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.
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.
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?
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.