A beginner’s guide to executive recruitment

Executive Recruitment

Recruiting for a senior vacancy in the non-profit sector can be tough. There are all sorts of methods, and when you’re looking for directors, senior managers or board level staff, you want to get it right. So, if you want to find the ideal candidate in less time and for less cost, you’ll need to know about executive recruitment.

How executive search agencies help

Executive recruiters like AWS Executive hunt down the market-leading candidates – the ones other recruiters can’t find.

Our approach is more proactive than the traditional methods of sourcing talent, and is sometimes called search and selection or headhunting. The candidates we find are often already in a role, so we need to engage with them in a more personal way.

Putting the wrong person in a high-level position can be a costly mistake. So working with an executive recruiter means you’re working with people who understand the weight of the challenge and who know just where to find the very finest talent. And when you have experts helping you fill a knowledge gap and reach otherwise unreachable candidates, you can better manage the risk and complete the process quickly.

The process

  1. The employer (charity, NGO or non-profit) tells us they need senior or highly-skilled talent.
  2. They often give us exclusive rights to work on the placement.
  3. We’ll then gain an in-depth understanding of the skills and character the employer wants.
  4. We do what we do best – identify the best people for the job.
  5. We engage with them, bridging the gap between the employer and the candidate.

Once we’re confident we’ve found the right candidate, we introduce them to the employer, and often play a part in the negotiations.


Executive recruitment is a more intensive process than regular recruitment. So while our fees are often higher than a regular recruitment agency, so is our level of service.

Unlike contingency recruitment, we tend to work on a retained basis. This means we receive an upfront fee before additional fees for a successful placement. We might also charge a fee at the shortlisting stage.

Ultimately, the cost could be over 30% of the candidate’s annual salary.

Recruiters vs executive recruiters

Recruiters… Executive recruiters…
handle all job levels fill senior and specialist positions
look for people seeking a new role choose from passive candidates
find a range of candidates find the one ideal candidate
work on a contingency basis work on a retained basis

When to use an executive recruiter

This should normally be if you want to fill a key or high profile role, or if you’re looking for someone with rare or specialist skills. These will normally be permanent positions, but executive recruiters like us will also work on contract jobs.

We specialise in finding senior managers, directors and CEOs for the non-profit sectors. Including roles like:

  • Development Director 
  • Operations Director
  • Director of Fundraising
  • Director of Marketing & Communications 
  • Director of Policy & Engagement 
  • Director of Enterprise & Knowledge  
  • Director of People & Organisational Development 
  • Climate Resilience Manager
  • Human Resources Manager 
  • Business Manager 
  • Communications Manager 
  • Strategic Partnerships Manager 
  • Head of Philanthropy & Sponsorship 
  • Heading of Funding Operations 
  • Head of Finance 

Finding an executive recruiter

If you have a job to fill, the best place to find an executive recruiter is probably through your colleagues and contacts. But recruiters are also very active online these days, so you should make sure to check Google and social media.

And if your role is in the non-profit sector, you’re already in the right place. Check out our Executive Search site and talk to us today.

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