It’s Time: When to Hire a Retained Executive Search Firm

A role on your team is becoming vacant, and you’re not sure how to fill it. You’re looking for a sophisticated mind, fueled by deep experience, and he/she isn’t necessarily “hiding” in the obvious places. LinkedIn provides wonderful access. But how do you mine it, or leverage other resources?

Here are some search characteristics that suggest that a retained executive search firm can land you a better candidate than your own channels—and more efficiently, too:

1. It’s a Senior-Level Role

The higher you go on the corporate ladder, the fewer the available candidates. Once you get to the director level and up, there are perhaps a couple hundred people—we’re talking globally—able to fill it.

To complicate matters, it’s doubtful that the candidate you want is actively looking—and if looking, it’s doubtful that they’re looking for this. The role of an executive search firm is to approach so-called passive (and sometimes active) candidates—and find that proverbial needle in a massive haystack.

2. The Role is Tough to Explain

You need a tech cowboy/cowgirl; you know, a digital pioneer who also has a traditional foundation. When it comes to a technical or functional skill set, there’s a lot that gets lost in translation.

A global beverage company hired us to find a senior leader for their transformational marketing equipment group. We found him…at a software company. It was the last place he would have thought to look for his next move, but we were able to sell it effectively, access his skills —and bring him on board. Companies need a search firm that can act as a true extension of their organization—and can tell their story with brevity, clarity, and sophistication.

3. You’re Hunting for a Broad Skill Set—Not a Commoditized One

It’s not about holding a programming certificate or degree. It’s about finding a unique skill set that translates across a broad, strategic spectrum.

4. You Need a High-Level Competency Based Assessment vs a Resume

You need true examples of how this candidate fits the role. Your search firm can gather the relevant stories about accomplishments and leadership characteristics…to separate the fits from the counterfeits.

We’d love to hear your comments. Give us your experiences with finding a candidate on your own versus hiring a retained search firm.

3 responses to “It’s Time: When to Hire a Retained Executive Search Firm”

  1. Sami Barry says:

    Being with a retained search firm for over 18 years, I completely agree with this post. When you have a critical position or complex issues like the ones listed, you must consider what the right candidate could do for your company and the significant impact they could make. Although a search fee may seem costly, compare that fee to what the right executive could do and suddenly you realize the value of a comprehensive search process.

  2. Jaymuz says:

    Great. Former BBC chief with no print experience to run New York Times – tell that to the useless recruiters in marketing

  3. Brielle says:

    I agree with this post. My company has been looking for a retained search firm for a few months. It was hard at first because all the ones we found were all booked up and not accepting other clients. We finally found one and absolutely love their work that they are doing for our company.

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