The Executive Search Process: What Senior Candidates Need to Know

Are you ready for the next step in your career? Are you striving towards a new position in management? Whether you found the position yourself, or were approached by a headhunter, chances are the application and decision making process will be made by a recruiter.

executive search

In this article we present:

  1. A week in the life of a modern recruiter.
  2. Tips on how you can make a good impression as a candidate in the selection process.

What should I expect with an executive search process?

Executive Search 2.0 consists of an extensive search followed by rapid and valid selection of the best candidates for the advertised position. Having a large number of applicants raises the likelihood of finding a fitting person for the position.

In order to find a balance between quality and time spent on the search, the modern executive search process is digital, transparent, measurable and fast.


The entire hiring process, from the advertisement of the position, to the management of the application process, to the assessment of the candidates, is moving online. Problems with processes both online and offline increase the risk of mistakes and slow the process down.

Make a good impression with candidates by taking them through a smooth process. For example:

  • An extensive and comprehensive application form. This includes questions about salary expectations, period of notice required by current employer, readiness to travel and willingness to move.
  • Avoid unnecessary telephone contact – limit telephone calls to concrete subjects, like explaining relevant topics, rather than ringing up simply to get to know each other.
  • Application documents should be in digital form (PDF format).
  • Appropriate document size. Be sure to reduce the size of photos and documents in your application. This is twice as important when you send the application by email.


Modern recruiters work transparently. Decisions for clients and candidates are justifiable, comprehensible and documented online for the client. As a candidate, you can expect to receive feedback on your application, as well as regular updates on the application process.

More a sign of seriousness, rather than a trademark of being modern: The client will not withhold anything from you and you will only be named as a candidate after you have expressed concrete interest in the position.

Even in digital times many of the same rules apply as they did in so called ‘offline’ times.

As a candidate, you will make a good impression by communicating transparently. Are you no longer prepared to move cities for a new position? Have you thought about the situation and are no longer interested, or have accepted another position in the meantime?

Then be sure to communicate this information to the recruiter – you never know when you might meet again! Be sure to leave a good impression.

Ability to measure

Successful recruiting is a balance act between personal contact, time and measurability. An efficient selection process involves effective evaluation of job applications. Personal interviews take place with a selected number of top candidates, often the top 20, however it depends on the recruiters needs.

Some recruiters will conduct the first round of interviews by Skype. Face-to-face interviews will often be held after the process has been narrowed down to the top 10 candidates, in order to save time and money.

  • Your application is the deciding factor in your success. The first step is matching you in terms of your career and experience to the advertised position. Your application material (cover letter and resume) should be carefully written and the cover letter should be written specifically for the advertised position.
  • Prepare yourself for a Skype or telephone interview. Ensure that your microphone functions well and your camera gives a high quality picture. Furthermore, be sure to have good lighting and a professional background, as well as fast interest.


A streamlined digital process enables fast decisions to be made. In less than eight weeks, the top five applicants should be selected.

As a candidate, you can assist in this process, by remaining on the pulse when it comes to your communications. Confirm meetings fast, answer questions quickly, and be sure to let the recruiter know if your situation changes.

How can I identify a good recruiter?

A top performing recruiter is recognisable in their ability to be transparent, as well as giving you the feeling of being looked after.

As a candidate you receive continuous updates on the application process and are quickly informed if you proceed to the next round. If your application is not accepted, expect to be informed promptly.

A smooth process, quick decisions and clear communication ensures you are always informed. This assists you in your application process and helps you to secure a job offer or line up a number of positions from which you can choose the best one for you.

The essentials of a serious recruiter:

  • Telephone calls to your current place of work are limited to a one time establishment of contact in order to introduce you to the advertised position and gauge your interest.
  • They demonstrate a good, clear and transparent process. 
  • They disclose their policy on managing your personal details.
  • Transparent communication. 
  • Travel costs will be taken on by the client.
  • They accompany you through the process.

How do I make a good impression as a candidate?

Action through reaction – if the recruiter always makes an effort to get back to you quickly and is transparent in the recruiting process, then you should return the favour.

Support the process by quickly accepting invitations to meetings, as well as providing electronic documents and references in a timely manner.

If you accept another job offer during the process, be sure to let the recruiter know, rather than simply letting the communication go cold.

Make a positive impression as a candidate by:

  • Individualised applications, rather than mass emails.
  • Contact for the purpose of clarifying questions instead of random discussions.
  •  Reacting quickly to questions and invitations to meetings.
  • Focussed preparation for interviews – use the recruiter as a sparring partner.
  • Transparent and timely communication in all phases.

With these tips you will be prepared and able to position yourself as the ideal candidate for your executive search. Good luck!

About the Author:

Thomas K. HeidenDr Thomas K. Heiden and his colleagues from heiden associates support technology companies in their executive search, management audits, leadership development and coaching. In 2015 heiden associates was recognised by Focus as being amongst the top 10 recruiters in Germany in the executive search category. In 2016 heiden associates was awarded the Headhunter of the Year Award in the category of Recruiting Innovation.

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