8 Reasons to Engage an Executive Search Consultant

Today’s CEOs and Senior Executive Leadership recognise how successful hires at senior management and operational level can be a lightning rod to a business, boosting profit, streamlining processes, inspiring their teams and shaking up stagnant colleagues.

Conversely, the negative impact of making bad hires in the worst examples can bring a company to its knees.

The world’s most successful businesses, large or small, ensure that investment in key people is carefully considered and delivered upon by utilising the services of an executive search firm.

While a business may very well consider pursuing alternative “DIY” options to an external executive search campaign for certain roles, most of the time this is not a good idea as they are time-consuming and ineffective methods which embroil the leadership or HR team on mundane recruitment related activities, rather than important “genius” tasks that will improve their business and profitability.

A case in point is running external job adverts, or dealing with multiple database employment agencies; they can consume time in sifting through many unsuitable candidates and rarely deliver the top tier candidates who are not usually actively looking for a new role.

This is why so many forward-thinking C-Suite Leaders choose to engage executive search firms to deliver a relevant targeted shortlist of credible candidates.

In this article I take a look at the benefits of using an executive search firm, and why progressive companies who value their time and resources are correct to do so.

1.Return on Investment

Bad hires at C-Suite and Executive Leadership Level really can destroy a business, or at least set back strategic development plans that would take years and massive investment to fix.

Yes, retaining an executive search firm will mean an investment, but ask yourself how much it would cost the business to make the wrong hire, or for the role to remain vacant while you try to fill it yourself?

Add to this the cost of opportunity lost by pulling trusted senior team members away from their core duties to work on a time-intensive recruitment process that they may not be skilled or experienced in.

The real cost will almost invariably be more than the fee you will incur for outsourcing to an expert executive search professional.

2.Specialist Market Knowledge

The beauty of working with an external executive search firm is that they will consult and advise, rather than merely supply as a database employment agency would.

If the profile of your ideal candidate or benefits package on offer is not realistic, they will tell you before the search starts.

They invest their resources into building their network, adding value to it, and nurturing long term relationships with members of relevant industry specialist talent pools gaining a detailed knowledge of the current market as a result.

They offer essential advice as to the expectations of the most in-demand candidates, salary benchmarking, inside knowledge on competitors or upcoming events that may impact on movement in the market.

3.Access to Passive Candidates

Executive search consultants spend their days engaging with passive candidates who are not active in the job market.

They will take the time to engage with and speak to talented individuals, playing the long game to build a trusted relationship so that they are in the right place at the right time to have constructive conversations with the best talent in the market when they might be interested in moving for the right opportunity.

Employment agencies that focus on higher volume contingent recruitment cannot focus their time on building these long term relationships; their core business model and employee incentivisation preclude it.

Typically a recruiter with a database employment agency will handle around twenty vacancies a month and fill two, a 10% success rate.

They rely on job adverts and CV databases for active job seekers, candidates who are doing the rounds and readily available to everybody.

Similarly, if you post a job advert online, or seek referrals from an existing network, you would be unlikely to attract strong passive candidates – because they are not looking!


Executive search consultants hold privacy and discretion at the heart of everything they do.

Word spreads quickly if a trust has been betrayed, and the “under the radar” nature of their service demands the highest levels of confidentiality.

This applies in equal measure to both sides of the equation. For the employer, there may well be delicate conversations that have not yet happened.

An underperforming executive being replaced may not yet have departed, or someone who believes they are already a shoo-in for promotion may not yet have been told that they are going to be disappointed.

Throwing an advert out there or posting it on a corporate LinkedIn account may trigger some serious internal HR issues, or at best adversely affect morale before the timing is right to have those difficult conversations.

Engaging a specialist will get the ball rolling and ensure that the timeline is set to have a strong replacement ready to start as soon as circumstances permit.

Secondly, for the candidate, this is vitally important.

A top performing executive will be well rewarded at their current employer, with performance bonuses or promotions lined up in the near future.

Being open about applying to or even holding a discussion with a competitor could leave them in an untenable position and could damage your company’s reputation in the process.

An executive search firm will manage these processes in the right way, to avoid any of these risks.

5.Niche Specialists

The importance of the hire at C-suite and senior management level means that you need to recruit an experienced hand.

These are not development roles in which a new hire can bluff their way through the first six months before starting to get some traction and experience.

First impressions count, and you need someone to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact on your business.

Having access to specialist niche networks of experienced candidates with specific functional or industry experience is vital to ensure the best possible outcome.

Secondly, the vacant role may not be your area of functional experience. Indeed it may be so technically niched that you don’t know where to start, for example digital, big data and technology roles

In these circumstances, It pays to take advantage of a specialist executive search firm.

6.A Discreet Approach

You may have come across someone that you feel would be a perfect fit for your team; perhaps you follow them on LinkedIn and admire the way they go about their work.

Alternatively, you may have heard amazing things from your network about a candidate, or they have delivered some inspirational presentations at industry conferences.

Hiring directly from a competitor can be risky and making the direct approach yourself can potentially damage a previously strong relationship.

Executive search professionals are skilled in making subtle, direct approaches to understand a prospective candidate’s interest in a possible move and whether the available role, salary and culture fit at your organisation is something that could turn their head.

7.Probability of Success

If you have already tried to fill the role internally, advertised externally or via recommendations and drawn a blank, the clock is ticking.

The costs and time issues and business repercussions can only compound from here.

Going to market repeatedly with the same role can also suggest your firm has talent attraction problems, or that your recruitment processes are flawed, which can deter potential top tier candidates now and in the future.

Executive search firms can advise on improvements to the recruitment process including better profiling of the role and getting input from all stakeholders where possible, privacy notwithstanding.

Persuasion (or should I say selling?) are essential skills of an executive search consultant which means they can get the candidates interested and enthusiastic about working for you.

There is less pressure on you to sell the benefits of working for your company and you can focus on assessing whether they are a good cultural fit.

8. You are The Priority

Retaining an executive search firm isn’t the only way to do it when you look externally, so let’s consider an alternative.

Contingent: This is the “fee on success” model, which I touched on earlier.

You will likely be able to negotiate a lower fee than a classic retained model, and you may be able to find agencies that will promise delivery of CVs quickly from their extensive databases.

The contingent model is built on taking as many campaigns as possible, to give a better chance of revenue.

They will focus on the quickest wins, so if it is a tough search, it may not get the effort it merits.

If they have the requisite candidates, then you may get lucky and be in the right place at the right time.

However, if it’s a rare skill set that you are seeking, or they just don’t have the reach, then it is more likely that the consultant will park your campaign to focus on something easier.

By contrast, executive search consultants usually only take on a small number of briefs at any time and will be relentless and tenacious when it comes to finding the right candidate.

They will not rest until you have made a successful hire; it is the only way in which they can ensure a strong relationship with you and thus secure repeat business.

In Summary

Here is a summary of the benefits of retaining an executive search firm:

1. Return on Investment – you will save on time, money and internal resources.
2. Specialist Market Knowledge – you are tapping into current market knowledge and trends.
3. Access to Passive Candidates – the candidates will only be considering you.
4. Confidentiality – the process is private and confidential.
5. Niche Specialists – access to suitably experienced relevant candidates in specific functions.
6. A Discrete Approach – candidates are approached discreetly.
7. Probability of Success – a trusted process that works.
8. You are The Priority – focus on you and your timescales.