I have a friend who is out of work. Can you get him a job?

Probably not. True executive search consultants work exclusively for employers to assist them in the selection process. Employers expect the consultant to do a thorough search of the market and make objective recommendations on every assignment. It is unethical for executive search consultants to market job seekers and personal acquaintances to potential employers.

My company has hired people before without paying recruiting fees. How can we justify the cost of using an executive search consultant?

Studies have shown that the equivalent cost of an internally managed recruiting effort often exceeds that of engaging a good search professional. A poor selection will cost much more and cause major disruptions. The best candidates are usually not in the job market so advertising by any means will not generate the quality of candidates that a professional recruiter can by direct solicitation.

Wouldn’t we get better coverage by giving the search assignment to several recruiters on a contingency basis?

That may be appropriate for some lower level positions in an organization but there is no accountability in contingency assignments and recruiters often interfere with one another. Retained search assignments are the better choice for senior positions where higher-level skills are important. The focused effort of a retained search assignment is far more professional and results are guaranteed.

Doesn’t retained search only apply to the most senior corporate executive positions?

That is the traditional view. But some executive search firms use similar methods and apply them to middle management and senior technical positions. With retained search, employers get a much higher level of service at fees that are competitive with that of contingency recruiters. The primary difference is the mutual commitment toward getting the desired result.

Employment agencies have to work through our human resources department. Will all communications be channeled through them?

Executive search firms are not employment agencies (though some people in the business use similar terms). Employment agencies can be very aggressive in promoting their candidates so companies have to control communications. Executive search consultants work with whomever the employer designates in a team effort to make the best selection.

Our company is very specialized. Wouldn’t a recruiter that specializes in our industry produce better candidates in a shorter period of time?

Often they can but specialization can be a mixed blessing. Industry recruiters may not be able to access some good candidates due to prior relationships with other companies in your market. A seasoned executive search consultant can apply proven methods of job analysis and recruiting to any employer’s needs. Potential candidates from all logical sources are usually identified within a few weeks.

If we did decide to retain an executive search consultant, why not use one of the big firms that have huge databases and offices around the world?

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a larger search firm. Much of the recruiting effort is actually performed by a research staff that is probably working on several assignments concurrently. In smaller firms, the search consultant does most of the work personally with full control of the process, so first hand information on the status of a search is available to the employer at all times.

We don’t have a formal job description available for this job and we don’t know what it will cost to hire someone. Can we get started anyway?

A retained search can be initiated on the basis of a few assumptions. Early in the assignment, the executive search consultant will interview the employer, profile the position and research the market for such talent. The consultant can recommend a competitive compensation package based on current market conditions and help negotiate an acceptable offer.

Can we be assured that no one will know about this search until we are ready to announce the result?

There are many good business reasons for an employer to keep a recruiting effort quiet. At the same time, prospective candidates want their privacy protected until a mutual interest is established. Executive search consultants go about their work in strict confidence and reveal identities only in the appropriate time and manner.

Can you guarantee that a search will be successful?

There will always be some risks associated with hiring people but an experienced executive search consultant can help minimize those risks. Consultants value an ongoing relationship with their client and that is a powerful incentive to produce consistent, high quality results. Over time, consultants develop an intimate understanding of their client’s needs. That can transform an occasional recruiting job from a dreaded chore into an opportunity for learning and organizational development.

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