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Finding your next HR hire – the executive search route

Once a company has decided to go out to market to find a key hire, how do they choose the right executive search company to work with? And as a candidate, how do you pick the right firm to represent you? The following points will provide guidance for making the right decision.


1. Track record

Does the executive search firm have experience of finding candidates for the same type of role, in the same geography, salary level and sector? A reputable search company should be able to show evidence of similar roles they have filled and provide references from past and current clients.         

2. Professionalism

The search firm will be representing the client during the search. How they approach the market, present the role, the company, the culture and how they interact with potential candidates will all have an impact on how the client’s brand is perceived. The client should be able to gauge the professionalism of the search firm during the tendering process, the initial contact with the consultant managing the assignment, and the quality and accuracy of both the proposal and candidate briefing document.

3. The process used by the search firm

This starts at the initial meeting with the client. Do they have knowledge of current market conditions including the calibre of candidates actively looking and salary levels of similar roles, so they can give the client an accurate estimation of time to hire, and highlight any potential difficulties the search will encounter? Are they knowledgeable of the current market conditions and the quality of candidates looking, and can they demonstrate an understanding of the company culture, the candidate profile and both the positive and negative aspects of the role? Can they show example CVs of candidates who fit the profile? Do they update the client regularly on progress and give feedback on how the role is seen in the market? Are candidates properly interviewed and briefed before meeting the client? Will they regret unsuccessful candidates in a professional manner, providing honest and sensitive feedback? This area is important because for every one successful candidate there could be up to 50 candidates who are unsuccessful.

4. Other considerations

Fees are of course important, but should not be the deciding factor when choosing a search firm, as quality is more important than cost when filling a key hire. Retained search firms are better placed to work on searches for salary levels at £70K and above, anything below this figure would be better dealt with by a contingency approach. Finally, if the role is a specialist rather than general position then it is always advisable to choose a specialist company.

The candidate perspective

In most areas candidate considerations and client considerations dovetail exactly. Candidates should choose a reputable search firm with experience of placing people in roles similar to what the candidate is looking for. In addition, there are a number of activities which should always happen, such as:

  • The interview with the search firm should only occur once there is a role to interview them against.
  • A candidate’s CV should never be sent to a prospective client unless the candidate has agreed for their details to be forwarded.
  • Successful candidates should always have an initial conversation with the consultant, preferably face to face, in order to explain exactly the type of role, industry sector, location, salary level and culture they are looking for.
  • Before a client interview the consultant should have briefed the candidate on the role, the HR and business context and a personality and style profile of the hiring manager.



For better placed executive search then we are here to help. The best consultants will be happy to help with advice and support as you begin the process of finding your next HR hire.

Get in touch for a confidential discussion with a member of our team.