back to blog

Executive Recruiting Strategies for Finding Passive Job Candidates

Your perfect executive is out there. But are they looking for your job? It’s likely they aren’t. Even among piles and piles of resumes, perfect job candidates can seem harder to find than a Sasquatch.

Consider the statistics from this recent CareerBuilder study:

  • More than half of employers admit that over the past five years, it has grown increasingly difficult to find even qualified job candidates.
  • Half of all employers say it’s hard to find job candidates with the appropriate skills for the positions they are hiring for.
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 employers admit that making a bad hire is far more costly than leaving a position open.


And in a LinkedIn U.S. Recruiting Trends 2016 report, employers admit the biggest obstacle to attracting top talent is in trying to find job candidates in high-demand talent pools. The top sources for quality hires? Social professional networks and employee referral programs, which can both be great for finding semi-passive candidates. But it’s not enough. In the same study, employers admitted that finding better ways to source truly passive candidates is a top priority in the coming months. But what recruiting strategies will work?

“Many top executive candidates aren’t scrolling through job boards or asking friends for referrals. Some don’t even have LinkedIn profiles,” says Managing Partner Nad Elias, The HT Group. Enter the executive search firm. These firms employ recruiting strategies that far surpass what many employers can accomplish on their own. The main secret to their success? Exclusive access.

“Successful executive recruiters specialize in certain areas and get to know the top executives in those industries. They may not have a specific job in mind for those professionals as they are networking but the recruiter takes the time to get to know them and earn their trust so that when a great job comes along, the executive answers the call.”

Networking is one way to accomplish this. Austin is among the best cities on Earth to network. So much so that Colin Pope of the Austin Business Journal once called networking in Austin “plugging into the Austin matrix.” Building thought leadership is another way to become known by top executives in your industry. Speak at events, blog, be interviewed by the media about news events. Just as financial advisors, attorneys and other professionals build thought leadership in order to garner the trust and respect of potential clients, hiring managers and recruiters should build thought leadership to earn the trust and respect of potential job candidates.

The best executive recruiters do this and more. They’re able to match the right candidates with the right jobs by getting to know each executive’s answer to questions like, “If there’s one thing you could change about your current job, what would that be?”

“The answer may be surprising and unpredictable,” Elias explains. “For instance, a top Fortune 500 executive in New York or San Francisco may jump at the chance to take a more modest job in Austin because it’s closer to family or it provides the startup environment the executive is craving. An employer might assume that executive is out of their league because they don’t know what is motivating him or her at this stage in their career. But a good executive recruiter will know.”

Even if an employer knows exactly who they’d like to consider for a position, that employer faces obstacles beyond access alone that a world-class executive search firm does not.

“When searching for a high-level executive, confidentiality is key for both the employer and the job candidate,” Elias explains. “There is a level of discretion that an executive search firm can meet that an employer cannot.”

The HT Group Executive Search Division conducts applicant searches by utilizing two strategic and highly effective recruiting and pricing models—retained search and dedicated search—for both key professional and executive level positions. These standard industry models are designed to scale depending on the type of professional or executive the employer is seeking.

“Sit down first and decide: Who is it that I’d like to fill this position? Even if you’re able to decide who and what you want, there’s value in hiring an executive recruiter who can gain exclusive, confidential access to that person.”

Tell us: Do you anticipate searching for an executive within the next year? How do you plan on attracting top job candidates? What recruiting strategies have worked for you in the past?