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C-Level Recruiting: What Is a C-Level Recruiter?

Morgan Lichtenstein
6 min read

Many expectations weigh on a successful executive recruiting strategy. While some companies keep the search in-house, others partner with a C-suite recruitment agency to fill their executive roles.

What is a C-level recruiter, and do you need one to energize your search for the next addition to your leadership team? Below we'll discuss what these recruiters do and what types of roles they help your business fill.


What is a C-level search?

A C-level search differs from regular recruiting, and is a much more in-depth operation. Executives are the highest ranking employees in your organization, responsible for leading your staff and influencing major company decisions, so the stakes are much higher than hiring for lower-level roles. 

The recruitment process for executives takes longer than for lower-level employees: Most organizations are looking for candidates with a long list of requirements, experience, and education — and a proven, successful track record. As a result of these highly specific requirements, there are fewer qualified candidates for executive positions and they take longer to find.

Since the new hire will actively participate in driving the company's mission and shaping its vision, choosing the wrong person isn’t an option. As a result, you should approach your executive search more strategically than when hiring entry-level or mid-level team members. 


What type of roles are considered C-level?

Let's pinpoint the roles that make up a company’s senior executive team or C-suite:


The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking member of the company. CEOs need no specific background, as they may travel a financial, operational, or administrative path to the top. However, they need a solid understanding of the company’s inner workings, commanding leadership skills, and emotional intelligence.

Most CEOs lean on the other C-level executives to analyze numbers and formulate the company’s direction. For example, the CEO likely won’t have much day-to-day involvement in the IT department, or know much about the organization’s technology needs. When the company outgrows its current server solutions, the CEO may have the final say regarding the new solution, but they’ll lean heavily on the CTO or CIO to determine what would be best for the company. 

To help stay on top of organizational needs and responsibilities, most CEOs employ an executive assistant for much-needed support.


A company’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) differs from the CFO. This position is frequently the second-most-senior member of the C-suite and usually functions as the CEO's right hand. Employee hiring, training, payroll, compliance, and other daily operational duties fall under the COO's umbrella. This role ensures there are standardized processes that create a seamless flow of productivity throughout the company.


Another top executive is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CFO is the company’s top financial authority and has many responsibilities. They handle the accounting and financial aspects of the business, like analyzing financial performance, monitoring and planning cash flow, and approving investments. The CEO depends on the CFO for financial information and strategic insights to make decisions about the business. The Corporate Controller, Treasurer, and the head of the accounting department typically report to the CFO.


The Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) is another member of the C-level executives. A CRO reports directly to the CEO and handles sales, marketing, customer service, and other functions that drive revenue. The heads of a company's sales and marketing departments usually report to the CRO.

Companies may not start out with a CRO but might find it advantageous to hire one as the company grows.


The CSO is responsible for keeping the organization safe by properly handling the company’s physical and digital security.

In today’s workplace, security is paramount. Hackers, data breaches, and theft are commonplace. The CSO’s job is to mitigate these risks and maintain the safety of the company’s digital and physical assets.

The CSO’s main jobs are to manage security risks and maintain compliance. The typical CSO will possess an advanced degree in IT, engineering, or another technical field. Depending on the company's size, the CSO may report directly to the CEO or another C-suite member.


CIO stands for “Chief Information Officer.” They manage information and computer technology for internal use. The CIO role continues gaining importance because companies now rely more heavily on technology platforms and large amounts of data to manage all facets of business. 

The CIO Outlook for 2021 report finds that 77% of CIO respondents feel that digital transformation is a top priority, which tracks with this role's primary concerns: Researching new technologies, implementing technology changes and upgrades, and improving internal processes within the organization are all on a CIO’s to-do list.


The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is also involved in the company's technological implementations and strategy. CIOs and CTOs may collaborate on internal and external technology strategies and improvements.

While similar to the CIO, CTOs focus their efforts outwardly, looking for and executing objectives that help the client experience. A CTO may manage developer and engineering teams and work to enhance external product offerings and vendor supply chain productivity.


Chief Diversity Officers are a fairly recent addition to the C-suite. These executives develop and oversee organizational DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) initiatives with an expertise beyond what most human resources departments have. 

The CDO’s biggest responsibility is ensuring that the organization's culture is one that values DEI. This includes ensuring compliance, advocacy, and company-wide education surrounding DEI issues.


Finally, we have the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). This person is responsible for all things marketing, with the goal of increasing sales through marketing activities. Interestingly, only 44% of global CMOs sit in the C-suite.

CMOs develop marketing ideas and campaigns, recommend marketing technology to attract clients, and oversee advertising initiatives. The CMO typically manages the Vice President of Marketing and usually reports to the CEO. In large companies, CMOs may report to the COO.


What are the benefits of C-level recruitment?

Finding and hiring top talent for your company’s C-suite is crucial for it to thrive and grow long term. Partnering with an executive recruiting firm offers distinct advantages to your search and maximizes the chances of securing high-performing, well-qualified candidates who fit into your organizational structure.

There are four impactful benefits of working with C-level executive recruiters. A top recruiter:  

1. Ensures that you hire qualified, diversified candidates

Your internal hiring team may look for C-level candidates once a year or less, while a professional executive search firm does it daily. They have learned where to look, how to approach and communicate with top talent, and who has the hard and soft skill sets to do a great job. Headhunters are also more adept at spotting fabrications and misrepresentations since they talk with candidates frequently about specific strategies and initiatives.

In addition, executive recruiters can address the lack of diversity in most C-suites. SHRM reports that, in 2019, 86% of CEOs were white men.

2. Reduces possible churn

Executive retention is paramount. A recent Deloitte survey reveals that nearly 70% of C-suite executives are seriously considering quitting their current positions for a job that better supports their well-being.

A handful of candidates may seem ready and able to perform well for your company as part of the C-suite. But do they fit with your company’s culture? Are they pleased with your benefits package? Do they have the stamina to stay on top of C-suite goals? If not, and you hire them, they won’t be a long-term employee, and you’ll be stuck looking for a replacement. 

If experienced recruiters are handling the C-level executive search process, they are more likely to catch red flags, candidate weaknesses, and issues that could be problematic down the road. Knowing these can better guide your hiring decision, as you can choose the person with the most staying power and improve your C-suite retention.

3. Saves your organization time and money by quickly filling roles

C-level roles are hard to fill, and the recruiting and interviewing process can take several weeks. Talent acquisition professionals can decrease the time it takes to fill an open seat by weeks. They know how to quickly navigate the process on the front end, which saves your company from advertising the position, weeding through tons of unqualified resumes, and interviewing several people (many of whom won’t work out). Professional recruiters fill roles more quickly than if you use internal hiring processes.

4. Gives you access to a better, deeper pool of candidates

While an internal candidate search typically starts from scratch, an executive placement recruiter most likely has a long list of passive and active job seekers ready to move for the right role and company. They can tap into their deep pool of candidates before an internal hiring team can get the first job ad posted on LinkedIn.


Hire ideal C-Level candidates with Hunt Club

Understanding the unique challenges hiring for a C-level role presents is crucial in finding a person to fill the position successfully.

Instead of handling the long, involved, expensive process internally, choose an experienced executive search partner. This enables your company to find a person who will successfully meet your organization’s challenges and goals, positively contribute to your company’s success, and work well with other members of the C-suite.

Trust your next C-level hire to experienced professionals. Hunt Club has successfully filled hundreds of top-level positions. We dive into our clients' needs and pull from our well-vetted, highly motivated candidates ready to make their next career move.

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