You have another opening for your senior team and rather than ask your HR team to spend the time and resources they don’t have working on the position, you’ve decided to hire a retained executive search firm. Congratulations, you’ve just improved your ability to find the best possible fit for your team. But now you’re asking yourself, what should I look for when hiring a retained executive search firm?
Not to worry, you’re not alone. Working with a retained search firm is different than contingency firms. Retained search firms have the experience and resources to deliver you only the top candidates. You will save valuable time, reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person, and eliminate the awkwardness of negotiating all of the details personally.
So what do you need to look for when hiring a retained search firm. Outside of their fee structure, below outlines the top three questions to ask so you can make sure you’re getting the best firm for your needs.
What is your process?
This is the most important aspect and key differentiator between firms. Every executive search firm is going to be able to provide you with the same ‘service’. It’s how they deliver that service that matters. Working with a retained executive search firm is developing a relationship. You should consider this a long term engagement. Can you see yourself working with them in a year, five years?
Retained firms are an extension of your company. They exist to help you fill the most critical roles at your company. Make sure you understand how they do this. How do they identify, access, engage, and vet your candidates? Beyond technical skills, how do they go about determining culture fit? What is their onboarding procedure? What type of guarantee do they offer to ensure successful placements?
Who will be managing my search?
This question is focused on the ongoing relationship you hope to develop with your search firm. All too often, the large firms will pass you off to junior associates as soon as you’ve signed on the dotted line. Boutique firms keep senior recruiters on each assignment. Typically, these recruiters started at the large firms and were looking for a better, more personal approach for their clients. Make sure you know who will be your primary contact on the search.
Have you conducted this type of search before?
This question will help you understand their track record and experience. Are they successful in placing people with this type of experience? Or perhaps it’s a geographic search or cultural need. How many similar searches have they handled and how long have those people been in their role?
This question also speaks to industry specialization. There are many firms that will promote specialization as a benefit and reason to work with them over firms that are focused on a variety of industries or searches. The challenge with specialized firms is that they tend to have large non solicitation lists. While they may have more knowledge about a specific industry, they also work with a large number of companies in that industry and are unable to contact people who work at these companies. Therefore, they simply can’t talk to a majority of the best candidates for your opening, potentially leaving you with the b-list candidates.