When Should I Use an Executive Search Firm?

When Should I Use an Executive Search Firm?

When to Use an Executive Search Firm

Generally, employers use an executive search firm when a search is important enough to warrant the investment. I use the word “investment” for a reason.  A retained executive search will likely cost you a minimum of $50,000 and averages $100,000 or more — typically one-third of a candidate’s first-year total cash compensation. Typically, these are senior-executive roles with salaries averaging $300-thousand or more.

First, it needs to be worth the investment

If an executive search has to be worth the investment, how do you do the math? The importance of a senior executive role can be measured financially. How much money might this executive make for your company? If you don’t find the right person, how much money might this person lose? If the cost of not filling the role with the right candidate is significantly higher than the cost of the search, then you may be ready to consider investing in the services of a retained executive search firm.

Retained search firm is not right for every search every time. There are some roles that are not worth making that kind of investment. I often brainstorm with senior executives about ways they can build their teams without incurring the expense of an executive search firm. You can get a lot of lift with employee referrals, job postings, and LinkedIn. But you have to have the time and bandwidth to do the recruiting yourself. Recruiting top performing executives is labor-intensive, complex, and requires a rare set of skills and expertise. That is why retained search firms exist. In fact,  they are in such demand that, despite the economic downturn, their average fee for an engagement has increased.

Companies and hiring executives retain executive search firms for any one of the following reasons:

1. Good just is not good enough. You require a senior executive candidate who is truly great.
If hiring top performing talent available is important to your company, a search firm can help you do the rigorous work required for game changing hires.

2. The search is incredibly important at the senior executive level.  
Searches for C-level positions that report into the Chief Executive Officer usually are too important not to go out to a retained search firm. Executives at that level can make or break a company. A retained search firm can mitigate the risk.

3. You are seeking a candidate with a rare mix of skills. 
If you  have an important search in which you are seeking the proverbial needle in the haystack, a search firm can help you get it done.  Better executive search firms will deliver a slate of candidates with the right mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities along with the requisite cultural fit.

4. You have a search for a senior executive position that you just created.
When an executive search falls outside your area of expertise, an executive search firm can plug the knowledge gap with their domain know-how.

5. You have to replace an under-performing executive while he is still in the role. 
For companies that need to line up a replacement while the senior executive is still in the role, search firms offer a much-needed veil of secrecy.

6. You have to recruit for target company with which your company has good relationships.
If you need to recruit top executive talent from partner firms with which your company does business, the confidentiality that search firms offer helps avoid ruffling feathers.

7. Your senior leadership team lacks diversity.
Because women, Black and Latino candidates are not well-represented at the senior executive levels, search firms can help level the playing field by conducting original research to ensure equal opportunity for all candidates.

8. Your lack internal bench strength and have few successors to your senior executives.
If you sense a key executive might be on the verge of leaving or that you could benefit from top-grading, a succession bench help you tee up executive hires in advance of need.

9. You do not have the time or resources to take on an executive search.
If you already have too much to do and too little time, taking on an important executive search can quickly become its own full time job. That is what search firms do.

10. You have tapped out your personal and company networks for candidate referrals.
If you have exhausted your network of connections for possible referrals, it is time to access another network. Executive search consultants are among the most well-networked people in the business.

11. You have an important executive search that is taking too long.
Whenever a search takes to long, it is time to call in reinforcements to speed time-to-hire for challenging searches and those with compressed timelines.

12. You want to give your company a strategic advantage through better hires.
Retained search firms are in the business of delivering top performers — the 20% that are so effective they are responsible 80% of the results. Any time you have a senior executive search, it is an opportunity to trade up to a top performer and to drive results.

The Good Search is a retained executive search firm in the Greater New York City area that specializes in media and technology. We are here to answer any questions you may have when you are ready to move forward with a search engagement.

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Is Your Executive Search Firm Ready for Big Data?

Is Your Executive Search Firm Ready for Big Data?

The executive search industry has witnessed a dramatic shift in how board and senior-level executives are recruited. But what has not changed in how traditional retained search firms recruit. In fact, executive search “best practices” have stayed pretty much the same since they were first developed a half-century ago. And that’s a problem.

The average executive search firm lacks the data expertise to harness the power of Big Data. There is now a treasure trove of data available on candidates. However, in most cases, it is not current, it is not complete, and increasingly it is not structured. Moreover, there is so much information available, recruiters are suffering from information overload. Increasingly, they are missing top talent, not because the candidates are hard to find, but because they cannot see the forest for the trees.

Executive search “best practices” were never designed to deal with Big Data. In other words, the so-called “best practices” are no longer the best.  Moreover, traditional retained search firms haven’t invested in the serious research expertise needed to mitigate the risk and to harness the power of Big Data.

Wrangling all that information takes deep investigative and big data analytics skills — expertise you typically do not find in the world of recruiting. It represents both a threat and an opportunity.

(Of course, our retained search practice is wrapped around our robust research division Intellerati.)

We welcome your thoughts and comments on recent trends you’ve witnessed.

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What Are The Greatest Myths of Search Firm Selection

What Are The Greatest Myths of Search Firm Selection

What Are the Greatest Myths of Search Firm Selection?

Search firm selection is tricky business. Over the years, retained search firms have provided guidance to prospective clients on how to select a search firm. That guidance is a one way they market their services. The search firm selection document recommends using search firms that resemble the search firm offering the guidance. Yet a number of their assertions have been adopted as the gospel truth, when that simply isn’t the case.

Moreover, the track record of traditional retained search firms is underwhelming. 40% of retained searches fail-to-complete. An estimated 40-50% the executives who are recruited don’t make it past their first year. Clearly, something needs to change. A good way to begin is by exposing some of the myths regarding what an employer should look for in selecting an executive search firm. To search smarter, we must begin to challenge old assumptions and to think for ourselves.

Myth #1: You need to specialize in our industry

On the face of it, specialization seems to make sense. Clearly, you want a firm that understands your business and its players. But beware. Industry specialization sets up client blockage. A search firm, particularly the larger firms, will not be able to recruit from all your favorite target companies. The reason? A number of those companies are already clients of the firm.

Of course, the search firm will promise to tell you whenever there is a conflict. But why should you believe them? If they base their fees on a percentage of compensation, they already have demonstrated they are comfortable with conflicts-of-interest. The best way to avoid client blockage is to do business with boutique search firms.

Myth #2:  30% Fee is Acceptable

Retained search firms, on average, charge 30% of annual first year total compensation of the candidate they place plus expenses. While it isn’t technically price-fixing, don’t you find it strange so many retained search firms charge exactly the same percentage? Moreover, percentage fee sets up an inherent conflict-of-interest. It rewards any firm that artificially inflates the salary of the candidate they recruit. That conflict could be avoided entirely with a fixed fee.

Myth #3 – Find a search partner who knows all the best candidates.

If a retained search partner tells you they know “all the best candidates”, that simply is not true.  Great retained search partners work their sources the way a great reporter does. (As a former award-winning investigative reporter, I know a great deal about the care and feeding of sources.) But there is a theoretical limit to the number of people with whom we can have a social relationship. Dunbar’s Number. We humans top out at about 150 people and that includes teachers from schools and family members. Moreover, just because a retained search partner knows an executive does not mean he can recruit that person. Executives do not accept jobs just because a golfing-buddy headhunter told him. Conversely, do not assume that a candidate will refuse to engage just because they’re hearing from a recruiter for the first time. Gifted headhunters have ways of getting their calls returned, regardless. In light of the many ways we can reach out and touch a candidate, what seems to matter most is the ability to uncover all viable candidates. You usually don’t do that work from the 19th hole.

More on the myths in future posts.