Executive Search: Choosing the Right Firm for the Job

For job-seekers and companies alike, the right executive recruitment firm can transform the process and the result. But there are a lot of recruiters out there, and they are very different from one another. Finding the perfect match between candidate and new employer starts with choosing a recruiter that matches your goals. How do you know which one is right for you?

Start by Choosing the Right Type of Firm

Many companies rely on their own HR department to handle all aspects of recruitment and hiring. If they actively promote hiring from within, they may use internal recruiters. These are employees that work to help get the word out about job openings and encourage existing employees to apply. They may also chat up employees to obtain prospective candidate referrals.

There are two potential problems with the 100% in-house approach to hiring:

  1. While HR staff have valuable insider knowledge of the company’s culture, they are responsible for filling positions across all departments from reception to IT, finance, shipping, etc. That makes it impossible to become an expert in any one field, which can lead to missed hiring opportunities.
  2. The recruitment process can be overwhelmingly time-consuming, even in a modest-size organization. So the company either has to invest in more HR staff to handle the work load, or risk essential attention to detail from an over-worked staff.

Not only is internally-based recruiting time-consuming, in a typical HR department staff are responsible for employee training, processing promotions or terminations, record-keeping and documentation, and more. Those responsible for hiring have to be skilled in marketing as well as modern-day search techniques, and it takes great deal of specific training and experience to attract, interview, and close the deal with the most desirable candidates.

This is why companies turn to outside recruitment firms for help. A professional recruiter is just that – an industry professional whose only job is finding and securing the best possible employee for the position. They are not distracted by other HR functions, so they can devote all of their time and resources toward one single goal.

Some recruiters are broad-based, whereas others work only with certain types or levels of candidates. For example:

  • A high-volume staffing agency typically works with companies to fill temporary or lower-level openings, not necessarily long-term career positions. These jobs can run the gamut from customer service and sales to industrial production and construction management. Many of these agencies are large, national or even international firms with household names.
  • Contingency recruiters work with multiple companies to place candidates but typically focus in a particular area such as sales and marketing or finance. These firms earn a fee only when they make a successful match, so volume matters to them as well. Companies that hire contingency recruiters often use more than one, in the hope of accessing a broader range of candidates.
  • Retained search firms are more specialized, usually focusing on executive level candidates or those that fill specific niche roles. The narrower scope enables these firms to focus their time and resources, zeroing in on candidates who are fewer in number and, in many cases, harder to find.

Employers may also choose a collaborative approach in which their HR department and outside recruiter work together as needed. This can be especially valuable if their recruitment partner provides ancillary or advisory services such as staffing planning and forecasting, salary evaluation and budgeting, gap analysis compared to company goals, retention strategy, etc.

Specialized Knowledge Offers Distinct Advantages

Recruitment firms are sometimes called “headhunters.” But that term implies body count – quantity more than quality — and nothing could be further from the goal of a specialty recruiter. Rather than filling open positions, their goal is to make just-right connections that will develop into lasting employer-employee relationships. That elevates the process from a functional task that is a reactive response to a strategic effort designed to support the company’s growth plan. The result is a new hire who has all the right stuff along with the right personality and cultural fit.

How can they do that so well?

  • Staying abreast of the hiring marketplace, trends, and best practices

This is something else that HR department staff often struggle with. Reading, networking with peers, and continuing professional education are critical, yet they can fall by the wayside when time and budget are limited. Staying at the top of their game is priority #1 for a specialty recruitment firm, because it is the foundation of their success.

  • Deeper understanding of individual candidates

Prospects are often more open in their conversations with a recruiter than they might be with a company employee. That makes it easier to ask more probing interview questions to learn about candidate as a person as well as a worker.

  • Introducing you to candidates you won’t find on your own

Finding exceptional people takes more than putting the word out and picking the best person from the pool of applicants. Specialty recruiters are constantly on the lookout for potential candidates, building their database through everyday networking and as they conduct searches. The more candidates they know, the more great connections they can make.

They are also constantly on the hunt for highly desirable employees who don’t consider themselves candidates. People who are currently employed and making a name for themselves where they are now are often precisely the folks you most want to attract to your company. But it can be darn hard to know who they are, let alone make contact and entice them to make the change.

A great specialized recruiter is adept at this sort of thing. They keep an eye on people in their focus industry. They may also keep an eye on sharp individuals in other industries who have the right approach and transferrable skills to succeed in your organization.

Hiring a specialized executive recruitment firm saves time. It may not save money, but the higher quality results and intangible benefits deliver a far greater return on investment than relying on in-house personnel or a general purpose firm and hoping for the best.


Here at Spencer James Group, We Specialize in Employee Benefits

Talk about a hiring niche! Today’s employers know that offering the right range of employee benefits is critical for attracting and retaining top talent. But determining what those benefits should be and managing the program takes significant knowledge and skill. You need exactly the right person for the job. And that’s where we come in. We are intimately familiar with the benefits landscape from both employer and candidate perspectives.


Success Depends on Skill, Experience, and the Working Relationship

An executive recruitment firm should be working partner, not just another vendor. The right recruiter will not only find you the best talent, they will promote and enhance your company brand. That’s an intangible benefit that has long-term value because the stronger your brand, the more desirable your firm is as an employer.

So choosing your search firm is essentially the same as choosing the right candidate for any position. Skills and track record are vital, but personal fit ultimately determines success. The right recruiter is the one that makes you feel both confident and comfortable because they have an affinity for your company’s unique challenges, goals and values.

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