Executive search firms are companies that provide specialized recruitment services to locate top-level candidates for senior, executive, or other highly skilled positions for their clients. Companies typically retain the services of one or many executive search firms to help them find the best candidates who are either actively looking for a job or are already placed at other companies.
Do You Really Need to Hire Executive Search Firms?
If you lack the management or executive leadership talent you need and you have exhausted your network and of those you trust, then you may benefit from engaging an executive search firm. Executive search firms exist to provide a very specific purpose within the broad range of talent acquisition service providers. They differ from staffing agencies, direct hire and recruiting firms in focus, process, delivery and the fact that they work on a retainer.
Employers benefit from working with an executive search firm when they need one or more of the following conditions:
- When confidentiality or discretion is critical to the recruitment process.
- Situations calling for a dedicated and focused effort to fill the position.
- When finding the most qualified candidate available is critical to the employer’s competitive advantage.
- The employer is seeking an independent third party to thoroughly screen and vet candidates in-person before submitting a short list of finalists.
- The employer is looking to benchmark internal candidates against external candidates as part of the overall process.
- The employer values having an independent third party to assist in persuading a desired candidate to leave their current role for a role with them. Retained search consultants typically have a closer working relationship with the hiring organization which translates to being in a better position to sell the value of joining the employer as well as deal with any potential negative issues related to the vacant role.
- In some situations, it is better for the employer to remain in the background and a retained search consultant provides that buffer.
- The employer is seeking additional value-added data that can be gleaned from a retained search. Such data may include a more defined talent map of competitors or other targeted intelligence on competitors.
Who Actually Conducts the Executive Search for the Right Candidate?
Global top executive search firms often have dedicated sales people that sell executive search assignments. Once a letter of engagement is signed for the retained executive search, the search could then be passed along to a junior associate to actually conduct the search. Such junior staff often never meet with the clients they serve and may lack the experience and depth to best represent you. Will they have the experience and judgment to both conduct the search but also screen and assess the talent you need?
On the other hand, smaller boutique firms are more likely to have a partner that actually leads or conducts the search themselves. If your initial discussions were with a partner, your secondary discussion should be with the person that would actually be conducting the search.
Conducting a search for an executive is an extremely personal and hands-on function. The search leader will be the face of your organization to the group of desired candidates. If the executive search is not confidential, you should ensure that the consultant you are working with is fully capable of representing your organization or established employment brand the way you desire. Will the consultant be able to capture the attention of the higher caliber candidates? And when the search is confidential, you want assurance that this person is capable of conducting the search with the utmost discretion.
Every company is unique as are the reasons for each search. Your recruiter or executive search consultant should have the professional maturity and business acumen to understand your problems and desired solutions. Does the consultant ask you questions that provide evidence that they understand both your business but also the greater market from which they will seek talent?
What Is the Executive Search Consultant’s Background?
You know what you need in a candidate. Does this particular executive search consultant have the ability to quickly grasp what your needs are and can he/she articulate those needs in summary back to you? Do they have their own bio available?
You should determine what the consultant’s bandwidth is for managing your search.
If they are managing other executive searches simultaneously to yours, you should know how many. Given the intensive process required of retained search, a search consultant cannot feasibly simultaneously manage as many searches as a contingent recruiter can. Will the consultant take other search assignments that could potentially conflict with yours?
If you are particularly interested in candidates from a specific company, you should inquire whether the search firm has conducted work with that company. According to the guidelines of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) states that a search firm should not recruit from any company where that firm has accepted a fee within the most recent 12-month period.
In Summary – Executive Recruiting Firms provide the following benefits:
- They save you time by conducting the lengthy executive search on your behalf.
- They are highly trained in being able to determine what type of candidate would be right for your position.
- They typically already have some resumes of well-qualified candidates.
- They have extensive networks of contacts they can draw on who may also have suitable job candidates.
- They can quickly weed through undesirable candidates.
- They can assist you in putting together a compelling package of benefits to attract the best executive candidates.
- They can provide a level of confidentiality where the prospective executive does not know who the company is until they have been approved by the company.
- They can provide additional screening of the short-listed candidates.
- They know what the compensation structure is within the market and can provide inside information that is hard to obtain anywhere else.
- As an independent third party they can assist in persuading a desired candidate to leave their current role for a role within your company or organization.