When Should You Engage with a Professional Executive Search Firm?

The answer is, only when you are ready to invest in your business.

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The answer is, only when you are ready to invest in your business.

For a company that has never sought any external support to recruit and build their team, deciding on the best investment for your business or the type of support you need is a really difficult decision. The recruitment industry is huge, I was once told that “there are as many recruitment agencies in the UK as there are restaurants” Just like restaurants, there are some fantastic ones that you will choose to revisit time and time again due to the quality of food and service that you receive but there are also some horrors that will leave you with a very bad taste in your mouth and left wanting a refund. So many organisations we meet, from start-ups to global corporations, tar all recruitment consultancies with the same brush and the reality is far from this.

In my view, too many companies consider any type of recruitment as a cost to their business and don’t see adding to their organisation as an investment in capital as they would say, a piece of manufacturing automation or a new company-wide IT system.

No matter what level you are recruiting, adding new people to your team should always be seen as an investment that you can measure and achieve a return on and definitely not a cost that you want to minimise. Considering hiring as an investment will help you to assess what you need to do to attract the right person, develop them and retain them. Getting it right will help you deliver your business strategy in the medium term, not just the immediate one.

So, when should you engage with a professional executive search firm?

The first question I would ask you is why are you considering using external recruitment support? Have you tried to make an appointment yourself and failed? Have you tried to recruit via a contingency recruitment agency and failed or has someone mentioned to you that partnering an executive search firm could be a valuable strategy? Have you considered all your options and the various different services and value they will offer you?

Here is a previous article we wrote outlining the difference between a contingency and retained recruitment partner.

So, you’ve evaluated all the options available and decided to retain a professional executive search firm.

What next?

Investing your time is critical to your success. You need to be prepared to invest both your time and your financial resources to achieve success.

The famous adage of “you get out what you put in” is absolutely the case in recruitment and probably the single biggest reason why companies fail at it.

Your time;

Do you have a clear understanding of the role that will provide a detailed brief to your external recruitment partner? You need to have considered the following;

  • Do you have an employer brand? Why would your target candidate be interested in working for you? Don’t just say salary as this will secure someone in the short term but you’ll be disappointed in the long run. How attractive is your organisation in order to entice exceptional individuals? Does your business have a great reputation and will people want to work for you? What is your story, where are you going and why should anyone want to help you get there? See our free guide to creating a compelling employer brand.
  • What is the role you want to recruit? Where does it fit into your organisation structure? Have you written a detailed job description for it that you can evaluate someone’s performance against? What is the key objective of the role and how will you evaluate your appointed individual’s success in the first 6/12 months?
  • Who do you want to recruit and with what skills and experience? What behaviours would align with your company culture? Do you need skills from a specific industry or are behaviours and potential more important?
  • Do you have a recruitment process that runs smoothly? Are all the right stakeholders engaged so that you are able to make decisive decisions, quickly? Procrastination sows seeds of doubt in candidates’ minds and any delays can mean you missing out on talented individuals.
  • Is it a confidential appointment? Are there any internal candidates? Are you happy for your employees to hear that you are recruiting the role from their industry peers?

There is a lot of preparation to do before you engage with your recruitment partner and it will all help you achieve a successful appointment. There are unfortunately no shortcuts or magic wands to wave.

Only when you have invested your time and have the answers to these questions are you ready to engage with a professional executive search firm. Good luck, if you chose the right partner it will be a value adding and enjoyable process.

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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