Smaller Search Firms Praised for Expertise and Better Results

June 16, 2015 – Smaller, boutique search firms have a higher level of expertise and yield greater results, according to research findings published by Hunt Scanlon Media and reported by Wilmington Biz and London-based Executive Grapevine. More than 1,000 human resource professionals and executive search consultants took part in Hunt Scanlon Media’s Executive Search State of the Industry report examining how the talent management sector operates from both the buy and sell side. The study says that “independent recruiters, those boutique specialists concentrating on just a small number of business sectors, are truly redefining a field once dominated by a handful of large, generalist search firms.”

Big firms certainly have their benefits, the Hunt Scanlon report says, including brand name recognition. But one of their biggest drawbacks is their recruiting restrictions.

According to the report social media technology has worked in favor of smaller search firms, giving them the upper hand to take on their larger rivals. “Promising more attention to the client’s needs they tout themselves as more nimble, flexible and high-touch,” the report says. These smaller niche firms are often staffed by recruiters who learned their trade at the big firms or from a successful career in corporate America. Heads of talent acquisition are becoming more accepting and reliant of these specialists running their mission critical search assignments, reports Hunt Scanlon. The report indicates, in fact, they are driving the trend.

Christopher Hunt, co-founder and president of Hunt Scanlon, said: “Specialization is a big part of the appeal of the boutique search provider. As big firms have expanded, with several now publicly traded, feeding the bottom line has naturally become a paramount business concern. The boutiques, meanwhile, have more leeway to concentrate on getting to know the ins and outs of any given sector, giving them perhaps a leg up on better understanding the culture of their client companies.”

Fit, these recruiters say, has become the new mantra, with cultural sensitivity trumping a candidate’s skill set. “These search specialists say they are uniquely qualified to be more responsive to these new requirements,” said Mr. Hunt.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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Joe White
5 years ago

My firm, Sports Group International, was founded as a boutique firm in 1989 to serve the sporting goods equipment, apparel, and footwear industry. We specialized in the niches of sales, marketing, and product design. We have been proud to serve and rewarded well for working with smaller companies who value our expertise, commitment, and counsel. ‘Small is Beautiful’.

William Everly
5 years ago

Editors: I am new to the search industry and have joined a small firm. I cannot imagine a better place to be. Learning at the elbow of the founders; handling my own work and learning about clients and their cultures first hand. What I like most about it is I am working in an entrepreneurial almost here. I don’t think any large firm could offer such a great environment. So I can see how better results come from the boutique firms which seem to be so much closer to their clients than larger firms that have commoditized the business. Excellent… Read more »

Bo Burch
5 years ago

As the founder and CEO of Human Capital Solutions, Inc. headquartered in Wilmington, NC, I am grateful and humbled to see this article published with Hunt Scanlon. Many thanks to my friend and publisher of the Wilmington Business Journal Rob Kaiser and my new found friends , Mr. Chris Hunt and Mr. Tripp Revson at Hunt Scanlon. I’m happy to be contacted regarding the requests and trends we see in the flexibility and willingness to be creative and customer centric relative to fees, terms, pricing and client relationships.

5 years ago

As a retained search consultant that spent almost a decade in a larger search firm, followed by more than a decade in a boutique firm, we could not agree more with what is reported in this article. It would be interesting to learn if the authors of this report saw any significant trends in terms of “average” professional fees in the larger firms vs. boutique firms, as boutiques also have much more flexibility and willingness to be creative from a fee structure standpoint, wanting to create win-win with a client, not simply bill all three or four retainers well before… Read more »