provide your resume in the format the executive recruiter requests, whether it be a Word attachment to an email, an ASCII attachment to an email, or through an online application process on the recruiter’s website
  • Make sure that you don’t waste everyone’s time by approaching executive recruiters who do not place individuals in the type of position you are seeking or in your target geography

If you meet the requirements for a job position that they are actively sourcing at the time you submit your resume, an executive recruiter will contact you immediately.

If not, don’t expect to hear from them. Your resume will be added to their database to be considered for future opportunities.

How do I reach out to executive recruiters?

You’ll want to start by building a list of executive recruiters.

Mainly, you’ll Identify recruiters to forward your resume to directly.

Go to the library and find The Directory of Executive Recruiters by Kennedy Information. Your library will likely have a print edition of the directory available for review in its reference section. Ask the reference librarian whether the library also has access to an online version of this directory.

Providing details on over 19,000 recruiters including contact information, this directory is considered the most comprehensive resource for identifying recruiters. The directory provides information about recruiting firms in these formats:

  • Job Functions (type of job)
  • 120+ Industries (type of company)
  • Geographical (city and state)
  • Retained Firms
  • A-Z Listings

You can also use online resources like Search Firm to build a list of appropriate recruiters that place candidates with your background in your target geography.

What should I include in my cover letter to executive recruiters?

Once you have created a list of executive recruiters to forward your resume to, you’ll need to modify the cover letter you use with employers to include the information a recruiter needs to be able to include you in their database of candidates:

  • A list of suggested job titles
  • Your target geography in terms of where the position would be located
  • Your desired salary range

Can I see an example of a cover letter to an executive recruiter or headhunter?

Jane Doe
123 Any Avenue
Any City, Any State 12345
H: 123-456-7890
W: 987-654-3210

December 14, 2019

Recruiter Company Name
Attn: (If to a specific person)
Recruiter Address
Recruiter City, State Zip Code

To Whom It May Concern:

I am looking for a new opportunity where I can utilize my financial analysis experience in a dynamic environment. Titles of positions for which I’m qualified include:


[Text Here Same as for Employer Cover Letter Paragraphs 2-4]

I am looking for an opportunity in the Phoenix area. My desired annual compensation is $80,000 – $90,000. I would be pleased to discuss my qualifications with you in more detail in the event that you have a client needing someone with my credentials.

My resume is attached. It will provide you with further details regarding my background. I would appreciate you treating this matter in strict confidence. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Jane Doe


Forward your resume and cover letter to executive recruiters

After you have developed a list of recruiters and created your recruiter cover letter, email your resume and recruiter cover letter to your list of recruiters. With this approach, you won’t be applying for a specific opening. Your goal here is to make headhunters aware of you should there be a future need, much in the same way companies use direct mail to promote their products and services.

Tracking Your Job Search Progress


How do I track my job search progress?

If you’ve started applying for positions, you’ve likely come to realize how quickly you can begin to feel overwhelmed and how easy it is to lose track of the details about particular job opportunities. You’ll likely see the benefit of using a system to track your job search progress. If you’re just beginning to apply for positions, you can start out on the right foot by implementing a job search tracking system.

We’ve created a Job Search Tracking Sheet to help you track each position you apply for throughout your job search. To download this Job Search Tracking Sheet in the form of a Word file, click on the following link:

Download Job Search Tracking Sheet

After you’ve clicked on the link, the download for the Job Search Tracking Sheet should begin automatically. If the download does not begin automatically, but instead the file opens in a popup box, then you should save the file to your computer as you would any other Word document.

In addition to filling in the information for each job lead on the tracking sheet, be sure to print a hard copy of the job posting itself for future reference. Keep these job postings in a file folder you can access as needed.

As you move forward with your job search, use this Job Search Tracking Sheet to assess which lead sources are yielding the best results. Adjust the time you invest with each lead source based on the effectiveness of each source.


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