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When it comes to the daunting task of making an important executive hire, companies face the decision of conducting a search in house or of hiring a professional executive search firm. Companies who have never used a search firm, though, are often confused about exactly what executive search is. Using a search firm rather than conducting a search in house is about mitigating the risk of a potential costly executive hiring mistake. It’s also about freeing up the time and energy of a company’s top management to focus on something else, like growing the business, increasing revenue, or decreasing costs.

With the stakes so high, it can be a poor investment of time and resources to conduct a major search without the help of an experienced professional. “Whenever you try to do something in house, you’re at the mercy of your own knowledge and your own expertise,” said Jeff Ketchum, President of the retained executive search firm, Automotive Recruiters International, Inc., “so working with a professionally trained and certified search consultant will bring in different perspectives and expertise from a professional who, day in and day out, focuses on these types of hiring issues.”

The Benefits

Among the most important things a certified search consultant does is to help properly define the role and the necessary talents and accountabilities. This helps companies avoid working from typical corporate job descriptions, which are often reengineered templates not suitable for executive level positions. In addition to helping the employer pinpoint exactly what they are looking for in a candidate, this informs potential candidates of exactly what is going to be expected.

Other benefits of working with a professional executive search firm include:

  • A broader audience. A retained search firm will not rely primarily on advertising. They will reach out to companies and rely on an established network to source candidates within the 90th percentile of talent. This is something that advertising alone will not accomplish under a “do it yourself” approach.
  • Access to high quality candidates who are not actively seeking new employment.
  • The mental focus of executives within the company can remain on the business, not on the search.
  • A proactive intermediary between the client and candidates.
  • Mitigation of the risk of making a costly hiring mistake. A tenured, professional, certified search consultant is not simply a recruiter, and he or she will have experience dealing with all types of hiring issues.

Retained vs. Contingency Search Firms

In considering the use of an executive search firm, it is important to know the differences between the types of firms available. The two main types are retained search firms and contingency search firms, also known as staffing agencies. Each type has its benefits.

Retained Search Firms:

  • Typically fill senior-level positions, which are seldom advertised.
  • Search proactively. The best firms will reach out to candidates who are not actively seeking employment.
  • Present candidates to one client at a time.
  • Use a research-based, consultative process.
  • Provide regular feedback to clients regarding market perception and compensation levels.
  • Handle no more than three to five assignments at any given time, giving clients full commitment and focus.
  • Provide client with comprehensive reporting and documentation.

Contingency Search Firms:

  • Typically assist organizations in finding middle-level executives and staff-level professionals.
  • Frequently represent individuals seeking placement.
  • Use a search process involving database searching, internet job postings, advertising, etc.
  • Charge a fee only upon successful placement of candidate.
  • Will shop talent around, often present candidates to multiple opportunities at once, including to your competition.
  • Employ recruiters who typically work concurrently with multiple clients.
  • Will present a plethora or resumes within one or two weeks of obtaining job order.

The Process

A quality executive search firm will begin their process by meeting with a client organization in person. In that initial meeting, the search consultant will:

  • Help outline the duties, responsibilities, and accountabilities of the position.
  • Help define the assigned metrics for measuring those accountabilities.
  • Assess the personalities involved with the hire.
  • Document these findings collaboratively with the client in a Job Scorecard.
  • Ensure that the Job Scorecard reflects exactly what the client is seeking.

After meeting with the client, the consultant will create a marketing document called an Opportunity Profile. The consultant will actively market this document to A-player candidates, who make up the top ten percent of candidates within a given marketplace. With this Opportunity Profile complete, the search firm will:

  • Assemble a strategic target list of companies, organization, and associations from which to search for talent.
  • Reach out to the target list, disseminating the Opportunity Profile while gathering as much information as possible.

The consultant will qualify and measure prospective candidates to the initial Job Scorecard, selecting eight to twelve candidates with whom to conduct competency interviews. These interviews will happen via telephone and will last roughly three hours each. From there, the consultant will:

  • Interview four to six candidates in person.
  • Assemble extensive candidate reports for the top three to four candidates and present those to the client.
  • Attend remaining interviews with the client, offering consultation and assistance in the selection process.
  • Help draft an offer letter and manage the resignation process of the chosen finalist candidate.
  • Ensure the smooth transition of the successful candidate into the role with regularly scheduled interviews through the first six months of employment.

Not Just Recruiting

Executive search is not merely a recruiting activity. It is a consultative partnership. A certified, experienced executive search consultant can work with your company to define exactly what it is you’re looking for and has the experience necessary to guide your company through potential hiring pitfalls. Working with a professional search consultant will also free up the time and energy of your company’s top management to focus on other aspects of the business.

When your company needs to make a critical, executive level hire, it can be a poor investment of time and resources to conduct the search without the consultation of a professional search firm. Executive search is proactive, and it allows your company to market an open position to the top tier of qualified professionals within your industry, most of whom are not actively seeking new employment. This is something that simply can’t be done by relying on advertising alone.

Office Locations

Fort Myers Office
P.0. Box 62093
Fort Myers, Florida 33906
Tel: +1 (239) 344-9514

Gladstone Office
P.O. Box 469
Gladstone, Michigan 49837
Tel: +1 (906) 428-9330


+1 (239) 344-9514

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