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When To Use An Executive Search Firm?

An Executive search firm is something that affects every business and every level of management. The ability to recruit great talent is key to the ultimate success or failure of a business. Companies will use executive search firms so that they do not have to sort through possibly hundreds of applications for a job. These days, there are more people applying for the same position and companies do not have the time to sift through that many applications. They will, therefore, hire a recruitment agency to take care of this part of the process and to whittle the number of candidates down to a manageable level. Business owners and executives do not have the time and in many cases do not have the skills to find the perfect candidate, so outsourcing to an executive search firm will be the best solution.

Executive search firms are retained by clients in an advisory capacity. Typically used for senior-level executive positions and board directors, executive search firms partner with clients to identify, assess and select the very best possible candidate. They identify a slate of the most qualified candidates that would fit well with the client’s culture and have the right background and experience for the specific opportunity.

There are many reasons why companies are hesitant to engage an executive search firm to help them hire leadership talent. Whether it’s because they think they can hire an executive leader on their own, they don’t want to pay the cost of retaining a firm, or they’re just skeptical of the process, these companies are ultimately missing out on an opportunity to hire the best leader for their company. There’s a lot of benefits of using an Executive Search Firm, they help you find the best person by providing access to a wider, deeper pool of potential candidates. For critical roles, there’s a huge difference between an adequate candidate and an outstanding one, so you don’t want to limit your possibilities to the 5 to 10% of people who are actively looking for a new position right now. By proactively seeking out people who fit the profile, whether or not they’re in the market for a new opportunity, search firms provide you with more and better options for high-level positions.

Employers use an executive search firm when a search is important enough to warrant the investment and they are relying on search firms to help fill their executive ranks with the talent they need to stay competitive. Even with the use of executive search firms on the rise in the quest for top talent, many companies still rely on their own in-house resources to fill most of their open positions. The reasons for this are varied. Some companies believe they have sufficient resources and knowledge in-house, whereas others simply want to avoid paying a fee to outside search firms, regardless of their ability to fill mission-critical positions.

There are eight scenarios when investing in a search firm is a good idea. These eight scenarios are common cases for when it makes sense to hire help.

  1. Chase for the best

    If you use an executive search firm you’re statistically more likely to access the best job-seekers on the market (both active and passive). If you’re looking for an ideal candidate who will check all the boxes, of course, you need to work with someone who really knows what they are doing because recruiting is one of those things that anybody can do and just about anyone can find a person to do a job. Recruitment agencies may have some of the best talent already registered on their books and it could mean finding the perfect candidate sooner than later. Not only will an executive recruiter have the best jobs, but   they may also have access to the best candidates. Companies will benefit from the fact that a recruitment firm may have some of the best talent already registered on their books and it could mean finding the perfect candidate sooner rather than later.

  2. You’ve tested but have not experienced success

    Working with a recruiter open your pool of candidate beyond your network, either you have an active search that has been open for too long or you’ve used up your knowledge and recruiting tricks and you are not sure what to do next because failing to use recruitment agencies means that some candidates will not see these fantastic job advertisements and may miss the opportunity to work in a fantastic company with an excellent package.

  3. Confidential Search

    Sometimes you may need to replace an underperforming executive while they’re still in their current role. This type of search requires confidentiality and trust to get the job done. Companies conduct confidential searches when they want to replace someone who is still with the firm. In these situations, the criteria generally include a need for confidentiality, speed and finding a person with a highly specific skill set. If you have an employee that is under-performing, you may want to start recruiting before you let them go. Or you may need to recruit talent from organizations that your company does business with. In these cases, a search firm may be used to help keep things quiet until the new executive is ready to step into the position.

  4. Time & Resources

    The hiring process can be very time consuming, and especially the initial stages of sorting through applications. If your ‘day job’ is not recruiting, you may not have the time or focus to dedicate to an important search. Or your day job may be recruiting but you have too many open and not enough time. When you lack the time and resources, search firms are a great resource for giving an executive search the time and resources necessary. Giving a recruitment agency the task of creating a shortlist of candidates for a position in a company is good business sense.

  5. The most Standing out

    Most often, employers call on an executive search firm for most important roles, especially c-suite or executive leadership roles like CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CTO (Chief Technical Officer), CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer), etc. Making a bad hire in your C-suite can have disastrous consequences. There’s an art to finding qualified, top-performing executives and the search for the right candidate can make the process far longer and far tougher. Not only are leadership positions crucial to the success of the business, but it’s helpful to have a third-party perspective to avoid blind hiring because sometimes internal team members see only what they want to see.

  6. Fresh Roles

    Generally, companies are used to filling their core positions, why go to an outside firm when you are in a rhythm? But then they create a brand-new position in the company and they don’t know where to begin. New roles are particularly difficult to recruit for because, typically, there is no benchmark to serve as a point of reference when determining the skills and temperament needed. This is also true for roles in which the predecessor was unsuccessful, and the role will need to be redefined/department rebuilt, etc. The need for guidance increases exponentially when the position falls outside the standard scope or target profile at other companies. Generally, successful companies find themselves in this position and quickly lean on the experience of an executive recruitment firm. Hiring them to come in and assess your workforce is a reliable way to get a fuller picture of the in-house talent you already have and also lets you know which options are available to you externally.

  7. Underwater Basket Weavers

    Several candidates may have the necessary skills on paper, but an executive firm will be able to tell which candidate has the right potential and personality for long term success and will ultimately contribute to the business’s future growth. In addition to executive-level positions, some companies offer such a unique product or service that they require rare skill sets that are essential for driving core, strategic areas of the business. Pop culture may refer to these candidates as unicorns, they call it Underwater Basket Weavers because, well, how many of those are there out there? Executive recruiters are used to developing a strategy for finding this ‘ needle in a haystack’ candidates.

  8. More passive candidates, less active job seekers 

    Executive search firms often have more connections with passive candidates, those who are not actively looking for a new job and can tap into their pipelines to search for candidates that might not otherwise be on a company’s radar. While active job seekers aren’t necessarily bad, chances are good that passive candidates aren’t going to apply to online job postings. In fact, some of them aren’t even really looking for a new job. However, they would be open to considering a new opportunity if that opportunity was presented to them. Executive recruiters know where these passive candidates are and how to present such opportunities.

Choosing the right executive recruiting firm to fill your organization’s next senior management vacancy starts with committing to some research before the search process even begins. This is one of the most important decisions your company will make, in part because of the potential upside the right executive can deliver and in part because of the huge cost of making a bad executive hire.

Whether you decide to use in-house resources or hire an outside consulting firm, your goal should always be to ensure that you will be able to identify and attract top-notch candidates for each position and build or restore your company’s talent pool. Nothing is more critical to your company’s long-term success.



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