Do You Really Need an Executive Search Firm?

In a newly-released report, The ExeQfind Group explores the dynamics of working with a search firm, when and why a company may need one, as well as the distinctions between large and small firms and the advantages of each.

July 28, 2022 – The people that make up any organization are critical to its success. From senior executives to middle managers, a company’s talent shapes its future and is of great importance to leaders of the organization. So it is that engaging an executive search firm in the talent acquisition process can help a company achieve its specific goals.

From saving companies extraordinary amounts of time to helping to shape the future of an organization, the benefits of engaging a qualified search firm are many, says Warren Carter, senior managing partner of The ExeQfind Group in a recent report, “Do You Really Need an Executive Search Firm? The study looks to answer its titular question by shedding light on the dynamics of using a search firm and outlining the process clearly.

Deciding to Engage a Search Firm

When considering engaging a search firm in the talent acquisition process, many companies may choose to conduct the search in-house. In the report, Mr. Carter suggests that companies evaluate their situation within four main criteria — confidentiality, expertise, objectivity, and means and methods — when deciding whether to select a search firm.

“If the position you are trying to fill requires an element of discretion, then you can rest assured that a search firm will be able to maintain that confidentiality,” the report said. “Most top-tier executives have experience in being approached by a search consultant that has signed a non-disclosure agreement and they are also more likely to understand why.”

When it comes to expertise, recruiters and search consultants spend the bulk of their time immersed in finding, engaging, and closing on talent for their clients — thus holding a great deal of experience and knowledge in the practice. Recruiters and search consultants are also highly experienced at building a candidate’s interest, as they understand what the compensation structure is within the market and can provide inside information that is hard to obtain anywhere else.

Warren Carter leads the retained executive search practice for The ExeQfind Group. He brings 20+ years of progressively responsible experience in search within the agribusiness, food & beverage, industrial / manufacturing and professional services sectors.

Objectivity is also critical to ensuring a successful outcome of any search project. When a fee is contingent upon hire, a search firm may push one candidate over another to secure their fee and thus compromising the objectivity of the search. To combat any such situation and to achieve the highest level of objectivity, the report recommends using the retained search firm approach.

“When you engage a retained firm, you are engaging them to conduct a defined and methodical process with payments tied to performance and process milestones,” Mr. Carter said. “The retained firm is motivated to deliver a thorough objective evaluation and selection process resulting in a short list of three or four candidates that are both available for hire and are also of the highest caliber within your market.”

Finally, evaluate the particular ways in which a search firm will go about the process — from the people that will be involved to the actual steps of the search.

How to Select a Partner

After deciding upon the search partner route, an organization must decide on which partner to engage — no easy feat with over 7,000 active firms around the world listed in The Directory of Executive Recruiting.

First, a company must decide to work with either a large or boutique firm. Large executive search firms naturally have more diversity in terms of capabilities and depth. There are numerous disadvantages, however, to using a large firm. With an expanded client base, for one, come a greater number of off-limit restrictions. Large firms are also forced to chase the most senior assignments with the highest fees given their high overhead.

Boutique firms, on the other hand, offer a far more personalized experience to their clients. Partners and principals of boutique firms have a deeply personal need to ensure client satisfaction as the firm’s survival and success is dependent upon every client.

Once deciding upon the size of the firm, it is important to select one that has the requisite capabilities to ensure that the search produces the talent needed.

At this stage of the firm selection process, Mr. Carter said he recommends weighing several factors including relevant experience, culture fit, potential conflicts of interest within the industry, reputation, web capabilities, expenses, and more.

Sitting Down with the Search Partner

Even after meeting with the representative from a prospective search firm and determining if they are capable of meeting expectations, companies must still meet with the person directly conducting the search, said Mr. Carter.

Related: What Candidates are Really Looking for In New Jobs

“Large global firms often have dedicated sales people that sell search assignments,” the report said. “Once the engagement letter is signed, 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?”

Small boutique firms rarely pass off searches, as a partner will likely lead or conduct the search personally.

Conducting a search is an extremely personal and hands-on function, and meeting the leader of the search is critical to the success of the project. “The search leader will be the face of your organization to the group of desired candidates,” Mr. Carter said. “If the 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.”

The Benefits of a Search Partner

Hiring the right people has the single-largest effect on the future of a business. Bringing on a search partner can help make sure companies bring on the best person as well as save leaders exorbitant amounts of time.

“After evaluating these options, it is my belief that you will find the solution to your problem lies in engaging a qualified search firm to meet your needs,” Mr. Carter said. “Taking a modest amount of time to properly evaluate and screen a search partner will greatly increase the probability of being in a position to make an offer to the best person your industry has to offer. And this will pay dividends to your business in the long run.”

Related: How Behavioral Assessments Can Accelerate Leadership Transformation

Contributed by Jonah Charlton, Senior Editor; Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M.  Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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