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FEATURE


EXECUTIVE SEARCH & RECRUITMENT What is executive search?


Recruiting can be a difficult task, especially if you’re looking for senior management or board level staff. You need the right level of skill and experience, but you haven’t got access to the top talent you’re looking for – so when it comes to hard-to-fill roles, an executive search consultant might be the answer.


WHAT IS EXECUTIVE SEARCH? Executive search recruitment is primarily used to find candidates for senior-level jobs, particularly niche or highly specialist roles that may be hard to fill. Executive recruiters usually operate within small sectors and are responsible for sourcing talent within that specific industry. Also known as search and selection, or, more commonly, headhunting, this kind of recruitment takes a proactive approach and doesn’t follow traditional recruitment methods.


WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RECRUITER AND AN EXECUTIVE SEARCH CONSULTANT? The end goal for a recruiter and an executive search consultant is the same – they want to fill a role on behalf of an employer, their client. However, there are a number of key differences between the two and the way they operate. Although they can work across all industries and levels of skill,


recruiters commonly focus on entry level and mid-management roles. They will advertise a job on behalf of the client and then draw from the large pool of active job seekers who express interest in the role. Candidates might be registered with multiple recruitment agencies and there may be a lot of competition for each role. Executive search firms focus only on technical specialists, upper management and executive roles. A headhunter’s role is to find the very best match to meet a very specific job description – and quite often, this might mean directly approaching a passive candidate who isn’t actively looking for a new role. In a lot of cases, the best candidate for the job is already engaged in a senior position elsewhere (and may even be working for the competition) so it’s the executive search consultant’s job to contact them and discuss whether they would consider a move. In order to identify the very best candidates from a small pool of individuals, they will have excellent contacts and expert knowledge of the sector.


HOW EXECUTIVE SEARCH WORKS Recruiters operate on a contingent model, and are often in direct competition with other agencies to fill the same position – which means they will only receive a commission if their candidate is placed – and they usually balance many clients and candidates at once. In contrast, an executive search firm operates on a retained basis; they


will charge a retainer fee upfront, and then charge additional fees at regular intervals throughout the search process. While more expensive, this process will allow the headhunter to dedicate time to getting to know the organisation, its values and the specific skills and experience it needs, allowing them to conduct a more tailored and thorough search. Additionally, they only work on a small number of roles at any given time, which means they can also spend time getting to know candidates in depth, particularly their career goals – a beneficial process when persuading a passive candidate to take on a new role. Having been granted exclusive rights to work on the placement, an


executive search firm will be involved with every step of the process, from approaching candidates and drawing up a shortlist, to making introductions to clients, assisting with negotiations and seeing a candidate placed in a role.


WHEN TO USE AN EXECUTIVE SEARCH FIRM The choice to use an executive search firm over a traditional recruiter will depend on the role you need to fill. If the position is high profile, niche, or requires hard-to-find skills, you might consider retaining the expert services of a headhunter. While more expensive, engaging an executive search firm could actually save you time and money. A headhunter will eliminate such time-wasting risks as shortlisting


and interviewing ill-qualified candidates, and reduce the chance of a bad hire. Additionally, by providing you access to the very best candidates in the field, they will help you gain an edge over your competitors.


76 business network December 2019/January 2020


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