25 Best Executive Recruiting Firms for the Executive Job Search

Executive recruiters specialize in filling positions with salaries of $100,000 or more. These highly specialized recruiters are gatekeepers to the most coveted executive jobs in your industry. If you’re an executive and not working with executive recruiters during your job search, you will be missing out. Forbes released a list of the 200 best executive recruiting firms in America. In this post I will narrow down the results from their study for practical networking purposes. I will also share tips for networking effectively with these critical job search contacts.

Why You Need Recruiter Strategy for Your Job Search

Job search strategy is incomplete without a robust recruiter strategy. All too often, I see my clients make the deadly mistake of neglecting to work with recruiters. These clients have typically been burned before or are upset about all the unreturned phone calls. If this is your experience I suggest brushing off the hurt pride and persisting with recruiters. They won’t all be responsive but when they are, you may find yourself with a life-changing opportunity. As a former executive recruiter, seeing how top talent was selected, I can confidently say that recruiters are a necessary part of your job search. You don’t have to love them but you do have to work with them to find hidden opportunities. If you’ve been job searching with no success, you may also want to look into these tips for rebooting your job search.

Why Executives and Aspiring Executives Need to Connect With Executive Recruiters

If you’ve been in the executive job search lately, you’ll know it’s competitive. Companies are only looking to hire the best of the best. In order to identify the best senior talent, companies rely on highly specialized recruiters known as Executive Recruiters or Retained Search Consultants. Executive recruiters usually have a speciality vertical in which they recruit talent. They must be well versed in the roles and industries in which they recruit. They know the exact career path, skills, and capabilities needed to do the job openings they are working to fill. Because of this, they are industry/role experts. Therefore, they are good people to know if you’re an executive. If you’re not sure where to move next in your career, these industry experts can also give you a good indicator of where the industry’s headed. Additionally they have knowledge in the best industry players or companies to watch. For these reasons, executive recruiters are great networking contacts for executives. Been a while since you networked? Use these tips for overcoming networking anxiety.

Executive Recruiters Hold the Key to the Hidden Job Market

Another reason you need to connect with executive recruiters is so you can access the hidden job market. The hidden job market consists of jobs that are never advertised. Anywhere from 75-90% of jobs are never advertised due to search confidentiality and other reasons. Therefore, it’s important to know that there are jobs that are never advertised. I experienced this first-hand when recruiting executive talent for Fortune 500 companies. The most important takeaway here is this: There are jobs that are not advertised online and you should do everything you can to find them. Working with recruiters is how you find these jobs!

Who Should Network With Executive Recruiters?

If you’re not earning 6-figures, you’ll want to stop reading here and get connected with recruiters that search for mid-career talent. If you are earning 6-figures, keep reading and jot down these top search firms. You’ll need them for your networking and ongoing career management strategy.

Do You Need to Make 6-Figures to Pursue Executive Recruiters?

If you are one career move away from becoming a 6-figure executive, it is worthwhile to engage executive recruiters. They may be looking to recruit a candidate to be promoted to the next level. For example, if you are earning 5-figures but likely to earn 6-figures in your next job, then you are a perfect candidate for starting to engage this recruiter population.

How to Create an Executive Recruiter Networking Strategy

Building a networking roadmap of key contacts is an important job search activity. The key to networking with recruiters is to start by identifying the best recruiters for you. There are several ways to do this, but it all comes down to basic research. Will all 200 firms on Forbes’s list be worth making outreach? Probably not. But a carefully curated list will deliver the most traction, and serve you well throughout your career. Start with a target of 10-15 firms and build up from there as needed. Within these firms, you want to identify the recruiter or recruiters listed for your industry. Then, make contact and network!

Forbes List Top 25 Executive Recruiting Firms

  1. Korn Ferry
  2. Heidrick & Struggles
  3. Spencer Stuart
  4. Russell Reynolds Associates
  5. Robert Half
  6. Egon Zehnder International
  7. Diversified Search
  8. Lucas Group
  9. Boyden
  10. N2Growth
  11. DHR International
  12. Cabot Consultants
  13. Stanton Chase International
  14. Tatum, A Randstad Company
  15. MRINetwork
  16. Witt/Kieffer
  17. E.A. Hughes & Co.
  18. 20/20 Foresight Executive Search
  19. The QualiFind Group
  20. Linked Executive Search
  21. Salveson Stetson Group
  22. Exceptional People International
  23. Saenger Associates
  24. Koya Leadership Partners
  25. 180 Engineering

The Most Effective Executive Recruiter Networking Strategies

So if you want to unlock the hidden job market and really give your executive career a push in the right direction, you must start working with recruiters today! The best policy when it comes to your career is that you can never have enough people in your corner. This includes recruiters. To stress an important point again: recruiters are sometimes the only thing standing between you and a really great opportunity. You need A LOT of the right recruiters in your network – as many as possible! By limiting yourself to only a few of the ones you trust or like (or both) you are limiting your visibility for the other great opportunities in the market. Even limiting yourself to recruiters in your immediate geography can be dangerous since many recruiters at the executive level recruit for clients globally. By connecting to EVERY recruiter you can find in your space, you’ll be on a lot more radars. This kind of visibility will only increase your chances of being found, remembered and eventually considered when new opportunities open up.

Important: Always Take Recruiter Phone Calls

Since job openings are fluid and recruiters can only work with you when they have a role that is a fit, it’s best to think of recruiter strategy for your long-term career goals. If you contact a recruiter only when you are ready for the job search, there’s no guarantee that they’ll have anything open. It’s important to connect and build relationships with this valuable network sooner rather than later so that they think of you when the perfect fit opens up. This is especially true if you are really happy in your job. Make a point to always take recruiter phone calls – even when you are happy in your role. As we used to say in executive recruiting: “The best time to search for a job is when you’re happy!” Be open to hearing about opportunities and you might find yourself with a life-changing opportunity!

Important: Have Your Executive Brand Ready At All Times

Very important for executive recruiting networking strategy: having your brand ready at all times. LinkedIn is number one. Your resume is number two in terms of priority. Start with your LinkedIn headline and use these LinkedIn headline writing tips for enhancing your executive brand. Then make sure your resume is equally well-branded. You can’t afford to present a stale, outdated resume that spills onto 3 pages. Be sure to check out the latest in executive resume writing trends so you are visually hitting the mark. Achievements will also be super important on your resume. Take the time to focus all of your branding and bullets in achievement-oriented language.


If you’re hoping to stand out to executive recruiters, check out our ageism-busting resume services. Our master resume writers will provide you with a custom resume strategy phone consultation, ATS and keyword optimized resume, and tailored resume that speaks to your strongest career accomplishments and value – everything you need to feel confident, navigate the job search successfully, and put your best foot forward as an executive applicant.

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  1. TwoBirch on January 8, 2022 at 5:16 am

    Great content! Keep up the good work!

    • Noelle Gross on January 8, 2022 at 11:26 am


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