Why Work With an Executive Search Firm and What It Is Like

Staffing Firm Meeting Room with five people discussing hiring staff

Why Work With an Executive Search Firm and What It Is Like


You post a new executive job posting, and you receive 200 applications. While this might seem like a blessing, it’s anything but.

As you sort through the applicant pile, you realize that only a few meet your needs. All of a sudden, you’ve wasted hours sifting through your inbox instead of focusing on growing your business.

Stop wasting valuable time and use executive search firms to find researched, quality candidates.

You may believe you can successfully hire an executive because you don’t want to pay a firm’s retainer. Is saving money worth losing out on the opportunity to hire the best leader for your company?

There are several advantages to using an executive search firm to fill complex leadership positions. They will increase your odds of finding the right individual on the first try.

Keep reading to explore the benefits of retaining an executive search firm and what the process entails.

Gain Access to Expertise Through Executive Search Firms

You may think you have the skills and resources to lead an executive search. However, merely posting an open position on job boards or your company website is not going to be enough to attract top talent.

The world’s top leaders aren’t reviewing job boards for new positions. They’re consumed by their work—they are busy leaders. And they have always had access to new job opportunities through their existing networks.

Only Interview the Best of the Best

If you ask your in-house human resources team to reach out to a top executive, they most likely won’t get a response—if they even get past the executive assistant.

On the other hand, recruiters have access to top executives through connections they’ve made over the years. They have infiltrated the networks of inaccessible people.

If you post a job opening for a senior-level position, you will be bombarded with applicants. Most of these applicants won’t fit the role. You’re only wasting your time by reading through applications from candidates who won’t make it past the first round of interviews.

Executive search firms will narrow the candidate pool down to a manageable number of people. What you’re left with to choose from is the best of the best. This process of pre-qualifying and recruiting candidates helps streamline the job search and saves your company time.

Save Time, Money, and Resources

The process of vetting, attracting, recruiting, and hiring executives is not an easy task. It takes time. Reaching out to top prospects is a strategic and time-consuming project that is better performed by multiple people.

If you put an employee committee in charge of hiring executives, you’ll waste energy and time that is better spent working on other projects. Not to mention leaving the hiring decisions to inexperienced people will result in hiring the wrong leader for the position.

Hiring the wrong person for an executive role can lower employee productivity and morale. The costs associated with a bad hire and turnover are often higher than the cost of hiring executive search recruitment consultants.

Pinpoint Leaders with Unique Skills

Executive roles are often created for professionals with a unique collection of skills.

In the past, top-performing employees rolled into executive roles. However, now, that’s rarely the case in most industries. For example, today’s chief marketing officers need to have a core skill set, but they should also be creative and analytical.

Finding someone well-versed in these areas is not a simple task. Usually, the person comes from outside of your company.

Executive search firms have access to tools to find candidates that will fill unique positions. Their databases consist of pre-qualified candidates, and they know how to perform searches for interlinked jobs that require specific sets of skills.

Get Expert Guidance

If you’re growing your business, you may be trying to feel executive roles that you’ve never had before.

There are several things to consider when selecting someone for a newly created role. Who will determine the compensation structure? How much experience do they need? Can you handle hiring for this position internally?

If this will be a new position at your company, it can be hard to answer these questions alone. You need the expertise of an executive search firm. In ways, retaining a search firm is a consultative partnership.

Throughout the process, if you have questions about compensation or job roles, they can advise you based on industry knowledge of the job market.

Maintain Confidentiality

Do you have an underperforming executive you’re hoping to replace? You may have to find their replacement before they are terminated or ready to leave their current role—which is awkward.

Hiring talent in this way requires confidentiality and trust. A firm will ask you questions to determine which qualities were lacking in the current leader and strive to fill the position with a candidate that meets all of your qualifications.

Eliminate Biases and Encourage Diversity

If you have internal candidates involved in a job search, biases in the hiring process can be a significant issue.

With access to executive search services, you’ll have an objective, third-party view to ensure that candidates are selected based on merit and not who they are or who they know.

Firms also have access to technology resources to identify candidates from a diverse, active candidate pool. This technology eliminates unconscious biases related to age, race, gender, and ethnicity.

Many HR leaders admit that their company’s leadership lacks diversity. However, it’s apparent that diversity helps companies excel—companies with above-average diversity scores report 45% more innovation revenue.

Without access to the right technology, it’s difficult for an organization to diversity on its own. This issue is what leads many executive search firms to provide services that focus on meeting diversity and inclusion benchmarks.

The Executive Search Firm Process

Now that you have read an overview of the benefits of using an executive recruitment company for your next executive hire, let’s talk about what the process is like.

The process varies from firm to firm, but the core steps are outlined by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), the organization that represents retained search firms.

The following are the necessary steps firms take when hiring employees.

1. Retain an Executive Search Firm

Execute search firms work by retainer and require an exclusive contract.

The contract typically states that the firm will serve as the sole representative of the search for candidates (externally and internally). It will also outline engagement timing and any off-limit agreements or other issues relevant to the search.

2. Hold Launch Meetings

Next, the retained executive search firm sits down with the hiring executive and any relevant stakeholders. They discuss the job role and its requirements.

These meetings can include anyone, but often include members of the executive team, board members, peers, and any subordinates. The firm will seek to gather necessary information about the role’s requirements.

The consultant will also witness the management style and corporate culture of your company. These are essential in understanding who would excel at the company.

3. Create the Position and Candidate Specification

The search firm is responsible for drafting the description of the job position. The description will detail the job’s reporting relationships, responsibilities, and objectives.

Next, the candidate specification is drafted, which outlines core competencies, soft skills, and the preferred level of experience.

The final document serves as a touchstone and defines all of the requirements of the position. It will be returned to over and over again to keep searches from spiraling out of control.

Once you approve the document, your company will use it to market the position to your candidate pool.

4. Develop a Search Strategy

The team responsible for the search now develops a strategy and targets companies that are most likely to provide a successful candidate. They consider the level and scope of similar roles, including other significant points such as corporate culture, office location, and company ranking.

During this phase, it’s time to delineate companies that are off-limits due to sensitive client relationships.

5. Conduct Research

Now, the fun part: the team conducts original research to profile and target ideal candidates. This strategy is a blueprint that maps reporting relationships and helps build organizational charts of target teams.

Traditionally, firms perform most of this research online. However, they will now also search within their own database, using proprietary information services, and comb social networks such as LinkedIn to find prospective candidates.

6. Search Within Networks

In addition to online research, top executive search firms will turn to their network of sources for any candidate referrals and calibrations. These networks include professionals in journalism, professional associations, and other relevant groups.

Any suggest candidates from these sources are added to the firm’s pool of prospects.

7. Qualify Candidates

The next step is to see who out of the pool of candidates meets the primary requirements of the vacated role. The search team will contact the candidates to gather details on their motivations, including what it would take for them to feel comfortable moving to a new organization.

The search team goes over the list of interested, qualified prospects to decide whether more research is necessary or they’re satisfied enough to begin in-depth interviews.

8. Interview Top Prospects

If the candidate pool is stable, the firm will schedule interviews and evaluate the top candidates in an in-depth interview that outlines their career history.

The consultant will evaluate the candidate against the candidate specification document during the interview. During this, the consultant will take care not to jeopardize confidentiality. In most cases, candidates are pre-referenced when possible to verify past performance.

Those who don’t make the cut are quickly closed out.

9. Prepare Candidate Profiles

Each candidate that the firm believes is a good fit to present to you will get a candidate profile.

This profile is a report that outlines the candidate’s career history, education, any honors and awards, and an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. It will state the prospect’s overall appropriateness for the position.

The candidate profile will also highlight the candidate’s key motivators, red flags, and deal-making details for closing.

10. Review Presented Candidates

Throughout the search, you’ll receive regular updates from the firm at progress meetings. They will work closely with you to refine the list to three to six strong contenders.

Once those contenders are established, the firm wills schedule meetings for interviews between you and the candidates.

11. Conduct Interviews

As the interview takes place, you’ll work with the firm to whittle the selection down to only a few finalists. Those who don’t interest you are then closed out.

12. Check All References

The executive search firm will contact any references provided by the final candidates, as well as any other sources the firm is familiar with.

Third-party vendors typically verify employment details and academic credentials, but it’s the firm’s responsibility to follow-through.

13. Extend an Offer and Close the Candidate

Finally, when you select the final candidate, the consultant will work closely with you to position an offer with the candidate. They will also help negotiate a compensation package that is acceptable to both parties.

When the executive accepts the job offer and agrees to join your organization, the search firm will close out the engagement.

Leave Hiring Employees to the Executive Search Consultants

When it comes to hiring top executives, there is a multitude of factors and obstacles that arise during the hiring process. Do you have the time, money, and resources to fill critical positions on your own?

Outsourcing an executive search allows you and your employees to focus more on the essential aspects of your business. And when you know the firm you hire selects from a diverse talent pool and vets them vigorously, you can rest assured knowing your new leader will be an ideal fit for your organization.

Looking to hire? Our specialty is providing consistent pipelines of leading, driven executives for corporations, start-ups, and growing organizations. We’d love to hear from you, so contact us today to get started.