Choosing an Executive Search Partner

As you know, finding the right executive search partner can make the difference in finding the right candidates and growing your business or falling behind your competitors due to bad hires and lost time. Hiring at the executive level always carries a level of risk. There is no surefire way to know that the candidate who interviews well is going to be the right fit in the long run. But one way to improve your odds is choosing an executive search partner who puts your best interest first.

If you’re looking for an executive search partner, consider both the current opening you’re trying to fill, and future openings at the executive, c-suite, and even board level. Finding a great partner is more than one-off engagements. You should be looking to build a relationship with your executive search partner. The more they know and understand your business, including the culture you’ve built, the better they can help identify the types of candidates that fit what you’re building.

Also consider how much you want your internal team to handle. Is your HR team staffed with recruiting experts? Are there certain elements of the process, like the administrative work, they want to keep in house? One of the main reasons to bring in a partner to support your internal team is to reach passive job seekers who are not actively looking and typically won’t respond to companies directly. Often, these attractive candidates prefer to only work through trusted executive search firms who they trust to keep their interest in a role quiet and confidential.

Great executive search firms also know how to assess the soft skills of candidates, not just their accomplishments from a business standpoint. Any candidate you are going to consider for an executive role is going to look like a superstar on paper. It’s the soft skills that set the real superstars apart from the accomplished candidates. 

Top executive search recruiters have built their database by getting to know candidates beyond their resume. They understand their leadership style, how they make decisions, how they lead and manage teams, how they communicate with peers, and how they handle conflict among other skill sets. They have known many of their candidates for years and have built trust with them. Most candidates know how to say the right thing in an interview, with an executive search partner, you’ll know it’s a genuine answer and reflective of their actual style and not just the answer they think you want to hear.

Beyond their ability to find hidden ‘passive’ candidates and screen for soft skills, another consideration in choosing the right executive search partner is their fit with your industry, culture, and process. Not every great firm is going to be the right firm for you. For enterprise level companies, the top recruiting firms like Korn Ferry and Spencer Stuart often fit the bill due to their global size. But if you’re looking for more personalized service, then you’re looking for a boutique executive search firm that takes a consultative approach.

Each executive search firm has its own process. Be sure to ask questions about their approach to culture fit, how they assess and qualify a candidate, what they know about your industry and your business specifically, and what kind of post-hire support you can expect from them. Are they genuinely interested and engaged during their interactions with you? Are they curious and asking smart questions of you? Are they willing to invest the time to get to know your business? Do they have a clear vision of the role?

Working with an executive search partner is an important decision for your business. If it’s your first time, it’s going to be costlier than how you’ve handled hiring in the past. However the ROI in freeing up resources, improving your odds of finding the right candidate, and the time saved in the search far outweigh the increase in cost. Identifying the right executive search partner is one of the best decisions you can make to grow your business. If you have questions or would like to learn more, send us a note.