Five Questions to Consider When Deciding to Engage an Executive Search Firm


Why Should I?

With the birth of the Internet and the abundance of job posting sites, many predicted the end of the recruiting industry. The growth of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and professional networks such as LinkedIn only fueled this belief. 

Although recruiters are still alive and well, many employers still wonder, “Why should I invest valuable dollars in an executive search firm?” 

Passive Candidates

While many roles can be filled through a firm’s internal recruitment process, there are certain positions – especially those critical to a company’s success – that are particularly challenging to fill.  These are the roles that perpetually remain on the Careers page; the roles that just seem to linger on. 

The candidates that employers have on their “Wish List” rarely answer job postings.  They are too busy being gainfully employed and valued by their employer.  In recruitment lingo, these are the passive candidates – those who could be enticed into a new role but are not actively looking. 

Rolling Up the Sleeves

An executive search firm worth its salt will be well networked and utilize advanced methodologies to identify viable candidates wherever they may be hiding.  They will have experience in their focus industries and understand the nuances that separate an on-target candidate from a mediocre one.

However, the true value of a search firm can be seen in their willingness to roll up their sleeves and make call after call.  To not give up until the client is satisfied and the search is completed.  This determination is vital when recruiting those hard-to-recruit passive candidates.  At times, a search may require contacting 200 – 300 candidates.  Most hiring firms are not equipped to undertake such a project. 

How to Decide

In the last analysis, however, the decision to utilize an executive search firm is not an easy one considering the financial investment and commitment involved.  

Therefore, the following five questions can help in deciding whether all avenues have been exhausted and whether the time is ripe to engage a retained search firm. 

  1. As they say, “birds of a feather flock together”.  People within your organization will likely have a Rolodex of colleagues who could fill the role. Have you asked for referrals from those in your company?  Do you have an employee referral program? 
  2. Has your human resources staff posted the position on appropriate job boards and contacted their networks? Although this approach does not normally generate the most qualified pool of candidates, when you cast your net wide enough, you never know what you might catch.
  3. Are you clear as to the necessary qualifications of the candidate and the goals for the position? It is important that senior management will all be on the same page.  When there is a lack of consensus, it is hard to make a hire.
  4. Do you need to recruit passive candidates? Would they need to be approached one by one?  Would they need to be convinced as to why this would be a good career move?
  5. Is the unfilled position costing your company money? Is it hurting your relationship with a key client?  Is it negatively affecting your chances to obtain new business?  Are your deliverables falling behind?

Your Approach to the Decision

When choosing a search firm, your approach should be the same as when engaging any other outside services firm.  You are hiring an expert service that streamlines a process which would be inefficient and overly time-consuming to perform in-house.

Hopefully the above five questions will assist in making this decision easier.