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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
The salient steps in any executive search process are fairly common across the industry and broadly defined as follows:
Each firm will have its own approach to the above steps and this is how they achieve competitive advantage.
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:
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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
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.
Never, and if anyone asks you for money, it is likely a scam.
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.