Working With a Search Firm

When it comes to searching for great talent for your business, these days it takes more than Google. In order to promote and to grow your business, many companies realize that they need an expert in the search field to get the best results.

Executive search firms are not a new entity. They have been used for years by the top companies. Big business knows the value of a good search firm. These days, small to mid-sized companies are learning that as well.

The recent economic issues meant that the search companies lost about 30 percent of their revenue. In 2008 executive search was an 11 billion dollar industry. In 2009 that had dropped to less than 7.5 billion dollars. In 2010 business began to pick up again and many sectors were hiring. Now, in 2018, it’s a candidate’s market. According to Peter Felix, Association of Executive Search Consultants President, ‘When you engage and retain an executive search firm, it is not a matter of just putting the ad in the paper and seeing who the best person is that applies. At the senior executive level, it’s very crucial to find the best person you can.”

Why Work With an Executive Search Firm?

Working with an executive search firm opens up a whole new realm of candidates. They are generally able to bring you, candidates, that are not available in the general sector and who will not typically fill out a job application.

In addition, an executive search firm can help you to determine the kind of qualifications that you need for the job at hand and may be able to help you to write a job description that is both appealing and accurate and will help to deliver a broader pool of candidates.

There are three types of search firms. These are:

Container firms. These firms are paid a specific amount, up front and then spent a specific portion of the yearly salary of the candidate once they are in place.

Contingency Firms-These firms are paid only if you hire a candidate that they send to you. They usually are paid based on the salary of the candidate.

Retained Firms. Retained firms typically work exclusively with a single employer and are hired for a specific time span to place a particular job opening. They are paid a percentage of the first year salary/compensation even if the candidate they present isn’t hired. Timothy J. Augustine, of Atwell LLC ‘Retained search firms are often more focused on a consultative relationship, and invest the appropriate time to learn about your company, the details of the position and the characteristics of the right candidate, and provide a research team with various resources to assist you with the search.’


Once you sort out what kind of search firm you want to work with the next order of business will be determining which firm is right for you.

Get someone who knows your arena. Choosing a company that has experience in your field or experience placing candidates in your industry or field is imperative.

Ethics Count. Finding a company that has a reputation for being ethical and honest is also an essential part of the selection since they are going to be representing you and your company in this employee search.

Check References. Reach out to a few companies as well as candidates who have worked with this firm or recruiter. Get a look at their work through the eyes of the recruiter as well as the company.

Once you have chosen the right recruiting firm, here are some tips for working with them more effectively:

Get it in writing. Make sure that your recruiter understands precisely what you need and that he or she understands precisely the level of expertise and the kind of experience that you need in a candidate as well as the soft skills necessary. Get that in writing.

Different recruiters use different metrics. Find out what theirs are ( time to fill, average salary and retention percentage) and how they’ve done with them in the past in filling a like position.

Make sure that the executive search firm that you retain knows your vetting or screening process so that they can use one that is like your own. Some aspects that you and they will need to consider include:

Where the firm locates and sources their candidates

How they screen the candidate

Interviewing process

Evaluation of the candidate

Rudimentary background checks

Closing/onboarding strategy.

Your work with an executive search firm should be founded on excellent communication. It should also involve a measure of trust from both sides. You will need to build a healthy relationship with your executive search firm to get the best out of them. The upside is that while it may take some time, once you’ve built that healthy relationship, you will be able to attract and hire the most talented people in your industry

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