Executive Search

Head-hunting, or more correctly Executive Search, is viewed by some in the corporate world as a dark art but is it? Contrary to popular belief, Search is not about clandestinely dangling a larger salary in front of an avaricious candidate to entice them away from their hapless employer. In fact, the contrary is true; for many of the people we recruit, money is way down on the “reasons why I took a new job” list. Right up there though are; “the chance to advance my career to the next level” and “the opportunity to take on a challenge that will broaden my skill set”. Executive Search is, as I see it, the process of identifying a talent pool of candidates and presenting an opportunity that is mutually beneficial to both the candidate and the client. So what should the head-hunter experience feel like for both the hiring party and the headhuntee themselves?


When a candidate enters the job market, or is approached by an executive search specialist, the experience, by necessity, has to be personal. From a candidate point of view, an Executive Search consultant’s job is to understand not just the skill set but to understand their hopes, desires and ambitions. To a client, the job of a consultant is to present a shortlist of close fit and, here is the key: highly motivated candidates. The way in which we identify ‘highly motivated’ is to understand what is in the best interest of each candidate. When a candidate engages with an executive search consultancy, it should be an exceptional experience. The consultant should be able to provide guidance on what would be a good career move for them, and should be able to clearly comprehend the candidate’s existing skills and strengths and what their future goals are. The consultant will act as a career mentor and will work hard to ensure the candidate fulfils their ambitions; and that may mean advising them to stay in their current role.


Once an employer has established the need to engage with an executive search practice, rather than a provider of other types of recruitment service, they must be confident that the executive search consultant has understood their requirements and will carry out an in-depth exploration of the candidate market (both active and passive) before presenting them with a solution.


To clients and candidates alike, a good executive search consultant should engage and look to build a relationship over and beyond that of a service provider. To attract key management to their business, an employer needs to trust their consultant but of course this trust has to be built. Building trust takes time and is earned, not from one telephone call and the request to submit a proposal, but from the sharing of knowledge and the mutual understanding of the task in hand. To build this understanding, both parties must have an open discussion about the project and what particular  member of staff is needed to help steer their business to greater success – there isn’t a quick fix solution to hiring quality talent so consultation is key in finding the right match for your business.


Executive Search necessarily can take longer than more general recruitment but it can save a lot of time and money in the long run. And a recent report by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) showed just how much: a poor hire at mid-manager level with a salary of £42,000 could cost a business more than £132,000 in reality (Perfect match: Making the right hire and the cost of getting it wrong). Often companies do not have the resources to map the market for high performers, assess non relevant CVs, meet multiple candidates or enter into protracted salary negotiations. The client is searching for a best-in-class candidate who is going to add real value and the candidate, for their part, is looking for the next step in their career on the path to fulfilling their potential. By working with an executive search consultancy, employers can save themselves time and stress by handing the hard work over to someone else. The consultant is, of course, well-positioned to take on this work and will invest time and resources engaging with their extensive networks to deliver candidates with the best mix of knowledge, skills and abilities. 


For an employer, the experience of working with an executive search consultancy should feel uncomplicated, with clear expectations set at the beginning of the process. They should feel as if the consultant fully understands their requirements and that each step will be conducted with confidentiality and professionalism. They should feel safe in the knowledge that the consultant will deliver exceptional candidates at the end of the process.  
Perhaps it is the connotations of ‘hunt’ that have created some negative perceptions of headhunting and executive search services, bringing to mind images of the animal kingdom motivated by a need to fulfil their hunger and to demonstrate their place in the food chain. I can safely say, from my 12 years in executive search, this analogy is not reflective of how it works.


It is about creating a positive experience between all parties, helping employers find the talent they need to drive their business forward, and giving individuals the chance to take the next step in their career. Your experience should be personal, professional and simple and that is the service we strive to offer.

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