The Steps of the Executive Search Process


The executive search process allows executive recruiters to achieve key milestones during the search life cycle. It provides a solid foundation for effective and targeted recruiting. It is a very thorough process that guarantees each assignment to have a list of strong candidates. Below are the five main steps of the executive search process.

Defining the Search Priorities

The first step of the executive search process is to determine the search requirements and timelines. It is also during this phase when an executive search consultant analyzes the challenges unique to the organization. Some of the search requirements include the skills, abilities, and knowledge of the potential candidate. 


After learning about the search requirements and the corporate culture the next step is to develop a personalized candidate and position specification that indicates the responsibilities of the role, goals to be achieved, and challenges of the position. The executive search consultant should also define the required qualifications, competencies, and experience of potential executives. 

Developing Search Strategy

This stage of the executive search process has a more thorough analysis of the market and provides a list of companies to include in the search for executive talent. It is also during this stage when channels to be explored are identified that will ensure that top talent is discovered in the marketplace. 


The search strategy utilizes research tools required to complete the process, which include internal and external databases of senior executives, market analysis, and other alternative online sources. Executive search consultants also use their own contacts and network for the executive search process.

Identifying Potential Candidates

Talent mapping or name generation is the process of creating an industry-wide map of talent. This often results in a list of more than a hundred talented executives. Executive recruiters will use the requirements of the job description to narrow the list down to identify potential candidates.


The objective during this phase of the process is to evaluate the executive professionals who can expedite the hiring process by introducing candidates who are able to help the organization in the long run. There will be an open line of communication between the recruiter and the client throughout the process. The recruiter will provide regular search status updates, market intelligence, and profiles of potential candidates. 

Creating a Shortlist of Qualified Candidates

After identifying potential candidates the next step of the executive search process is to further reduce the list to ten or fewer candidates. The shortlist is made after detailed interviews and looking into the candidates’ background and competencies. It is also important to determine if the candidate is interested in the role and willing to move forward in the process.

Finalizing the Search

The last phase of the executive search process is to finalize the selection. The search consultant works with the client to negotiate with the selected executives. The executive recruiter communicates with the client to assist with the placement process. Executive search consultants will conduct a satisfaction survey to find out how they can improve their services and approach. 


The executive search process is a neverending task. Even after the completion of the search the consultant regularly follows up with the client and the executive. The consultant will find out the progress of the transition, and how the executive is doing in the new role. A structured search process is an important differentiator of a retained executive search firm to leverage the full spectrum of the available pool of talent.