Approximately 10,000 executive recruiters are employed by search firms throughout the United States, where executive search firms of all sizes are located. Most specialize in placement in a particular field, for example, chemical engineering or advertising. Professional associations, such as the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants, often provide lists of their firms at their Web sites.
A common starting point in this industry is a position at a contingency search firm, or even an outplacement center. Responsibilities may be limited at first, but a successful, and consistent track record should lead to bigger clients, more placements, and higher commissions. Many executive recruiters were recruited into the field themselves, especially if they were well known in their industry. It is important to market yourself and your accomplishments while you work in entry-level positions. Circulate among the movers and shakers of your company, as well as those of the competition. They may prove to be valuable contacts in the future. Most importantly, cultivate relationships with any recruitment firms that may call; you'll never know when their assistance may be desired, or necessary.
A typical advancement path in this industry would be a transfer to a retainer-based search firm. Retained search firms deal with the upper-echelon administrative positions that pay top salaries, translating to higher commissions for the recruiter.
Let us say you have already paid your dues and worked successfully at a retainer search firm. What next? You may want to negotiate for partnership or opt to call the shots and start a firm of your own.
Conduct information interviews with executive recruiters and ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.
Become certified by the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants in order to show employers that you've met the highest standards established by your industry.
Land an entry-level job at a recruiting firm to learn about the field and make valuable industry contacts.