How to Select an Executive Search Firm

It’s a recruitment agency’s job to fill positions with the most qualified candidates as fast as possible. Not all headhunting firms are created equal, and for companies in need of executive talent acquisition, partnering with the right one is crucial.

Steps to Take When Choosing a Search Firm…

What do you look for in a talent acquisition agency? Here are 15 key questions that will help you in the selection process:

1. What is the firm’s search process and search approach?

What is the search process? How will they draw in the most qualified candidates? Will they prepare the candidate for interviews and provide feedback? What is their search style? Will they rely on a database, online boards, advertising, etc.? How much effort is made on sourcing passive candidates? You need to know.

2. Is the firm a “sound representative” for your organization?

Your choice will be a reflection of your company, so it’s important to know the agency’s values, principals, experience, and their reputation in the business. These issues impact a search firm’s ability to gain access to high-level professional talent.

3. Who will handle your search?

Will your company and project be a priority to recruiters handling your search? What are their credentials and expertise? Will the recruiters be in direct contact with you and how often?

4. Does the firm understand the complete nature of the position and are they capable of recruiting the opening?

Do they possess in-depth knowledge of your company and its operations, business segments, products and services, strategy, and culture? Do they know where you stand in the marketplace and what type of candidates would give you a competitive advantage against your business rivals? The agency needs to do their homework to reach out to those with the right qualifications.

5. What knowledge does the search firm have regarding the geographic region, industry and the position?

To best market your search assignment to candidates, the agency must have knowledge of the position in question. Also, you want to be familiar with their network of contacts. The best recruiters have eyes and ears on the specific target market including geographic region (i.e. Mexico, South America, USA, etc.), country, and industry or sector. They know the “talent pool”—how to contact them, salary rates, career expectations, current hiring difficulties—and can help connect you to people with the range of skills and experience you need.

6. Are the recruiters qualified to evaluate a candidate’s soft skills?

Soft skills, or emotional competencies (communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, creativity), are incredibly important to personal and on-the-job success. A recent LinkedIn survey revealed 59% believe soft skills are tough to find in employees today. Professionally trained recruiters who evaluate talent for the presence of these skills are vital in a search firm. On paper, it might look as though the candidate has all the necessary requirements, but they may lack desired personality traits. In today’s corporate world, it’s important for employers and search firms alike to remember they are hiring a person, not a resume.

7. Do the recruiters speak the language and understand the culture of the country they are recruiting for?

In order to fully understand the idiosyncrasies and body language of the candidate, the cultural fit and to measure native and additional required language fluency, it is highly recommended the recruiter speak the local language and understand the culture of the country you are recruiting for.

8. Metrics and benchmarks for search projects.

What percentage of searches does the search firm actually complete? How much time do they take in completing a search? Ask how fast they can begin interviewing candidates.

9. After the completion proof the search, what kind of service can you expect?

What is their post-placement service? Do they have one? A good agency will keep in touch to make sure both parties—employer and employee—are happy and resolve any issues that come up in the initial week of starting the position.

10. What is the “guarantee period” offered for new hires?

What happens if a new hire quits shortly after being hired? A replacement guarantee is often offered by most firms if a new hire quits within a specified period of time following their employment. It is important also to ask how many years a search firm has been in business, as the guarantee may not be available if they are no longer in business when a guarantee is needed.

11. Do the firm’s recruiters have a high search load?

Be sure your consultant can give your search the time it requires so that the quality of their work doesn’t decline.

12. What are the fees?

Is there a clear fee arrangement offered in writing? What expenses are billed separately? Are billed expenses a hidden profit center for the company? Search firms rates should be competitive, but be cautious of selecting a search consultant based exclusively on the quoted rate alone.

13. Does the company use a structured analysis to qualify probable candidates?

Search firms should qualify candidates based on skills and experience. Behavioral-based interviews can help with this analysis. Search firms should also screen applicants using factors that influence retention. Ask if they communicate with the candidate during the post-hire integration phase to assist with retention. Research demonstrates that the cost to replace an employee is usually 120-130% of that employee’s annual compensation. Early departure should be avoided.

14. What are their “Off Limits” policies?

“Off limits” is an unethical situation where a search firm is unable to actively source and recruit candidates from existing active clients. Too much exposure in a particular industry can limit their effectiveness.

15. Enquire for client references

Strong professional client references related to your search should be offered by a good headhunting firm. Make sure you call the references and ask about their experience with the search firm your evaluating.

Should you want additional guidance about job placement and recruitment opportunities in Mexico Latin America and the USA, don’t hesitate to get hold of us at barbachano@bipsearch.com.

Written by:

Barbachano International Staff