For Clients

What is meant by executive search?

Executive search (often referred to as headhunting) is a discrete, specialized and process driven service used to identify, qualify, screen and recruit hard to hire, highly qualified personnel for whom there is strong competition in the market.

The high impact roles executive search firms focus on are typically higher level positions. However, in some markets, there has been a move towards using executive search for lower level positions driven by the fact that there are few suitable candidates for some roles.

As a general rule, executive search is limited to roles that pay base salaries of more than $100,000.

Some clients use executive search firms for advisory mandates that do not result in a candidate being hired. Examples include:

  • Succession Planning
  • Organizational Analysis
  • Career Coaching
  • Compensation & Benefits Analysis
  • Outplacement Services
  • Other Management of Change Initiatives
What is the difference between an executive search firm and a recruitment agency?

Target Market: Executive search firms look to fill a low number of high value roles in any given period. Recruitment agencies focus on a high volume of lower value mandates.

Target Candidate: Executive search firms typically focus on hard to hire, passive candidates (those who are not actively looking for work). Such candidates usually do not respond to unsolicited approaches online. For this reason, executive search firms usually do not post open positions on jobs boards or broadcast opportunities on social media.

Exclusivity: As executive search is seen as a collaborative consulting process, these firms will only work on an exclusive basis. Recruitment agencies usually operate on a high volume, lower level, transactional basis in which they compete in a “first past the post” fashion. Candidate “ownership” can be an issue for recruitment agencies whereas executive search firms own the process, not the candidate.

Pricing Model: Executive search firms are retained prior to the commencement of a mandate and paid a success fee upon completion; longer searches usually include an interim fee. Work is almost always guaranteed with re-perform obligations in the event a placement does not work out. Recruitment agencies are usually only paid success fees though some do second recruiters to offices of larger clients when hiring large numbers of employees.

Why consider retained search (executive search) versus contingent search (recruitment agency)?

If you are looking to: (a) hire a high impact, hard to hire candidate and/or (b) fill a senior level role and/or (c) conduct a confidential search, then an executive search firm is most likely your best route.

If you are looking to hire a large number of people quickly and cheaply, and/or harvest a large number of active candidates’ resumes, and do not mind playing a lead role in the screening process, then a recruitment agency is the way to go.

What is different about The Energists?

The Energists, an executive search firm, has a niche focus in the energy sector and has been operating successfully since 1979. Since then the firm has built an impressive portfolio of work and each year is recognised by the Houston Business Journal as one of Houston’s largest retained search firms.

The firm’s key staff are industry veterans and truly understand the market in which they play. This gives The Energists the intrinsic ability to dispense informed advice to their clients and access passive candidates for each mandate they take on.

How do I choose an executive search firm?

In lieu of a referral to a firm by a trusted source, it is important to deploy rigourous analysis when selecting the best vendor for your needs. Entry barriers to the recruitment industry are low.

Ask yourself the following questions when selecting a firm:

  • Is the firm a generalist or specialist and what is right for this mandate?
  • Does the firm understand the role I am describing? Look for positive and proactive feedback and ask for some market commentary.
  • Does this firm ever turn down work? The right answer is yes.
  • How long has the firm been around, overall and within the sector?
  • Do they have client testimonials and can I reach out to specific individuals to verify the same?
  • Can their staff describe their process confidently and in detail? If not, they are likely a contingent recruiter masquerading as an executive search firm.
  • Ask about research methodology – are they “black book” recruiters recycling the same old candidates, LinkedIn surfers or a well networked, research driven organization?
What are the steps in the executive search process?

The salient steps in any executive search process are fairly common across the industry and broadly defined as follows:

  • Initial Client Engagement
  • Kick Off Meeting / Deep Dive
  • Agree the “Selling Memorandum”
  • Long List / Talent Mapping
  • Short List Generation
  • Enhanced Screening & Due Diligence
  • Priority Candidate Ranking
  • Client Interviews
  • Offer and Negotiation
  • Exit and Onboarding
  • Post Hire Check in

Each firm will have its own approach to the above steps and this is how they achieve competitive advantage.

What are the key mechanisms by which an executive search mandate can run into difficulties?

Problem areas for executive search assignments are usually around managing both client and candidate expectations. Therefore it is important that each party’s wants and needs are agreed and clearly communicated from the outset.

Common areas to focus on include:

  • Timing – expected duration of the search, this will vary based on planned hire date and complexity of the search;
  • Candidate Profile – is it reasonable to expect candidate skills and experiences laid out that actually exist or did we just describe a “Unicorn”?;
  • Compensation & Benefits – is what the client is offering reasonable with today’s market?;
  • Search Firm Competency – is this firm the right one for this space? Do they have the required competency and network to be successful or, am I having to spend time guiding them myself?;
  • Timeliness – sometimes searches run into difficulties at the end of the process when the ideal candidate(s) has (have) been engaged but an excessive delay occurs between the final evaluation and decision to hire and/or offer letter being extended. This can cause candidates to disengage and interest levels to wane.
Whom do I contact about a potential search?

Please fill out our contact form here or use our chat box and you will be promptly dealt with.

For Candidates

How do I engage with an executive search firm?

The easy answer is that you do not, they will come to you.

However, this is not always true and there may be times when you feel like you are considering a job change and would benefit from some impartial advice. In this case, reaching out to an Executive Search firm may make sense.

To do so, it is best to engage only with firms knowledgeable about your industry / function / domain. Desk based and word of mouth research will help you decide who is worth dealing with and who should be avoided. From there, reach out to them and gauge how knowledgeable they are and how well you are treated. Keep in touch with them as required

What should I expect from an executive search firm?

You should expect to be treated professionally and discretely. While Executive Search firms’ clients are the hiring companies and not the candidates, most are keen to connect with quality candidates outside of a specific mandate for no other reason than broadening their network and market knowledge. In return you can solicit some career guidance, albeit in an informal manner.

Should I pay for executive search services?

Never, and if anyone asks you for money, it is likely a scam.

How will my information be kept confidential?

This is a great question. GDPR is now making what was once an ethical expectation a legal requirement. Executive Search companies should never pass your personal details to anyone without your express written permission.

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