The ultimate guide to executive search

When a business needs to recruit a high-calibre professional for a senior position, an executive search company can identify the best talent.

In this guide we explore the difference between executive search and recruitment, why it's important and how it works.


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What is executive search?

Executive search, also referred to as headhunting, is a specialist area of recruitment, aimed at identifying the best senior-level professionals for roles including CEOs, leaders, and board members. This highly skilled level of recruitment takes a targeted approach for key positions that are critical to an organisation's success. These leaders can be difficult to identify due to the high skill base, specialist knowledge or extensive experience required.

Businesses often need to fill positions that are critical to deliver the goals and long-term vision of the company. Executive search can help identify individuals who will contribute to and lead in the success of a business from the start as well as help shift the company strategically.

What is the difference between executive search and recruitment?

Executive search differs greatly from recruitment. General recruitment involves identifying a number of people who possess certain skills, making them a suitable fit for a role. Methods often used in recruitment include advertising positions, using talent databases, outsourcing to agencies and referrals.

Executive search, however, focuses on identifying high value individuals whose skillset, behaviours, experience and expertise, will create an unrivalled impact on an organisation, propelling its success. Executive search consultants or headhunters take the time to fully understand an organisation’s goals and values to ensure they select the exact fit for a company. They also place importance on building long-term relationships with businesses and potential senior level recruits, enabling them to deliver a highly personalised and effective executive search service. The right search firm or headhunting agency can be excellent brand ambassadors for your business.



Why executive search is important

An executive search company can offer extensive resources including professional expertise and specialist insight to identify quality individuals that have the skills and experience required. In turn, this means organisations are more likely to find and retain senior leaders and eliminate the costs of having to re-hire a poor fit. Using expert research, analysis, market intelligence tools and networking, executive search consultants source high value candidates that are an exact match for the role.

The services of an executive search firm can be crucial if a business is needing to recruit discreetly for an otherwise unadvertised senior role. This is especially true for industry leaders in the public eye where such knowledge could be damaging to the business.


How does executive search work?

Executive search involves working with a specialist firm to match a business’ requirements to the best talent. In a competitive market it can be tricky to find the right skillset and having the time and resources to identify outstanding candidates can be a challenge for most companies. Using the expertise and knowledge of executive search consultants allows organisations to discover quality, senior individuals that fit their culture that they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.

At New Street Consulting Group, we follow a strategic set of steps to ensure we identify the best leader for a role and organisation:

  • Determining the business goals the leader needs to deliver - Together with the organisation, we identify what an outstanding leader would look like and how this differs from just a good one. We take into account the culture of an organisation and the type of strategies and approach needed to propel a company towards further success.
  • Conducting specialist research - We use insight and tools such as market and competitor analysis and performance benchmarking to gain a detailed outlook on talent that’s perfectly suited to a company’s needs.
  • Working alongside industry experts - Our expert teams are armed with unparalleled knowledge of the market, have access to diverse networks and are able to offer new perspectives from a variety of sectors when needed.
  • Approaching top candidates - Based on our unique insight and research, and we identify and approach top quality individuals with the skillset and expertise required.
  • Developing a shortlist - We’re able to provide businesses with shortlisted candidates who are stellar matches for senior level roles.

Throughout this process, our highly skilled experts draw on their extensive experience, to achieve the goal of identifying the right individual.


How to select an executive search firm
There are key factors that determine a great executive search consultant, which, combined, create an unparalleled means of sourcing the best match for a senior or leadership role within an organisation. When choosing an executive search firm, companies should consider the skills, experience, knowledge and expertise of the consultants as well as the firm’s reputation and level of success.

  • Communication - When collaborating with companies and reaching out to potential candidates, it’s imperative for executive search consultants to be able to liaise successfully with all parties at the right times. The best executive search consultants have an excellent ability to form effective relationships with their clients and potential candidates and can represent and communicate employer branding, culture and values.
  • Understanding - It’s vital to be able to understand and interpret a company’s needs when it comes to recruiting high-calibre candidates for senior roles. This means having a full grasp of the business goals as well as what’s expected in the particular role and the influence a certain individual will have across the company as a whole.
  • Discretion - The ability to be discreet is paramount when executive search firms are working alongside clients who wish to keep their candidate search confidential. This means using tactful and considerate methodologies when conducting research and contacting candidates.
  • Time - The best executive search consultants know how to use their time to get the most out of their research and analytics. They’re also prepared to dedicate a considerable amount of time to a business’ needs and to build and invest in client and candidate relationships.
  • Top class research and networking abilities - To discover the best talent and the leaders most suited to a specialist role, consultants need to be able to conduct in-depth research. Due to the nature of sourcing senior individuals, those working in executive search must also possess impeccable networking abilities and strive to attract only outstanding candidates.
  • Expert insight - Skilled executive search consultants have industry knowledge across a variety of sectors and are able to use this expert insight to identify and shortlist the right match at the right time for businesses.


How long does it take to complete an executive search assignment?
Because the process of finding the right talent to fill an executive or leadership role is much more stringent than the general recruitment process, it typically takes longer to achieve. An executive search can take around three months to complete and secure the final appointment.



How do executive search retainers work?
Executive search firms often work on a retainer basis, meaning that an amount is paid upfront before the search starts. The initial fee is generally non-refundable and is set up to secure the exclusive agreement between a business and the executive search company. Because only one executive search firm is tasked with sourcing a high-level individual, there is a dedicated effort and commitment from both sides for a successful outcome, often not seen when multiple recruitment firms are involved and therefore competing to identify the best candidates.

This model allows the search company to conduct thorough and intense market research to identify high-calibre individuals and is typical when organisations are recruiting the most senior roles. A business benefits from this as the methods used to find talent are in-depth and robust and are carried out by a dedicated team of professionals who are not involved in a race with other firms to source candidates as quickly as possible.


Why choose New Street Consulting Group for your executive search?

As well as possessing all the key elements an outstanding global executive search firm needs, there are a few other reasons to choose us for your next senior-level hire:

We recognise that to be successful, we need high-quality digital tools in the hand of experts who have the ability to ask the questions that really matter. The data-driven insights that are generated help give us the edge in finding the right person for you.

  • We have unrivalled industry expertise and knowledge, enabling us to provide the highest level of service for any sector.
  • Nearly 20 years of experience in providing companies with great leaders means our extensive network continues to grow. You can rely on us when you need a senior leader to help your business overcome challenges.
  • Diversity and inclusion is woven throughout our search process. We’re signed up to the Voluntary Code of Conduct for Executive Search Firms which lays out steps for search firms to follow from accepting a brief through to final induction. In the latest analysis of our performance in this area, we were rated highly.
  • Our team of leadership assessment experts can use a tailored selection of tools, techniques and behavioural science to predict future performance in the role and see how aligned potential leaders are to your culture. This process gives you the precise insights you need to pick the perfect person to power your performance.

The statistics speak for themselves:

  • 96% of roles we work on are successfully filled
  • 95% of appointed candidates are still in their role after one year
  • 99% of clients are satisfied with the process and outcome
  • 98% of candidates are satisfied with the service provided

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