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What is the difference between executive search and recruitment?

They are terms that get thrown around in the world of talent acquisition, but are executive search and recruitment the same thing? While both aim to connect employers with the right candidates, they can differ significantly in their approach.

Firstly, what do we mean by recruitment?

This is the process of sourcing, attracting, and hiring candidates for various positions across an organisation. It typically focuses on filling entry-level to mid-level roles and involves managing multiple vacancies (at the same time) across different departments. Platforms like job boards and social media are usually how recruiters attract candidates.

What is executive search?

Executive search is more of a specialised form of recruitment which is tailored for senior-level, C-Suite and executive roles. It requires the recruiter to use a different approach, using both industry knowledge, and their professional network to identify candidates with specific leadership qualities required by the company. The executive search recruiter will also operate confidentially to protect both the employer’s strategic interests and the candidate’s current position – this means the position isn’t likely to be publicly advertised on job boards and social media. However, headhunters will often use LinkedIn to confidentially reach out to candidates.

Lead Search Consultant at Globe 24-7, Susan Lawrence explains the difference from the point of view of the recruiter:

“Executive search is where you’re trying to get the interest of people who are gainfully employed, and are not necessarily a motivated job seeker to take an interest in a client’s vacancy. As opposed to regular recruitment, where you might advertise because suitable candidates are looking on job portals, executive search is about tapping people on the shoulder and saying, ‘have you had a look at this?’ or, ‘this might be a better deal or better development and career opportunity for you’.”

An understanding of both types of recruitment is important for the success of any business. Recognising that these distinctions require experienced recruitment consultants is important for businesses seeking to build effective teams who have a good cultural fit for their operation.

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