When should you partner with an executive search firm?

Executive Search Firm | ACA TalentBy Sabrina Balmick, Marketing Manager, ACA Talent

Executive search firms can be a key partner to companies with targeted recruitment needs, but it isn’t always clear when you should engage with a firm.

For example, you may already have a human resources or recruiting department focused on filling your positions, or you may be actively recruiting for the position yourself. In either of these cases, you might be inclined to think you’ve got all your recruiting bases covered.

If you have a healthy candidate pipeline and are already seeing great talent, partnering with a firm may not necessarily get you the most mileage out of the relationship.

However, there are certain instances when your recruiting process could use an infusion of external recruitment expertise. Here are a few different scenarios to help guide your next recruiting endeavor.

1. For confidential searches: You may be replacing a key employee and don’t want word to get out until you have someone in place. Working with a third party can separate the headhunting function from internal recruiting, develop a candidate pool, vet candidates, and help manage any issues around confidentiality. Many executive search agreements also come with clauses that define the level of confidentiality expected by the client and how the recruitment partner will handle confidential activities. The only people involved in the recruiting process are those who need to know what’s happening, such as the client’s HR department or hiring managers.

Your search partner may also be able to help you coordinate tasks like assessments, interview times and dates, interview travel, relocation, offer negotiation, and pre-employment testing, alleviating some of the workload from your recruiting group, and again, keeping only those who need to know in the loop.

2. For hard-to-fill positions: If you’re seeking someone within a very specialized role, your internal team may not have the appropriate networks to locate and woo the right candidates.

An executive search firm with relationships across different industries and disciplines can quickly zero-in on that individual because they’re already working with similar candidates. Executive recruiters are constantly making these connections, whether from candidates they may have reached out to in the past who weren’t yet ready for a role (or are simply looking for the right role), or from candidates who are networking for their next opportunity, or from individuals who can connect them to the right person. As headhunters, executive recruiters are skilled at direct sourcing talent out of the competition or similar industry verticals, so you see candidates who may not yet be in your corporate Applicant Tracking System, or who may not be actively looking for an opportunity.

3. When you’re stretched for resources: Your recruiting team may not have the resources or skill set to focus on the position you have open, but an executive search partner can dedicate resources to your search from beginning to end. If it’s an especially urgent need or you have multiple positions open, you may be assigned several recruiters, along with an account manager to ensure your search firm’s alignment to your hiring goals. This allows you to see a steady flow of candidates without missing a beat. In the meanwhile, your internal team can focus on specific hiring objectives, such as filling a new sales class or opening a new facility, while your search partner focuses on specialized positions.

4. When you need the position filled quickly: As recruiters, we often hear that clients need positions filled “yesterday.” Although we haven’t yet mastered time-travel, executive recruiters are skilled at responding to client openings with urgency. While your internal recruiting or HR function may be pressed with various priorities, your executive search partner has been retained to fill a specific role. In addition, if your search firm is offering contingency placement fees, they will not be paid until the role is filled, which means your search partner will be motivated to present qualified candidates sooner.

5. When you need the right person: A best practice for working with an executive search firm is to clearly outline your must-haves for the position to help your search partner get off the ground quickly, but you’ll also want to keep an open mind about candidates and interview regularly. Your executive search partner will be sending resumes, interview notes, and any other supporting documents to support your hiring decisions, but the best rule of thumb is to interview everyone your search firm recommends. That’s because your search firm not only sources resumes, but conducts in-depth interviews assessing experience and cultural fit to help make the best match.

Remember, an executive search partner isn’t looking for a quick fix. Given that your partner is on the hook for replacing candidates within the guarantee period (anywhere from 90 days, to 6 months, to a year, especially for very senior positions), they’ll want the candidate to work out as much as you do, and won’t send anyone who is likely to be a poor match. So, don’t get caught up looking for the purple squirrel, particularly if it means you may miss a hidden gem.

To learn more about our executive search services, reach out to us at 866-244-1306 or contact us online.