Five questions to ask when choosing an executive search firm

15 June 2022

If you’ve decided to engage an executive search firm to help you fill a strategic position within your business, then the likelihood is you understand the importance of making the right hire.

Finding the right character and skills to fulfil a senior role within your business can’t be underestimated. The fear of making the wrong choice can deter even the most confident and astute executive, leader or business owner.

So how do you decide which executive search firm to use?

We’ve compiled a list of five questions and other considerations to help you find the answers.

1. Can you demonstrate that your executive search firm has the expertise and knowledge to find the right person for me and my business?

Some roles, particularly at a more senior level, don’t necessarily need someone with relevant industry experience to be suitable.

Nevertheless, for a consultant to go out into the marketplace to source suitable candidates, relevant knowledge and expertise should benefit the process significantly. So make sure you speak to your consultant about their experience and expertise before engaging with them.

In some cases, consultants will have previously held a similar role or worked in your industry sector, which should give you confidence in their knowledge and experience.

Where they haven’t done either, ask for examples or case studies of:

  • Scenarios
  • Similar roles
  • Industry

Again, someone who demonstrates detailed knowledge and expertise should find it easier to gain credibility with prospective candidates.


2. How can I be sure that your executive search firm will be a credible representative of my business?

Elevation and protection of your employer brand will be crucial to the success of the recruitment process. The executive search firm will represent your business and be responsible for the first impressions that potential employees will get of your organisation.

Choosing a credible and professional executive search firm can help elevate your employer brand and improve recruitment success well beyond your current need.

Ask the executive search firm for references to support their claims. Ideally, references should come from both clients and candidates, allowing you to understand how the executive search firm interacts with both.


3. How will engaging your executive search firm contribute to the strategic aims of my business?

When you asked yourself, “why should I use an executive search firm?” did you consider whether they’d help you understand what you needed?

If an executive search firm is only interested in taking a brief and then running off to search, they’re unlikely to deliver what you need.

Recruiting senior level people for your organisation is a strategic move, and your executive search firm should understand and appreciate this.

A good executive search firm will proactively learn about your: 

  • Business 
  • Culture
  • Strategies 

You can expect them to invest time in understanding your plans and ambitions to ensure their assessment of prospective candidates incorporates them.

And, don’t be surprised or put off if they challenge you or your reasons for your requirement.


4. What process does your executive search firm follow to ensure that you give me the best possible result?

Some executive search firms treat their processes like a dark art, keeping progress well under wraps until they present a shortlist of candidates (hopefully).

But as the client, you will want regular updates to know that your brief is progressing, and a thorough approach, leaving no stone unturned, is taken.

Ask your executive search firm what their process entails and how they’ll keep you updated. Transparency and clarity will benefit both parties by maintaining the direction and focus of the search.

Some executive search firms have teams of researchers who work in the background to identify target markets, businesses and candidate pools, maximising the network of candidates they can consider for your role. You can read more about this here.

It might also help to understand what candidate attraction strategies they employ.


5. How does your executive search firm minimise the risk of making the wrong appointment?

With such a lot at stake, the last thing you need is for the candidate to fail in the role or leave after a short time.

Using psychometrics and other personality assessment tools can add significant value and insight into a candidate’s suitability and help remove any unconscious bias from hiring decisions.

Ask your executive search firm how they can help with your retention strategy to ensure you minimise the risk of the candidate moving on before they have begun contributing to your business.

And last but not least, get a clear understanding of the: 

  • Executive search firm’s fee
  • Guarantee structure 

A reputable executive search firm will be clear and upfront about responsibilities and responses to unusual or unforeseen circumstances.


Choosing the right executive search firm for you

Making a strategic hire can have a significant impact on success, so it’s crucial that you find the right executive search firm for you.

Asking the right questions will give you the confidence and peace of mind to help secure the best candidate and, most importantly, drive the growth and success of your business.

Share this: