Essential Questions When Considering Outsourced Executive Search

Weigh your capabilities and needs before summoning outside help, says a new report by IQTalent Partners. In-house resources, confidentiality and budget should all be factors in your ultimate decision.

October 9, 2019 – Starting the search for a new executive is often a watershed experience for any organization. New leaders, after all, have a substantial impact on everything from culture and engagement to business goals. Making the right hiring decision can produce positive results in every direction.

A new report by IQTalent Partners suggests that if you are thinking about hiring an outsourced executive search firm for added expertise and assistance, there are some critical questions to consider. Among them:

What are my in-house executive recruiting resources and options?

Almost every firm has some sort of internal recruiting function, but does yours have the bandwidth for a search at the executive level? “When considering an outsourced executive search firm, weigh opportunity cost against the actual financial cost of the decision,” said Chris Murdock, co-founder and chief sourcing officer of IQTalent Partners. “An in-house search might feel like the most comfortable option, especially if your internal team manages all of your other recruiting efforts.”

“By keeping the executive search in-house, you see all moving parts and have complete control of the process from start to finish,” he said. “You don’t have to worry that small details—or red flags—that could get past you.”

At what point do you consider outsourcing? “When you find yourself being so overburdened with your day-to-day duties that you can’t give time to the daunting task of choosing a new executive-level employee, it’s time to look to an outside expert,” said Mr. Murdock. “This search could be a months-long, strenuous process. Do you know the traits, specific to the executive level, of a thriving new leader? Do you have a network of executives to source through? How many C-suite hires have you made during your tenure? Having the confidence, experience, and time to fill an executive-level role are paramount to finding the right candidate.”


Chris Murdock is a veteran of the recruiting and talent acquisition industry with 20 years of experience spanning across multiple industries. He founded IQTalent Partners in 2009 and now leads search execution and client relationships for the 150- person firm. Prior to establishing IQTalent, Mr. Murdock worked with Yahoo!’s internal executive recruiting team, gaining in-depth experience across the technology recruiting sphere. He began his career working for Heidrick & Struggles and TMP Worldwide.


If you feel strongly about keeping the executive search in-house, another option is to hire a full-time recruiter. A seasoned recruiter will likely bring a solid network of potential candidates at all stages of their careers, including the executive level, said Mr. Murdock. “Being fully immersed in your company’s culture will also give an in-house recruiter a genuine idea of who would make a good fit to lead the company and make a hiring decision that reinforces your company mission, ethics, values, and expectations,” he said. “Consider the costs and long-term challenges and solutions having another full-time employee can provide before deciding to build your team.”

What sets executive search apart from “regular” recruiting?

A recruiting firm that specializes in executive search comes with proven processes for understanding your company’s executive hiring needs from the inside out. Mr. Murdoch said that such firms have “experience in finding the best fit at the executive-level quickly and usually maintain a network of qualified candidates in their system. The best executive search firms are uniquely qualified to locate and approach executives that are high performers in their current roles within their current companies, who often aren’t looking for a new position. And most importantly, the C-suite executives will take their call.”

The average time to hire with “regular” recruiting is around 42 days, said the IQ Talent Partners report. Although that may seem like a long time, trying to fill a position quickly for the sake of speed can be a costly mistake, especially in executive search. Finding a new corporate leader can take a longer time than the average, “regular” hire, and it probably should.


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“The resources invested in this new employee will far outweigh the cost of recruiting him or her to the firm,” Mr. Murdock said. “When you outsource the search to an external search firm with a history of proven success in finding executive-level employees, these concerns are mitigated. An executive search firm works with economies of scale and has far more resources than a lone hiring manager has internally. With an outsourced firm, you get the best of both worlds: efficiency and quality.”

What about confidentiality?

If you are seeking confidentiality in recruiting, you should probably hire an outsourced executive search firm, said Mr. Murdock. If you are looking for an executive to take your company to the next level, it goes without saying that you need someone with a proven history of leadership and success. “Generally, the person for whom you’re searching is typically performing well in the role he or she currently has,” he said. “Most likely, he or she is content in the current situation. Discretion is essential when connecting with these individuals in order not to disrupt his or her current work environment. Again, many upper-level executives need to trust the recruiter who is contacting them. Working with an established outsourced team provides the level of credibility and trust expected by C-suite personnel.”


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On the other hand, you may want to keep information about your company’s leadership roles confidential until a candidate has been vetted to a certain degree, said IQ Talent Partners. With large public companies, a change in executive leadership can cause a change in the stock price and beyond. Maintaining internal confidentiality can be difficult if you’re conducting your search in-house. With a third party search team, specific company information is left out of the equation until the vetting process has progressed. You can trust that the search will be private and remain out of the public eye (and out of the corporate gossip chain).

What is your budget?

Hiring an external firm to conduct the search entirely or to augment your internal executive recruiting team will come with a price tag. “Before hiring a firm, assess your budget, and evaluate the fee structure of various firms,” said Mr. Murdock. “Most often, the price of the executive search is based on the salary of the position. The higher the salary, the more expensive the search.”

With the advent of technology that allows more people access to a larger candidate pool, however, the executive search model is changing. “The traditional model of hiring an executive search firm and paying an excessive fee is no longer the only option,” said Mr. Murdock.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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