Executive search is a specialised type of recruitment aimed at locating and sourcing highly-skilled senior management talent for an organisation.
In this guide, we’ll look at how the executive search process works, and the benefits of using it over other recruitment methods.
As high-level executives have crucial responsibilities within the company, like leading teams, making key business decisions, and gaining an edge over competitors, the cost of a bad hire can be high, leading to stalled projects, damaged morale, and even increased staff turnover.
To ensure maximum success with this crucial element of the business, this specialised area of recruitment utilises unique expertise in the sector, in order to find the highest quality candidates.
An executive search agency will conduct extensive interviews and research with their client to learn exactly what they want, the kind of person they’re looking for, and what they want the new team member to achieve. They will also learn about the client company’s values, ethos, and culture, as these are vital in ensuring a mutually beneficial partnership with potential candidates.
Instead of casting a wide net to find as many qualified candidates as possible, executive search focuses on the best of the best. A typical recruiter might put forward 10 or 20 people for a role, whereas in executive search, they may well submit a single candidate, out of hundreds they’ve spoken to or assessed.
Unlike a typical recruitment strategy, executive search takes a high-focus approach to a very small number of roles.
After the research phase, the recruiter has a clear understanding of what the company needs and who they need to look for, making the selection process far more specific and granular.
By design, executive search requires proactive engagement, as most of the time the candidates are already employed and not actively looking for a job. As leaders in their fields, these candidates often need more than just an impressive salary in order to consider the role.
This is part of the strength of executive search, in that the recruiter understands what the candidate wants from a role, and the candidates are chosen for their specific experience, traits, and compatibility with the company.
When it comes to executive search, recruiters have to be experts in the field they’re recruiting for. They need to understand the landscape of the sector, what the company offers, where it aims to be in ten years, and how those goals align with those of the potential candidate.
This is how recruiters match the client brief and expectations to the right candidate. It isn’t just about understanding the skills that make certain candidates excel, it’s about understanding them on a personal level, and helping them make the right move for their long-term career.
Over time, the relationship between client and recruiter can prove invaluable when looking for high-profile talent, as the recruiters have developed an exceptional understanding of the brand’s culture, values, and requirements, leading to higher levels of success when placing high-level team members.
An executive search campaign provides value to businesses by giving them a map of the market, complete with profiles of industry-leading candidates, as well as benchmarking for particular skills, roles, and salaries.
This allows smarter decision making, and a more informed approach to where talent can be sourced. High-performance candidates often have a wealth of transferable skills, and the right fit for an organisation may not be immediately obvious.
But a good recruiter can see the potential for compatibility in different candidates, and thanks to their expertise can deliver on very specific and exact requirements for a role.
It can be easy for organisations to fall into the trap of recruiting similar people as the previous team member, but executive search firms often excel at finding people who will help the business to grow and evolve in new ways, understanding what the client needs, and who can deliver. This way, executive search can guarantee results, even for very difficult roles to hire for.
An executive search firm will have extensive knowledge of board directors and senior executives across the industry, allowing them to tap into a considerable pool of top executive talent.
While the pool for executive search is naturally smaller than for more generalised recruitment projects, the pool for a given role can have surprising depth, with candidates weighing up every element of the job to see if it’s really the right fit for them.
This is why the additional attention to detail and personality that is innately part of executive search is so important, as it allows for a deeper match between candidate and role. The process is often far longer and more detailed than typical recruitment for this reason, with the candidate being fully immersed in the finer details of the role and organisation before they make their decision about whether to pursue the opportunity.
It’s this level of dedication that leads to successful candidate placement with long-term satisfaction on both sides.
If a company is looking to grow and improve, and to do so at speed, executive search is often more valuable than a traditional widespread recruitment campaign. One great senior leader member can empower an entire team, improve processes, and bring in new business.
To enable this kind of rapid transformation, executive search only focuses on candidates who are experts in their fields, with clearly proven leadership and team-building skills, who can walk into a role and start producing value from day one. These candidates take on essential responsibilities that have a direct effect on the company’s growth and success.
This is why executive search can often drive growth at higher levels than a more widespread recruitment campaign.
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