What are the 20 questions you should ask a potential new Executive Search partner to ensure they are right for your business?

20 questions to help you evaluate a potential new Executive Search partner's capabilities, expertise, and alignment with your organisation's needs.

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Interviewing new executive search partners is a crucial step in finding the right firm to recruit a Board or Senior Level role for your company. Here are 20 questions to help you evaluate their capabilities, expertise, and alignment with your organisation's needs:


  1. Experience and Track Record: Can you provide examples of successful appointments you have made for similar roles?
  2. Search Process: Can you outline your typical executive search process for recruiting a senior role? How do you source potential candidates, and what is your approach to passive candidate recruitment?
  3. Understanding Your Company: How do you ensure a deep understanding of our company culture, values, and strategic goals? What steps will you take to comprehend the specific requirements and challenges of our industry?
  4. Candidate Assessment: How do you assess candidates beyond their CV's? What criteria do you consider? Can you provide examples of how you evaluate cultural fit between candidates and organisations?
  5. Market Knowledge: What is your assessment of the current talent market for senior level roles in our industry and region? What do you believe will be the biggest obstacles to a successful appointment?
  6. Search Timeline: What is the estimated timeline for completing the search process and presenting a candidate shortlist? How do you manage unexpected delays or challenges that may arise during the search?
  7. Client References: Can you provide references from clients who have recently hired similar roles through your firm? What were the challenges faced in those searches, and how were they overcome?
  8. Communication and Reporting: How often will you provide updates on the search progress, and what form will those updates take? What level of transparency can we expect throughout the process?
  9. Fee Structure: What is your fee structure, and are there any additional costs we should be aware of?
  10. Guarantee and Replacement Policy: Do you offer any guarantees or replacement policies if the recruited executive does not work out within a certain period? How do you handle situations where the candidate leaves shortly after appointment?
  11. Diversity and Inclusion: How do you ensure diversity and inclusion in your candidate pool? Can you share examples of how you've successfully promoted diversity in senior level searches?
  12. Global Reach: If applicable, how do you handle international searches, and do you have a global network? Can you provide examples of cross-border appointments you have successfully completed?
  13. Technology and Tools: What tools and technologies do you use to identify and assess candidates? How do you leverage data and analytics in the executive search process?
  14. Confidentiality: How do you ensure the confidentiality of the search process, especially in sensitive senior level searches? Can you provide examples of how you've handled confidential searches in the past?
  15. References from Candidates: Do you obtain feedback from candidates regarding their experience with your firm? How do you ensure a positive candidate experience throughout the recruitment process?
  16. Post-Placement Support: What level of support do you provide after the successful placement of an executive? How do you assist with onboarding and integration?
  17. Success Metrics: How do you measure the success of an executive search beyond the appointment itself? Can you share examples of long-term success stories from the appointments you have made?
  18. Challenges in the Search: How do you handle challenges such as candidate withdrawals or counteroffers from their current employers? Can you provide examples of how you've navigated difficult situations in previous searches?
  19. Adaptability: How do you adapt your approach to the unique needs and nuances of our organisation? Can you share instances where you've customised your process for a specific client?
  20. Questions for Us: What questions do you have for us to better understand our expectations and requirements? How can we ensure a collaborative and effective partnership throughout the search process?


These questions should provide a comprehensive understanding of an executive search firm's capabilities, approach, and compatibility with your company's needs to recruit senior level roles.

About the author
Doug Mackay
6 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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