Most executives believe that staying close to a retained executive search consultant is vital for career progression. It helps keep them “on the radar” for future opportunities. After all, if search consultants don't know you, they can’t place you.

The last line part of that assumption is the wonky bit.

Clearly, being friendly with a search consultant or two won’t do you any harm. But the reality is that search firms don’t work for you. They work for the client - the organization with the recruiting need. And, when they work on a search, they work on it exclusively. Occasionally, two firms will partner on an assignment, but it’s not the norm.

The problem is the numbers. Searches can last weeks or months. They are research-based and intensive. Most consultants will be involved in executing only a small number of assignments at any one time.

The chances of the search consultant that you’ve built a relationship with being the one who is retained to fill “your perfect role” are really not all that high – it doesn’t matter how close you are to Jane at ABC if Jill at XYZ has the retainer.

There is good news, however. There is a reason why executive search firms may spend weeks completing a project. It’s research. A search firm is tasked with going out and finding the best person to fill the position. The search is rarely limited to the people they know - they will begin the process by identifying everyone in the market, speaking to sources and building a long list of potentials. The fact that you know the recruiter will help, of course, but it will only go so far.

If you are good at what you do and if you are the right person for the role, you have a good chance of being found. That doesn’t mean you can’t help, however. While making friends with an individual consultant is of limited value, ensuring you are 'on the radar' for lots of them makes absolute sense.

There are ways of doing that. Being CEO of a Fortune 100 organization is a good start. Speaking at events or curating a profile in the media is perhaps an easier approach. The simplest approach, however, is to register with a site such as GatedTalent, which allows executives to create profiles which may be searched by recruiters without being seen by colleagues, competitors or shareholders. 

We launched GatedTalent in October 2017 and, by June 2018, executives from more than 90 countries had created profiles, while we had signed up more than 200 Executive Search firms. The site is always 100% free to executives – all fees are paid by our recruiter clients – and the executive's biography is always anonymous until such time that a “connection request” is accepted and so senior executives are able to create profiles without the risk of being spotted by other interested parties.

Executives spend their time maximising the likelihood of success for their employer; the same approach should be taken with their career.