What Are the Top Executive Search Firms in NYC?

What Are the Top Executive Search Firms in NYC?

Top Executive Search Firms in NYC


Top Executive Search Firms in NYC


In the interest of objectivity and putting a little good karma out there, below is a list of the top executive search firms in NYC, one that includes our competitors. We understand that we’re not the right search firm for every search every time. No search firm is. That is why it makes sense for any search buyer to develop a short list of search firms tailored to your company.

But as you do your research, you need to be careful. Some top search firm lists are not what they seem. From what we’ve been able to determine, at least one is a fake top executive search firms website created by one of the search firms listed in the bogus Top 20.  That “dirty data” — a top search firm that really isn’t considered among the best — appears to have fooled at least one of the more established “best of” lists to include that little-know trickster search firm in its Best Executive Recruiting Firms list.

If you happen to be in the Greater New York City area, the list of search firms below should help give you a good start. We created our list with help from Hunt Scanlon Media’s Top 50 Recruiters and, of course, our personal experience in the industry. These firms conduct senior-level executive search in the tristate region of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York and the Northeast.  While everyone has their favorites, these executive search firms have solid histories of providing searches in New England.

How to Find a Top Executive Search Firm List You Can Trust

Consider the source. If there is no source listed on a top search firm website — if there is no website owner, address, or contact information, beware. If there is a source, weigh the potential bias. Everyone has a point of view. We happen to be a retained executive search firm, one that is positioned as an alternative to traditional executive search practices. Since we advocate for smarter search and recruiting practices and make our feelings known (on this blog and elsewhere), we frequently get asked to share our short list insights. Chief executive officers, board members, and venture capitalists all come to us with the same question. “What are the top executive search firms in NYC in the retained search firm industry?”

Leading NYC Search Firms

(In alphabetical order)

Acertitude is a NYC executive search firm


Consumer; Financial; Health Care; Industrial; Private Equity; Professional Services; Technology; and Telecommunications Businesses.

Bay Street Advisers is a NYC executive search firm

Bay Street Advisors

Asset Management; Capital Markets; and Corporate and Investment Banking.  

Caldwell Partners

Consumer, Retail & e-Commerce; Education, Nonprofit & Government; Financial Services; Industrial; Life Sciences & Healthcare; Private Equity & Venture Capital; Professional Services; and Technology.

Catalyst Advisors is a NYC executive search firm

Catalyst Advisors

Life Sciences.

Diversified Search Group is a NYC executive search firm

Diversified Search Group

Consumer and Retail; Digital Media, Entertainment, and Sports; Education; Energy; Financial Services; Healthcare Services; Industrial; Life Sciences; Nonprofit and Arts & Culture; and Technology.

Egon Zehnder

Consumer; Financial Services; Health; Industrial; Private Equity; Public & Social Sector; Services; and Technology & Communications.


EMA Partners is a NYC executive search firm

EMA Partners

Consumer & Retail; Energy & Natural Resources; Financial Services; Government & Nonprofit; Healthcare & Life Sciences; Industrial & Manufactoring; and Technology & Communications.

ForceBrands is a NYC executive search firm


Beverage Industry; Food industry; Beauty Industry; Cannabis Industry; and Pet Care Industry.

Heidrick & Struggles

Consumer Markets; Education, Nonprofit and Social Enterprise; Energy; Financial Services; Healthcare and Life Sciences; Industrial; Private Equity; Professional Services; and Technology.

Herbert Mines

Omni-channel Retail; Digital & Tech; Consumer Products; Hospitality & Leisure; and Private Equity.



Korn Ferry

Consumer; Financial; Industrial; Healthcare; Life Sciences; and Technology.

Odgers Berndtson

Business Services | Professional Services; Consumer | Entertainment | Sport; Education; Financial Services; Healthcare & Life Sciences; Industrial; Public & Not For Profit; and Technology.

Options Group is a NYC executive search firm

Options Group

Capital Markets; Global Markets; Alternative Investments; Hedge Funds; Private Banking & Wealth Management; and Technology.

Russell Reynolds

Business and Professional Services; Consumer; Education; Energy; Financial Services; Healthcare; Industrial; Nonprofit; Private Equity; and Technology.

Sheffield Haworth is a NYC executive search firm

Sheffield Haworth

Consulting, Technology & Services; Corporate; Financial Services; and Real Assets. 

Slayton Search Partners

Consumer; Retail; Financial Services; Insurance; Industrial; and Private Equity.

Solomon Page is a NYC executive search firm

Solomon Page

Clinical Resource Network; Fashion & Beauty; Financial Services; Healthcare & Life Sciences; Hospitality; Media, Education & Publishing; and Specialty Financial Services. 

Spencer Stuart

Technology, Media & Telecommunications; Consumer; Financial Services; Industrial; Education, Nonprofit & Government; Private Equity; Healthcare; and Business & Professional Services.

The Good Search (TGS) is a top executive search firm in NYC

The Good Search (That’s Us)

Analytics; Artificial Intelligence; Computational Biomedicine; Data Science; Hospitality & Leisure; Internet & Retail; Machine Learning; Software; Technology; and Venture Capital & Private Equity.

True Search

Consumer; Financial; Tech; Healthcare; IT; and Life Sciences.

ZRG Partners is a NYC executive search firm

ZRG Partners

Consumer; Financial Services; Healthcare; Industrial; Life Sciences; Not-For-Profit & Education; Private Equity; Professional and technology Services; Sports, Media & Entertainment; and Technology. 

For more information, check out our post on how to build your own list of top executive search firms.

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Top Executive Search Firms List | How to Build Your Own

Top Executive Search Firms List | How to Build Your Own

Executive Search Firms Lists

How to Build Your Own

A trusted list of best executive recruiting firms comes in handy whenever you have an important senior-executive opening but lack the right search firm to fill it. The are plenty of lists out there, but it is hard to determine which one offers reliable information without a hidden bias.

In “What Top Executive Search Firms Lists Can You Trust?”, we analyze and assess a number of the top executive search firms lists. In this post, we give you guidance on how to build your own list.

Building Your Own Top Executive Search Firms List

Building your own top executive search firms list has become a necessity, if not a “best practice”. That’s because the recruiting industry’s go-to resource The Directory of Executive of Professional and Executive Recruiters by Kennedy Information is no longer being published.

Directory of Executive & Professional Recruiters

In addition, it makes sense to build your top executive search firms list. You know best what kind of search firm you need. To assist in that effort, we have a few suggestions.


What are the Steps of the Executive Search Process?

What are the Steps of the Executive Search Process?

Understanding the Executive Search Process

 The executive search process varies little from retained executive search firm to retained search firm. In fact, the basic steps of the retained search process are described by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), an organization that represents retained search firms. Every time they conduct a senior-level executive search, executive recruiters seated at the largest search firms in the world — Spencer Stuart, Russell Reynolds, Heidrick & Struggles, or Korn Ferry — as well as at the leading boutique executive search firms follow the same basic retained search process.

Of course, since the retained search process and the pricing look pretty much the same at most traditional search firms, it can be challenging for executive search buyers to figure out which firm to select. We have more on search firm selection in another post. However, before we get into the nuances, you first must learn the basic steps of the retained search process.

Step 1: Engaging the Retained Firm

Retained executives search firms work by retainer and by exclusive contract. The standard retained search contract stipulates that the firm serves as the exclusive representative of the search for external and internal candidates. It also defines engagement timing, off-limits agreements, and other issues relevant to the particular assignment.

Step 2: Holding Launch Meetings

The retained search firm meets with the hiring executive and relevant stakeholders to discuss the requirements for the role. The meetings often include board members, members of the senior executive team, peers and subordinates. These meetings enable the search firm to gather important information about the requirements of the role. More importantly, the search partner witnesses first hand the management style and corporate culture, which are essential to understanding what makes someone successful at the company.

Step 3: Creating Position and Candidate Specification

The retained search firm drafts a description of the position, detailing its reporting relationships, responsibilities, and objectives. The candidate specification details core competencies, preferred experience, and soft skills — the personal qualities that sought in the ideal candidate. The document serves as a touchstone, defining all the requirements of the role, preventing searches from veering off course. Once the client approves the document, it is used as a marketing tool with candidates.

Step 4: Setting Research Strategy

The search team develops a strategy targeting companies most likely to yield a successful candidate, including the initial list of target companies. The strategy considers the level and scope of comparable roles as well as other key data points: office location, corporate culture, and each company’s ranking. Companies that are off-limits are also delineated — companies out of which the firm will not recruit due to sensitive client relationships or because the firm has client blockage.

business man and woman corporate maze

Step 5: Conducting Original Research

Using the strategy as a blueprint, the search team conducts original research to identify and profile idea candidates, mapping the reporting relationships and often building out org charts of target teams. Traditional search firms usually do most of the research online. The search firm will also query its own candidate database, proprietary information services, and social networks such as LinkedIn to yield prospective candidates.

Step 6: Querying Sources

Search firms sound their network of sources for candidate referrals and calibrations. Sources include journalists, professional associations, and other relevant groups. Prospects that meet the requirements of the role are added to the initial list of prospects.

Step 7: Qualifying Prospects

The search team contacts prospective candidates to determine whether they meet the primary requirements of the role and gathers details on the candidate’s motivations — what it would take for that candidate to make a move to a new company. The search team reviews the list of qualified, interested prospects to determine whether more research is necessary or whether it is time to schedule in-depth interviews.

Step 8: Interviewing and Pre-referencing Top Prospects

The search consultant interviews and evaluates top prospective candidates in a deep-dive interview that steps through the career history. The executive search partner evaluates the candidate against the candidate specification through in-depth, in-person or video-conference interviews. Taking great care not to jeopardize candidate confidentiality, search firms pre-reference candidates whenever possible to verify past performance and essential soft skills. Those who are not a fit are closed out.

Step 9: Writing Candidate Profile

For those candidates the search firm presents to the client, they prepare a written Candidate Profile, a report that details the candidate’s education, career history, honors, and awards as well as an analysis and appraisal of the candidate strengths and weaknesses and appropriateness for the position. The report also highlights any key motivators, issues, and deal-making details essential to closing the candidate.

Step 10: Presenting Candidates and Tracking Progress

The search firm presents candidates at regular progress meetings. Working closely with the client, the list is refined to a slate of 3 to 6 strong contenders for the client to meet. Client-candidate meetings are then scheduled.

Step 11: Scheduling Client Interviews

Client interviews of the candidates scheduled to winnow selection down the two or three finalists.  Those that are eliminated are closed out.

Step 12: Checking References

The search team checks the candidate’s references, contacting the contacts provided by the candidate as well as other sources available to the firm. The team makes every effort to ensure discretion and confidentiality. Verification of employment and academic credentials is often performed by third-party services.  It is the consultant’s responsibility to ensure that such checks have been conducted.

Step 13: Extending the Offer

When a final candidate is selected, the search consultant works closely with the client and candidate to position the offer with the candidate, and to negotiate a package that is agreeable to both parties.

Step 14: Closing the Candidate and Search

The search team closes” the candidate when the executive accepts the offer, agreeing to join the company. The search firm then closes out the engagement by thanking those involved for a successful outcome.

Updating the Executive Search Process

The retained executive search process deserves an upgrade.

Given the many steps involved in the retained search process, the recruitment of CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, CTOs, and CIOs requires an investment of time to do it well. However, the AESC states categorically that senior-level executive search is “a time consuming if it is to be done professionally. ” That is a point with which we respectfully disagree.

Executive Search Process Time Consuming Process

Tick tock. What executive search buyers object to is the executive search process timeline. An executive search that takes too long for no apparent reason.

As a national retained search firm that specializes in technology executive search for some of the most powerful and successful companies, we understand that their businesses move at the speed of light.  We get deadlines. The executive recruiting process does not need to move at a snail’s pace. Over the years, we have innovated ways to improve the executive search process timeline and close searches more rapidly in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud, Data Science, E-commerce, Internet of Things (IoT and IIoT), Machine Learning (ML), and Software. With few exceptions, making search smarter yields faster and better hires.

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Why Do Executive Recruiters Fail?

Why Do Executive Recruiters Fail?

Why Do Executive Recruiters Fail?

There is, in executive search, such as thing as too much candidate data. Few recruiters understand how to wrangle it. They lack the necessary deep data expertise to gather, parse, and analyze data to make executive search smarter. In fact, many executive recruiters still turn to “name generation” — research aimed at generating more candidate names. Information overload is the problem and not the solution.

Recruiters didn’t need much research expertise a decade ago. But these days, they need to up their data science skill-set. The amount of information has multiplied exponentially. Executive recruiters are overwhelmed by resumes, social media profiles, email, tweets, and texts. They lack the ability to match force with a tsunami of career data. They cannot separate the signal from the noise. They miss perfect candidates because too many lesser executives get in the way. As a result, executive recruiters fail.

Googling a prospective candidate’s name, rank, and serial number is easy.

You know what’s harder? Deep web data.

The amount of digital data is increasing at a stunning rate. In the past 10 years, the amount of digital data has grown by 5,000%. IDC, a global market intelligence firm, estimates that there will be 175,000 EB, or 175 zettabytes (ZB) of digital data by 2025. Does your search firm even know what a zettabyte is? It should.

A zettabyte is a measure of storage capacity and is 2 to the 70th power bytes, also expressed as 10 to the 21st power or 1 sextillion bytes. One zettabyte is approximately equal to a thousand exabytes or a billion terabytes.

Michael Walker, the Managing Partner of Rose Business Technologies, describes what we’re witnessing as the Rise of Data Anarchy.

Why Do Executive Recruiters Fail Data Too Much Information

Data Expertise Makes Executive Recruiters Smarter

Imagine making hires harnessing the prediction power of a Nate Silver. Imagine actually knowing who top candidates are and how they have outperformed all the others. It’s the executive version of Moneyball that discovered competitive advantage hidden deep inside baseball statistics — beyond the obvious batting averages, home runs, runs batted in (RBIs), and wins. Only these players are in suits. (For more, see our post about AgendaWeek interview with us about moneyball in recruiting.)

Executive recruiter sourcing “best practices” are outdated. Search firms must invest in research data expertise. They must invest in brilliant information scientists and data investigators. Those who refuse to make that investment are, informationally, searching with their eyes closed. The key to finding a top-notch executive search firm is to look for a firm with serious data research credentials. (We’re glad you found us.) These days, more than ever before, knowledge is power.

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What Does Executive Search Cost?

What Does Executive Search Cost?

Executive Search Firm Pricing

Search firm pricing is a top concern of executive search buyers. Whenever employers have an important board or senior-level opening to fill, it is reasonable to ask, “What does an executive search cost?”

Of course, there is no easy answer. it all depends on how your company prefers to recruit and how important getting top talent is to your corporate strategy. The wide array of executive search firms and recruiting services available means that search firm pricing varies wildly.

However, I can give you a sense of what companies typically spend on an executive search by sharing common price ranges of various executive search services.

Going Out to Search or Do It Yourself?

The first question a company needs to answer is whether it wants to hand off the executive search to a search firm or whether it wants to manage the engagement in-house. Companies usually opt for search firms when an executive search is important enough to warrant the cost of an executive search. Additionally, in-house teams simply may not have the time or expertise to do the search themselves.

For businesses that have to go “out to search”, there are two traditional search firm models: retained firms and contingency firms.

Retained Search Firms

Retained executive search firms are paid a retainer to do the work of executive search. The fee is not contingent upon making an actual placement. The firms get paid regardless.

Retained firms focus on getting companies the best talent available for the job. They target top-performing senior-level executives. Candidates must be more than qualified. As a result, retained search firms typically recruit passive candidates — those who are not actively looking for their next job.

Retained firms invest more time in consulting with the client, setting search strategy, researching ideal candidates, vetting those contenders, positioning offers, and closing the candidate. In other words, more work is involved. Consequently, retained search firm pricing is higher.

Contingency Search Firms

Contingency search firms are only paid when they make a placement. That means you will pay if you are successful, which you want them to be. So, despite what they say, there is no such thing as a contingency firm that searches for free.

Contingency firms tend to concentrate on recruiting candidates that are actively looking for their next jobs. They focus on delivering qualified candidates. It’s a lower bar, and for some openings at some companies, that is perfectly okay.

Retained firms focus on senior executive searches, and contingency firms focus more on staffing and mid-level searches with annual compensation of less than $300-thousand. As a result, contingency search firm fees are generally lower.

Search Firm Pricing

Typical search firm fees for individual engagements rarely give clients an opportunity to save. Employers pay a full fee regardless of whether it is retained or contingency.

Percentage-Based Pricing

Most search firms charge a percentage of a candidate’s annual salary or total compensation. However, percentage fees bake in a conflict-of-interest. The more the winning candidate is paid, the more a search firm makes. Clearly, that is not in the best interest of the client. You shouldn’t have to wonder where a search firm’s loyalty lies.

Retained Search Firm Pricing

  • 30-33% of total first-year cash compensation of the candidate placed, plus expenses

Contingency Search Firm Pricing

  • 20-25% of the first-year base salary of the candidate placed

Flat Fee Pricing

A small percentage of search firms charge a flat fee. Egon Zehnder, one of the leading retained firms in the world, charges a fixed fee. (Full disclosure: so does our firm The Good Search.) Egon Zehnder maintains the flat-fee pricing model enables the firm to be “completely unbiased” and to “facilitate hiring negotiations with no conflict of interest”.

Still, most fixed fees are similar in total amount to the percentage-based fees. It is just that flat-fee pricing eliminates the appearance of a conflict-of-interest and also avoids surprise higher fees when a candidate has to be paid more than expected.

While there will always be firms that charge less, and there were always be search engagements that enable a firm to charge more, most executive search fees fall within a basic range, regardless as to how the firm does the math.

Average Search Firm Fees

  • $50,000 – $300,000

Will a Retained Search Firm Even Take On Your Search?

Leading global retained search firms rarely accept searches for fees of less than $100,000. In fact, lately, our clients tell us these firms are walking away from searches where the fee is less than $125,000.

In other words, the minimum fee is increasing. That gap is leaving companies with important Vice President openings underserved. It leaves many companies scratching their heads, at a loss for what to do.

Boutique Search Firms Take Market Share

Boutique firms with lower overhead often charge less while offering concierge-quality service to their client. As a result, a growing number of retained search buyers are giving their business to smaller firms.

Industry publications report that, in recent years, the pendulum has swung to the smaller retained search firms.

Multi-Search Package Deals

Companies with multiple executive openings a year are in the position to reduce the executive search cost. They simply purchase a package of multiple searches for a fixed lower fee. Doing so makes it easier for the companies: they don’t have to transact individual contracts for every single search and they save money. It is a great way to avoid search firm pricing sticker shock.

Research Firm Pricing

At large corporations, the do-it-yourself executive search model has grown in popularity. Large employers with at least a dozen-and-a-half executive openings per year are bringing executive search in-house. In doing so, they frequently turn to executive search research firms and vendors offering unbundled executive search services to boost their in-house recruiting efforts.

Sometimes, all corporations want is a list of potential candidates for their in-house recruiters to call. Alternatively, they may want interested, qualified candidates that they’ll usher through the interview process through to hire. More proactive in-house teams may turn to research partners for investigative work wrapped around talent mapping. In fact, some of our clients are opting for target company org charts to super-charge their efforts.

Executive Search Research and Unbundled Services

Executive Search Research firms and search firms offering unbundled services typically charge by the hour, by the project/search, or by monthly retainer.

Research firms offering name generation services also charge by-the-name. Name-gen research produces lists of target candidate names. Typically, the lists are comprised of information gathered from the Internet and from calling into companies.

The wide range in pricing depends on the services offered and on domain expertise, access to top talent, consultative abilities, and the stature and executive presence of the firm. The budget firms may produce candidates who are simply “willing to take a call”, without qualifying, interviewing, and vetting the candidate with a more thorough assessment. Research firms typically do not position offers, assist in negotiations, and close the candidate.

Average By-the-Name Prices

  • $30 to $50 a name


Average By-the-Hour Prices

  • $90 to $150 an hour


Average By-The-Month Prices

  • $30,000 – $40,000

The Research Firm Advantage

Increasingly, in-house recruiting teams are turning to research firms that offer the expertise of retained search firms, but a much more flexible model. Frequently, they serve as a natural extension of the in-house executive recruiting team. The approach is collaborative and collegial. The research firms boost recruiting effectiveness and speed time-to-hire.

In most cases, firms offering unbundled services are not responsible for the hire. However, research firms do make it a practice to guarantee the quality of their research. Corporate search teams own the end results and generally manage onsite interviews, offer, closing, and onboarding the candidates. In other words, the in-house team maintains control and saves money. They benefit by leveraging the expertise of their recruiting research partners.

Executive Search Research Package Deals

Again, a growing trend is buying weeks or months worth of research in advance and then spending down the research throughout the year. The package deal makes it easier for corporate teams to get the support they need when they need it, without having to get a proposal, negotiate, and transact a contract every time they need support.

The True Cost of Executive Search

Last, price is not the same as the total executive search cost, a figure that is the one that ultimately is the more accurate measure. It is a figure that also takes other factors into account, such as the cost of a position languishing unfilled, or of a cheaper, but bad hire. There is a reason that the most powerful and successful employers in the world continue to invest in quality executive search, whether through their own teams or in league with a trusted executive search partner.

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Why Executive Searches Fail and What to Do About It

Why Executive Searches Fail and What to Do About It

Why Executive Searches Fail

It doesn’t matter whether executive searches are conducted internally or externally. The rule holds true either way: executive searches will continue to fail at high rates because the recruiting industry has not invested in the kind of expertise required to find good candidate data. For executive search to be good — not bad — it must match force with the explosion in the amount of data available on candidates, companies, and industries.

Those data are scattered like buckshot across the Internet. And if you think you can find it by simply “googling it,” you’d be sorely mistaken. A great deal of valuable information is tucked away in databases not visible to search engines. It lies hidden in the Invisible Web. It takes someone who can do more than Google a candidate’s name to find it.

The Rise of Anarchy in Candidate Data

Over the past 10 years, the amount of digital data has increased from 1,200 to 59,000 exabytes (EB). By 2025, the IDC predicts that number will have reached 175,000 EB, or 175 zettabytes (ZB). Imagining this quantity of data is almost impossible; the amount of data predicted to be created over the next three years will be more than what has been created in the last 30 years.

Data Binary Code Executive Recruiters for Digital Talent

Data is the Forest: Candidates are the Trees

As data order gives rise to anarchy, increasingly, executive recruiters can’t see the forest for the trees.  The wonders of LinkedIn put aside for a moment, most senior executive searches and C-Level technology searches fail because candidate research and sourcing best practices haven’t changed in more than 50 years as roles have become more specialized. Recruiters are still searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack. The problem, though, is that the haystack now resembles Mt. Everest.

As a result, too many important executive searches languish unfilled because a star candidate that could have been hired was not. Our retained search firm The Good Search and our recruiting research practice Intellerati are frequently called in to rescue “hard-to-fill” searches where previous efforts have hit the wall. In every instance, we discover traditional search firms had overlooked A-players standing in plain sight. For them, too much information got in the way.

More Data Means Recruiters Need to Work Smarter

The amount of candidate data available to those of us in executive search is, undoubtedly, the mother lode. So many amazing executives are a boolean search string or a LinkedIn connection away.  But if you stop to think about it, the manual and traditional work of recruiting still remains — the heaving and lifting required to determine whether a candidate is qualified, interested, able to relocate, and (yes), sane.

In addition, more channels and methods of communication — social networks, texting and tweeting, along with an ungodly amount of email —  have multiplied the amount of communicating we do. So recruiters are busier. They look productive. However, there’s an extraordinary amount of wasted effort. Some recruiters realize their workload is greater, but cannot manage the onslaught of candidate data and technology to grab it.

Moreover, the candidate tracking systems rarely keep up with the shifts. It’s hard to get information in and information out sometimes. If you really stop to think about it, there isn’t yet a way to dial up a list of the best candidates who are available . . . or is there?

Eureka, I Found It

Think Nate Silver. (You can check his RBIs (Runs Batted In) and ERAs (Earned Run Averages) that when crunched in the right way can lead to incredible game-changing hires. That’s where the big data bus is headed. You either climb on board or risk getting left behind.

Executive Search “Best Practices” are Outdated

Widely accepted executive search “best practices” have become hopelessly outdated given the data explosion. Candidate identification and development processes were established before the rise of the Internet and have changed little since then. Yes, technology has made advancements, but the workflow and the way we think about executive search have changed very little in the past fifty years.

Executive search research — so-called sourcing — began as a secretarial chore. Eventually, librarians were brought in to organize the classify the data, and so what emerged was a pink collar ghetto of female researchers. They frequently identified, developed, and recruited the candidates that the search partners subsequently placed with clients. They rarely got the credit and had no path to partner.  The research consisted of checking industry information, assembling target company lists, and target candidate names. The researcher or associate would then call through the list of names, and produce a slate of candidates. It is an approach that continues to this day, but it is so very wrong.

One of the biggest problems with traditional sourcing is its obsession with assembling lists of candidates. The approach never examines other sources of data. It hyper-focuses on gathering information, but rarely pauses to determine what it all means. It doesn’t go to the trouble of connecting the dots.  That’s like buying a book, but refusing to read it, all the while insisting that simply having the book made you smarter. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Big Data Requires Big Expertise

Serious research transforms data into actionable intelligence. It speeds time to hire and increases the quality of each hire. It’s not the kind of work that can be handed off to off-shore sourcing teams at 5-dollars an hour. It’s not the kind of work you give to an intern. It is not the kind of talent drawn to executive search and recruiting. If you have a knack for investigating and finding things out, if you have the ability to spot patterns others have missed, if you have a passion for information science, data mining, computer-assisted research, or competitive intelligence, you aren’t going to wake up one day filled with the impulse to become an executive recruiter or even a sourcer. Boolean search strings are not going to hold your interest. The best research talent goes elsewhere where they develop expertise as they grow their experience. And that’s okay.

Employers who want to take executive search to the next level simply need to dip into those talent pools or partner with the right executive search research firm with investigative expertise recognized outside the world of recruiting. For more on that, check out our blog post Is Your Executive Search Firm Ready for Big Data?

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How to Recruit the Right Executive

How to Recruit the Right Executive

How to Recruit the Right Executive

Chief Executive Officers regularly grapple with how to recruit the right executive. I have recruited top executives and technologists for the past decade and a half. Over that same period of time, I have also made hires to my own team. I can tell you with absolute certainty that one of the most devastating mistakes a business can make is picking the wrong person for the job. Every hiring executive I know  — myself included — has made bad hires. In fact, according to a recent Corporate Executive Board survey of hiring executives, every fifth hire is a mistake.  A whopping 20% of candidates should not have been hired in the first place.


How to Hire Digital Executives

How to Hire Digital Executives

How to Hire Digital Executives

A growing number of companies have come to the realization that it has never been more important to hire top performing digital executives. These days, a company’s ability to compete — and even to survive digital disruption — depends on it. However, the increasing demand for the best-of-the-best digital leaders is creating a shortage.  But that’s not all. It is challenging to determine what, exactly, makes a digital executive a contender. Digital competencies are changing as frequently as our smartphones apps download updates.

CIO Magazine does weigh in with some suggestions in an article entitled 6 Essential Competencies for Digital Executives by Senior Writer Sharon Florentine. Digital executives should understand their company’s products, market position, and technology stack. They should be results-oriented. Look less for specific technical skills and more for the ability to think strategically about technology and data and to adapt.

Of course, top performing digital executives are always in short supply. As a result, companies are turning to traditional retained search firms for help. It is important to select a firm with digital DNA required to help.

Next-Gen Search Firm Capabilities

Smarter Executive Search

Seek search partners who leverage digital technologies and have a passion for this space. Look for search firms that innovate ways to leverage data to make recruiting more intelligent. Ask how a search firm harnesses the power of information to make search smarter. With the amount of data in the world doubling every couple of years, recruiting has shifted from a problem of too few candidates to that of too many. Too many unqualified and average candidates get the way of the top performers. As a result, traditional search firms are missing rockstar candidates who are “standing in plain sight” because too many candidates get in the way.

Digital Data Expertise

You need a search firm with serious data expertise — one that is capable of separating the signal from the noise. There’s a treasure trove of candidate data available outside the resume databases and LinkedIn. That data treasure trove is the key to identifying, calibrating and recruiting best-of-the-best digital executives.  Ultimately, you need more than a social network, a stack of resumes, or a list of candidates names. You deserve to know who is good.  A data-driven approach can begin to answer that question. So ask firms about their use of data to check their digital data expertise.

Actionable Intelligence

Look for a search firm that does more than gather information. Today’s search firms must stop to connect the dots and develop actionable intelligence for faster/better hires. The only sensible way to match force with the digital talent shortage is to outsmart it.  With smarter search, you really can “Keep Calm and Search On”.  In fact, we created the executive search meme to serve as a reminder. In the war for talent, smarter, cooler heads prevail.

In my next post, Top Digital Talent Key to Survival, I share insights digital transformation culled from a leaked New York Times internal report. The document contains fascinating insights on the digital leadership required to address perpetual digital disruption.

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Top Executive Search Firms List | How to Build Your Own

When Should I Use an Executive Search Firm?

When to Use an Executive Search Firm

You have a C-level executive opening. Your gut tells you a VP-level search will be incredibly hard to fill. Your startup has hit the hockey-stick inflection point in its growth and needs more experienced leadership to scale. Those are all good reasons to turn to a trusted retained executive search firm. But how do you know if you’re really ready?

Retained executive search is all about value. Employers use an executive search firm when a search is important enough to warrant the investment.

That is the right time to use an executive search firm. 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.

If it is Not Important, You Don’t Need a Search Firm.

Retained search is not right for every search every time. There are some roles that are simply not important enough for that kind of investment. In those cases, you don’t use an executive search firm. 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.

If you need support, a recruiting research practice like our firm Intellerati could help you develop a list of potential candidates with biographies and contact information.  They can even qualify the candidates for you. But ultimately 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.

When Should I Use a Search Firm

Reasons to Retain a Search Firm

What follows are the common reasons companies decide to use a search firm.

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 to 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 underperforming 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. You 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. Anytime 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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How to Recognize Great Talent in Executive Search

How to Recognize Great Talent in Executive Search

Recognizing Great Talent

Learning how to recognize great talent is the key to making amazing hires in executive search. While it is pretty easy to tell who’s good while seated court-side in Madison Square Garden watching the New York Knicks play, it is not so easy for Chief Executive Officers seated in the C-suite.  At the senior-executive level, candidates start to resemble one another. They often share similar academic credentials and similar career trajectories. They all meet the basic qualifications or they would not have made it this far. However, to hire senior executive talent that is truly game-changing,  you must somehow discern the difference between two seemingly identical candidates. To make the right hire, you must develop the ability to figure out which candidate will outperform the rest. You must increase your powers of observation to discern great leadership talent. 

A Musical Analogy

Early in my marriage, I  discovered my husband Crispin Cioe seated on the floor of the living room, completely engrossed in sorting saxophone reeds into separate piles. He’d hold up a reed against the light to examine the grain, wet it in his mouth, position the reed atop his mouthpiece, aligning the tip of the reed with tip of the mouthpiece just so. Next, he’d encircle the reed and mouthpiece with the ligature, and tighten its screws. With the reed locked in place, he’d raise the mouthpiece and blow.  After sounding the note, Crispin then would unscrew the ligature, remove the reed, and place it on one of three piles.


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