It feels like that as time passes, the multitude of different job titles grows exponentially, and the headhunting industry is no different. These are some of the titles you will often encounter in executive search – Researchers, Senior Researchers, Analysts, Consultants, Principals, Associates, Senior Associates, Partners, Senior Partners, Managing Directors and so forth.
It’s confusing from the outside, and like many industries these huge variations in title exist partly because different firms have different “levels” of title and often the temptation exists to give employees senior-sounding job titles to boost their credibility in the marketplace.
This means that titles can often be misleading in executive search – one person might be called a “Partner” yet have no equity in their firm whilst another with the job title “Consultant” could be very senior indeed. So how do we make sense of all the different job titles in executive search?
It helps to understand the roles in the executive search industry in terms of key tasks and responsibilities rather than purely through job titles. These are some of the key responsibilities that different employees in headhunting firms have;
- Winning clients and new business. This is arguably the most valuable skill in any professional services firm (and headhunting firms are no different) – after all if there are no clients, there is no business. Those who can originate and win work are the most valuable, and can essentially fund the delivery organisation. Typical job titles; Partner, Managing Director. Although it’s worth noting that many smaller firms give people the Partner job title without them necessarily being that senior or winning lots of work. The Partner’s role is often to win the assignment and oversee it – although how hands on the Partner is in actually delivering the work (doing the headhunting, calling candidates etc.) really varies from firm to firm. Some Partners are very hands-on delivery wise, others delegate most of the execution to Delivery Consultants (more on this later) and essentially act as salesmen without much delivery responsibility.
- The “Delivery Consultant”. Working alongside a Partner, the Delivery Consultant’s primary responsibility is to manage the execution of headhunting assignments. They will be calling most of the candidates, interviewing them against client requirements, and directing the research team in terms of where to look for candidates. Typical job titles; Associate, Senior Associate, Consultant, Principal. The Delivery Consultant is very much the engine room of the headhunting assignment and often the person that the client will interact with the most. Most Delivery Consultants have worked their way up through being a researcher previously.
- The “Researcher“. The Researcher’s role is primarily to identify candidates to approach over the course of headhunting assignments. They will scour previous assignments for suitable candidates, and undertake structured market research, often compiling lists of relevant companies by industry (often called a “Target Landscape”), and then identifying the candidates within them. Linkedin is naturally a very popular and useful tool for doing this. Whilst headhunting firms often don’t like talking about how much they leverage Linkedin for market research purposes – for fear of it sounding too easy and demeaning what they do – only a foolish firm wouldn’t use a tool that has over a billion candidates describing their career histories for you. Over the last 20 years, the internet and social media has revolutionized research in the executive search industry. Typical job titles; Researcher, Research Associate, Research Analyst
You can understand most roles in headhunting as being either a “project winner”, “Delivery Consultant” or “Researcher” with of course, shades of grey in between – the researcher who calls candidates, the Delivery Consultant who wins some projects and so forth.