Companies retain an executive search firm when they want to identify the best possible candidate for a leadership position. Executive search firms specialize in reaching a broader, more diverse, and uniquely skilled network of candidates that companies typically can’t reach. Retained search firms generally have a trusted network and can more easily connect with passive job seekers who may be the perfect fit for a search.
Executive or retained search firms work on specific executive level searches for companies at the VP, C-suite, and Board level. These searches are unlike typical openings and there are a variety of reasons to use an executive search firm to fill the opening. There are lists with more than twenty reasons, but we have boiled it down to three primary reasons companies should use an executive search firm.
The first reason is confidentiality. This actually cuts both ways. Often, executive level searches are kept confidential. The executive search firm working on the search will not post the job online, and will often reach out to prospective candidates without identifying the company.
The company could have a variety of reasons for wanting to keep the search private. The reason most often cited is that there may be an existing employee in the role they are seeking to replace. The reverse of this is also true in that many executives will only work with executive search firms to protect their privacy. Very often, the best candidates are employed, and any word leaking out that they are entertaining a new opportunity could have devastating consequences for their career. If you want to find the best possible candidates, using a retained executive search firm is sometimes the only way to reach them.
The second reason is value. Finding the best executives is a difficult process. It takes time, resources, and money. Companies that think they can handle it in house often spend far more time than they initially anticipated. The drain on their HR department is significant, and the lost productivity as a search drags on becomes tangible. An executive search firm handles the entire process for you. Your team is able to stay focused on other priorities and the search is handled by a partner that knows best practices and has a network of qualified candidates.
Additionally, executive search firms are far more likely to place a candidate that will be successful. The cost of conducting another search within a year to 18 months can be devastating in terms of morale, productivity, and financial resources. By working closely with you and screening the candidates carefully, there is a higher success rate when working with an executive search firm. And, if the search didn’t work out, most reputable firms will repeat it at no cost to you.
The third reason is culture. This may be the biggest impact a new executive makes at the company. If you think about skill set, 99% of executives at the VP, C-Suite, or Board level are going to have the requisite job skills to be considered. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the role they’re currently in. Once you’ve ticked that off, the differentiator becomes culture fit.
What is their leadership style? How do they communicate? What is their philosophy on team development? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but their style needs to mesh with your company’s approach. Lack of culture fit is a key reason executives leave new positions. Executive search firms focus on culture fit throughout the process. They use assessments, references, and personal knowledge to screen each candidate for fit before they share their information with the company.
If you still aren’t sure if you should use an executive search firm, send us a note. At Sheer Velocity, our recruiters are both partners and trusted advisers to you. Our proprietary Corporate Cultural Alignment Survey uncovers traits that may be missed by a standardized assessment test to bring you the best candidate for your hiring needs.