Why executive search firms are worth their weight in gold


By Derick Hughes – Derick.Hughes@EthicalBoardroom.com

There are a number of benefits of using executive search firms when companies are looking to hire senior professionals. The stakes are high when companies are looking to hire important, often critical, senior-level executives to their organisation. For starters, the salaries on offer for these roles can often be in excess of six figures. Furthermore, companies will be looking for the candidate who best meets the requirements of the role. This means a thorough look needs to be taken into the candidate’s experience. It is vital to establish if the potential candidate is a proper fit for the needs of the position, as well as the culture and overall organisation.

Additionally, before hiring the candidate the company will need to know that that person wants to commit to the enterprise for a significant period of time – i.e. that long term interests are aligned between the candidate and the organisation. Finding the right person is of paramount importance as that person may be central to the organisation’s success and picking the wrong person may pose substantial risks and long term damage to the company. It is for these reasons, amongst others, that the selection process needs to extremely thorough and rigorous and hiring an executive search firm may be the smart choice.

Executive search firms are specialists in the area of hiring senior executives. They are therefore experienced in handling the issues that may typically arise from recruitment in this area. Often the candidate pool is limited at this level of hiring as these professionals are in well rewarded positions at existing employers and rarely place themselves back in the hiring market. Therefore, it is especially difficult for organisations to find senior professionals and this is why many choose to use executive search firms for their senior hiring needs.

Typically executive search firms will require a retainer from the company, the purpose of which is to align the interests of the organisation and the executive search firm. The retainer effectively signifies that the organisation has made a serious commitment to the search process and the executive search firm in their role. The recruiter will be able to cover a larger proportion of the labour marketplace than the organisation and will consider a substantially larger number of qualified candidates so that the organisation does not have to. The executive search firm will normally be extremely thorough when finding a candidate to meet the needs of the company and this makes them a valuable source of hiring talent.

The executive search firm will begin by spending some time getting to know the company properly – this involves understanding the needs of the role, the culture of the organisation as well as other factors such as the style of business and related working parties. This is a valuable benefit of the recruitment process and will allow the recruiter to narrow down the needs of the company in hiring for a particular role. This will furthermore enable a maximisation of the chances of identifying suitably skilled and experienced candidates who possess the talents, attributes and personality the company is looking for.

The next phase of the search typically involves a range of techniques- which can include development of a bespoke recruitment plan depending on the requirements and timeframe of the search. These customised methods can consist of tailored measures in multiple avenue talent sourcing, pre-selection and assessment. Networking and research are valuable benefits of using an executive search firm as they invest time and money in developing an ongoing global database of talent and continually apply effort in search of suitable additions to the database. Also where appropriate executive search firms will carry out valuable and effective advertising for the role and they will be able to apply their specific experience and expertise in this area to attract the best candidates. Candidates are then vetted thoroughly by the search firm by a process of structured interview and/or assessment depending on the role. These vetting procedures are designed to ensure that candidates are available, committed and interested in the role and that they are fully understanding of the requirements of the opportunity. The vetting will also ascertain whether the candidate possesses the required skills, attributes and experience. This means that companies do not invest time pursuing candidates who are not suitably motivated or able.

The vetting allows the recruiter to provide the company with a shortlist of the best candidates for the role and the company will also be provided with the detailed findings of the recruiters vetting process  – which can include focused information  regarding an applicant’s experience, strengths, weaknesses and motivations in applying. Further to this, the recruiter can provide valuable feedback to the company about candidates and vice versa so that concerns and questions may be addressed smoothly.

Benefits of using an executive search firm can be numerous and are predominantly centered on applying experience, expertise and time where the company is lacking – finding the best person for a senior vacancy can be crucial to business success and therefore the benefit of using an executive search firm may significantly outweigh the cost of hiring the wrong candidate.