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Using Executive Search Firms To Hire Right The First Time

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challenges in the workplace

Together with poor onboarding, according to Digitate, new employees are likelier to leave an organization that drives them through a negative hiring experience. Your business doesn’t want this happening to it. Replacing workers, especially executives, is an expensive exercise. You’ll need to improve your onboarding for executives and get the hiring right the first time!

Using executive search firms benefit your business with a positive and professional hiring process.

In this business blog article, we cover the following:

  • Core differences between executive search and contingent recruitment
  • Why and when to use an executive search firm
  • The benefits of using executive search firms, aka head-hunters

Executive Search vs. Contingent Recruitment

Executive search firms are engaged by organizations to head-hunt the best candidates for specific executive roles. The recruitment process used by search firms is not the same as contingency recruitment.

For example, with executive search campaigns, the ideal candidates are usually not actively seeking a new role. The head hunter’s job is to approach them directly and communicate why they should consider their client’s role.

Executive search firms work hard to build their candidate database. They also actively keep up to date with candidate movements, so they always know their current role and how to contact them.


Using a discreet approach to contacting employed executives about new roles is what typifies executive search.

For example, an organization that removes an executive from a role will rely on its head hunter’s discretion to find a replacement without becoming common knowledge, i.e., the role vacancy ends up in the public domain before the organization wishes it to publicize it.

Sole Agency Basis

Another core difference between executive search and contingency recruitment is most job vacancy campaigns are on a sole-agency basis, i.e., exclusive and with a retainer. Part of the success fee paid at the commencement of an executive search campaign is called a retainer.

Whereas with contingency recruitment, businesses are usually happy for more than one agency to compete to fill their open job roles.

Open Market

Contingent recruitment focuses on filling open job vacancies. This type of search is usually done through job boards, online databases, and other sources of potential applicants.

The goal is to fill positions with qualified individuals rather than focusing on finding the best person for a particular role. This method tends to be faster and more cost-effective than executive search, but it may result in a less experienced candidate.

Executive search is more expensive than contingency recruitment, so companies consider their budget, timeline, and goals to determine the best approach for their needs.

Avoid Bad Hires

Businesses benefit from using leading executive search firms to avoid poor hiring processes, which end with a mismatched hire.

When and Why Use Executive Search?

Organizations benefit from the expertise of executive search firms when needing to employ or contract managers and high-level specialists.

Plus, businesses benefit from the market knowledge of executive firms, where they can gain valuable insights into hiring trends, employee benefits, and workforce management.

Organizations typically will use an executive search firm when they have a specific need, including roles for:

  • Senior executive or management
  • Highly competitive specialist
  • New leadership
  • Niche specialist


Are Executive Search Firms More Expensive Than Contingent Recruitment?

Executive search firms are typically more expensive than contingent recruitment providers. That said, the results from executive search firms are more effective, making the cost worth the results.  You can expect to pay up to 50% of the candidate’s first-year salary.


With their experienced team of consultants and vast network of contacts, executive search firms offer businesses numerous advantages over traditional recruitment methods.

Where do executive search recruiters come from?

Often head hunters are in the role because they were once in executive roles within a specific industry and know it inherently. Or they are career recruiters who started out in contingency recruitment. What’s a given is executive search consultants are highly trained and experienced in the recruitment process. Their skills include:

  • expert communication skills
  • competent in digital marketing and sales
  • good negotiators
  • industry knowledge, often specializing in a sector or role

Discretion is fundamental for the role of a head hunter. For instance, if there’s a requirement for a CEO for a multi-national company, they will access their extensive network of professionals who have the right skills and experience to fill the role without it becoming public knowledge that the client is looking to replace their current CEO.

Unparalleled Access to Candidates

Executive search firms don’t just rely on the market knowledge of their recruiters. They also invest in secure emerging technology to maintain active databases of executive-level professionals. Data loss prevention is taken seriously by recruiters, including the top search firms.

Comprehensive Research and Screening Capabilities

Executive search firms have the resources and capabilities to conduct comprehensive research and screening processes that help them identify, assess, and recruit the best candidates for executive positions. They are often considered experts in their field because they have access to a wide range of resources that can help them uncover valuable information about potential candidates.

These resources include databases of professional resumes, social media profiles, and industry publications. Additionally, they have relationships with key personnel at companies recruiting or conducting searches to gain insight into the most qualified individuals for a particular role.

The research conducted is typically thorough and detailed. This ensures that only those with relevant experience and expertise get evaluated for a senior-level position. The screening process typically includes a detailed review of the candidate’s qualifications and talent to identify the best fit for a particular job.

Assessment Tools

Moreover, these firms are also equipped with assessment tools and techniques to evaluate potential candidates’ skills, competencies, and traits. This helps them find individuals with the right combination of knowledge, experience, skill set, and personality that will make them successful in an executive role.

For example, behavioral assessment tools, such as psychometric testing or personality profiling, may be used to evaluate candidates’ abilities, aptitudes, and potential. They may also conduct in-depth interviews with candidates and contact references for further confirmation of their credentials and skills.

Unbiased Perspective during Recruitment

Executive search firms are third parties so they are uniquely positioned to provide unbiased perspectives during the hiring process, which helps the business make the right hiring decisions. They are free from the internal biases that can occur in recruitment.


Today DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) is important, and hirers may show favoritism towards those who share the same ethnicity as them or have the same educational background as them. They might also make snap judgments based on someone’s physical appearance or social status rather than their qualifications for the job.

Wrapping Up

Organizations can leverage executive search firms’ resources when hiring top talent, executives, and specialist roles.

Discretion and professionalism are the main reasons for using a search firm over a contingency recruiter.

Executive search can help your business identify and secure the talent it needs and also ensure you avoid negative hiring experiences, including choosing the wrong candidates.

Essentially, organizations save money, time, and resources using executive search firms to fill high-level roles quickly and efficiently.