Despite busy schedules and demanding roles, executives are much more likely to pick up the phone when a recruiter calls than their junior-level colleagues. Why? Part of the answer lies in experience.

As professionals progress through their careers, they may lean more heavily on a search firm to supplement their existing relationships. At Townsend Search Group, we often receive calls from senior-level executives who need support understanding their market and reconnecting with their network. They have typically already had exposure to search firms both as clients and candidates. As a result, they know the value a firm can bring and understand that relationships with recruiters are mutually beneficial.

On the other hand, junior-level professionals have usually had at least one negative encounter with a recruiter who is purely interested in ticking a box—not building a long-term relationship. This is unfortunate because in reality, working with a search firm is about much more than simply being placed.

When a recruiter understands a candidate and their background, they will not only represent them for relevant roles but can also help them forge relationships, think through new opportunities and rebuild or extend their network.

The Value of Relationships

A good relationship with the right search firm can be invaluable. Recruiters have solid connections and deep insight into the markets they serve. As a candidate, that can translate to visibility on compensation and current trends in the industry.

Individuals are unlikely to be aware of every opportunity out there—especially in the early years of their careers. By partnering with a good recruiter, a candidate can gain knowledge on how to develop a pathway that meets their long-term goals.

In a search, the right role comes down to fit. The same goes for partnerships. At Townsend, the professionals we build relationships with will typically field several calls or messages from recruiters each month. As a candidate, determining whether a recruiter is a good match will save time and energy—and avoid frustration further down the line.

Finding the Right Fit

Today, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips. Before returning a call, researching the firm can shed light on whether the conversation is likely to be beneficial.

To support a candidate’s professional trajectory, a search firm must have deep roots in their industry—or the industry they aspire to work within. A direct referral from a trusted source, visiting a firm’s website and exploring case studies and testimonials can help a candidate determine whether a particular firm has the right background and approach for them.

The first conversation can be revealing, too. Candidates should look for signs that a recruiter is knowledgeable and respectful. Do they have expertise in the relevant space? Do they demonstrate respect and confidentiality?

The key to any good relationship is being non-transactional, and a search firm is no different. Candidates should look for a recruiter or firm that shares their interests, aligns with their values and emphasizes building long-term relationships.

Building a Foundation

A good recruiter will stand out. But so will a bad one. The best recruiters use their initial conversations to put out feelers, share information that may be of interest and develop a picture of a candidate’s goals.

In the early stages of a relationship, candidates should pay attention to how recruiters present information and what it reveals about their motivations. Are they looking to fill a quota, or are they genuinely taking the time to understand the person on the other end of the line?

When in doubt, seek out referrals. Many of our best exchanges have come through soft leads from connections in our network. We know that not every call has to be a sale. Rather, our conversations are laying the groundwork for future success.

At Townsend, many of the professionals we maintain relationships with have worked with us for years. They do not just value us for our expertise in placing talent. They recognize the insight we can provide into their field and appreciate the thoughtful, tailored approach we take to supporting their professional growth.

Early and Often

At Townsend, we invest in the candidates and clients we work with, whether it benefits a search today or may bear fruit in the future. Our approach is long-term and personal—and it shows in the relationships we build.

When we work with individuals, we respect the information they share. We leverage that confidential knowledge to collaborate with candidates and provide them with advancement opportunities that they might not otherwise have access to, whether it benefits us or not.

Because building trust and rapport takes time, we recognize that the ideal relationship with a candidate starts long before a search. As recruiters, we have access to opportunities that are unique and exclusive to the market that we are representing. When we already have a strong relationship with a candidate, we understand the strengths and expertise they bring to the table. That means that when a suitable role comes along, they will be top of mind, and we can recommend them with confidence.

Often, it is only when professionals get to the later stages of their careers that they realize the value that a search firm can provide. But for candidates and recruiters alike, building relationships early—and cultivating them regularly—can pave the way for new growth.


If your organization is ready to place changemaking talent, get in touch with any of us on the Townsend Search team and experience The Journey to placing top executive talent.