Finding the top talent that will take your company where it needs to go isn’t easy. This is why many organisations partner with an executive search firm. An executive search firm works as an extension of your business to identify and engage the best top-level executive talent in the market to match your distinct business requirements.
However, as with most things in life, there are both pros and cons of using an executive search firm to find talent. With this in mind, I talked with some of our search consultants specialising in HR, finance, and supply chain to discuss the pros and cons of using an executive search firm.
What are the biggest benefits of working with an executive search firm?
“First off, senior executives can make or break a company, so making the right appointment is extremely important. And the best candidates aren’t always actively looking for a job. An executive search firm will map the market and have access to an extensive network of passive candidates who may otherwise be inaccessible.” Janet Musgrave, HR
“We don’t just hand over a shortlist and a pile of CVs for you to sort through. We conduct rigorous competency-based and technical interviews with candidates before presenting them. We then continue to verify and vet candidates by drawing on further information. And once a shortlist has been formed, we support the organisation in selecting the preferred candidate.” Eoin Canty, Finance
“Ultimately, executive search is about matching talent to the specific needs of your business. The search firm should consider the goals you are trying to accomplish as a business and seek out the right people to help you achieve them. A good executive search firm will find candidates with the right mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities, and who also meets the requisite cultural fit. If you’re lacking diversity, for example, the search firm can help level the playing field by conducting impartial research to ensure equal opportunity for all candidates.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain
Does an external party really help your ability to secure the right talent?
“Absolutely. It’s so easy for companies to recruit the same type of people for their top team over and over again. But executive roles are constantly evolving and require different skills, capabilities, and experience to make an impact. We try to offer a fresh perspective on your current top team, identify both potential strengths and challenges, and establish the qualities you should seek to address.” Janet Musgrave, HR
“A search firm works really closely with you and becomes intimately familiar with the ins and outs of your business, your people, and your culture. They are experienced at asking the right questions to draw out the business goals and desires for the position that you may not have considered yourself and formulating a comprehensive job description. A good search firm shouldn't be afraid to challenge your thinking about the solution you want to take.” Eoin Canty, Finance
“Executive search saves you time too. Rather than having to sort through hundreds of potential candidates, you are presented with a select number of candidates who have already been screened and vetted.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain
Thinking beyond search, are there other ways an executive search firm can support organisations?
“The search firm acts essentially as an extension of your business. This puts us in a strong position to act as a trusted advisor, supporting you with things like succession planning, organisational design, and executive coaching." Janet Musgrave, HR
"In my experience, organisations are increasingly looking to executive search firms for more than just finding the most suitable talent. And in response, search firms are taking a more proactive and advisory approach to supporting organisations. Both Janet and I moved into executive search having previously worked in our respective fields, therefore we often feel we are well placed to be that trusted advisor.” Eoin Canty, Finance
What are the drawbacks to executive search?
“Of course, executive search can be perceived as expensive. Retained fees are based on a percentage of the appointed executive’s salary, and given the senior level you’re hiring for, this can be somewhat significant. But a strong candidate will ultimately pay for themselves. They will provide a return on investment much higher than simply hoping that the person who applied for the role will work out.” Janet Musgrave, HR
“Some organisations may also see executive search as a risk. Because at the end of the day, there’s no absolute guarantee of a hire. This is why it’s important to partner with a search firm with extensive knowledge of and connections within the market that will allow them to find the talent your business needs.” James Gherardi, Supply Chain
“Going back to the third-party discussion we had earlier, it’s so important that you trust your search partner. You need to have full confidence that they understand your business and will represent you to potential candidates in the best possible way. It's important they also have deep functional expertise and will know the specific skills, capabilities, and experience you require to get your company to where it wants to be.” Eoin Canty, Finance
Every time you bring in a new senior executive, it’s an opportunity to drive your business towards where you want it to be, so you need to be able to identify and engage the very best talent. Today’s executive search firms use sophisticated talent mapping methods, have a network of contacts already in place, and utilise in-depth assessment techniques, allowing them to secure the very best executives that meet your specific business requirements.