A Robust Recruitment Process that isn’t Only Relevant for Board Roles!!

There is a misconception that executive search is a recruitment process relevant for only hiring board level roles. It is, in fact, a robust recruitment process that adds values to a range of roles up and down the hierarchical ladder

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There is a misconception that executive search is a recruitment process relevant for only hiring board level roles. It is, in fact, a robust recruitment process that adds values to a range of roles up and down the hierarchical ladder, for all sorts of reasons.


When recently speaking to a prospective client, our conversation prompted me to write a blog. Like this business, many in the UK continue to struggle when recruiting to niche technical and leadership qualities. In fact, according to research supporting the 2018 Tech Nation Report, only 24% of those surveyed responded positively when asked about their ability to recruit skilled workers. Despite this, many organisations continue to do the same things hoping for a different result, whilst the aged vacancies have a continued and profound impact on the business with every day that they remain unfilled.

The difficulty to recruit can be traced back to one main issue, the talent shortage. This means that companies encounter a scarce market that is short on suitable talent, yet heavily saturated with competing companies. Meaning even if they find suitable candidates, acquiring them is no guarantee.

The problem most companies have come in recruiting hard to find skillsets in a way that dilutes the effort of all involved having a negative short- and long-term impact. The most common approach of using a PSL of contingent agencies, pins hope on agents that are forced to increase the chances of making placements by working on 10-20 vacancies at any given time. By sending the same candidates to several companies, they improve the chances of a successful appointment. We call this “throwing mud at walls”!!

This has the following impact on the hiring organisation;

  • You typically, only see candidates who are active on the market – neglecting over half of your talent pool.
  • Potential candidates receive calls from several agencies who all deliver a different message about your business and the opportunity.
  • Your employer brand isn’t consistent in the local talent pool.
  • Even once a suitable candidate is identified there is typically increased competition for you to secure the candidate.

There is a solution to the problem, one that organisations utilise when they know in advance how critical and challenging a role may be. Executive Search is used by companies to recruit senior and board level appointments as they are aware that the vacancy is both critical and challenging. However, there is a misconception that the process should only be utilised on senior appointments, but my experience has proven that not to be the case.


The myth that executive search is purely an approach to be used for senior or board level hires is a misconception derived from the name “executive”. The reality is it translates to best practice recruitment, a structured approach that ensures no stone is left unturned and ultimate decisions can be made based on facts and research rather than assumptions.

By applying a more thorough and robust process with a recruitment partner you can take control of your recruitment, your employer brand and its overall success. By utilising this approach to build some brilliant technical teams for my clients I have seen that the approach can benefit vacancies of all levels and should not be reserved solely for senior hires. “Search” shouldn’t scare companies, it really doesn’t have to cost more money, just more commitment.

Integral to a company’s strategy is the critical importance of recruiting or hiring employees to deliver it. The most successful companies typically share the view that their people are the most important asset, an asset that contributes to both short- and long-term success. However, Indeed (one of the UK’s leading job boards), recently published research that estimated the cost of unfilled vacancies to the UK economy being over £18bn annually and it is worrying to consider what the cost must, therefore, be to individual organisations. Considering this, I have written this article detailing my experiences over the past few years and explaining how a misunderstanding of what executive search is could be costing you.

Recruitment is one of the most saturated markets in the UK. If you are an employer you are probably receiving 20 calls a day from recruitment agencies, if you are a recruiter you will have been up against 15 other agencies on the one vacancy and candidates have all been told about the same job by 10 different recruiters. Yet so may companies still struggle with aged vacancies that impact the business negatively with every day that they remain unfilled.

My journey as a specialist contingent and now executive search recruitment consultant over the past few years has allowed me to gain perspective on the solutions available to companies and more importantly an understanding of what works best. Most companies I come across have a recruiting strategy that roughly falls in line with the following;

  • Junior vacancies – recruited by the company
  • Mid-level/Management vacancies – Long preferred supplier list of contingent database agencies
  • Board level/Senior appointments – Engage with a retained executive search firm

However, in a candidate short market I have found that most customers don’t get the level of service and support required to see maximum benefit from both the recruitment process, but also the eventual hire. In the UK technology sector, mid-level and management positions such as embedded software engineers or technical project managers are in high demand. By spreading commitment thinly and using a list of contingent agencies, companies merely dilute the effort of those agencies, leading to unfilled vacancies that cost businesses and the UK economy vast amounts of money every year (more on the cost of unfilled vacancies to come in a future article!).

Like anything in life, the best results normally come from a mixture of ability and hard work. But unfortunately, by spreading their commitment thinly across a list of contingent agencies, businesses continue to struggle with niche technical vacancies as they pin their hopes on generalist consultants spreading their time across lots of vacancies.

One of the objections I come across when speaking with prospective customers is that they don’t need executive search, “we only work with executive search firms on board level assignments” is something I have heard far too often – but I do understand why this is the case. The term “executive”, in the business sense is defined as “a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business” and I subsequently understand why many businesses consider the approach to be reserved for senior hires only.

The reality though, is that in my experience, the term “executive search” is merely a way of defining best practice recruitment – a recruitment process that adds maximum value and delivers results. It needn’t cost more money, just more commitment and this in return allows a trust and experienced partner to commit also. The process of clearly defining the requirements of a role, establishing a clear and compelling message for the market and delivering that message to every candidate capable of performing that role, both active and passive – is in my opinion a process that should be employed on every important and challenging vacancy. Not reserved for senior hires only.

I have first hand experience of utilising search recruitment to help my clients build first class leadership AND technical teams, improving their both their short-term productivity and their long terms strategy.

About the author
Doug Mackay
5 min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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