5 Must-Ask Questions Before Considering an Executive Search Firm

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Bringing a new executive onto your team can be both an exhausting and exhilarating process. If you find the right person for the job, it can give your team and company a boost to levels you haven’t seen before. Once you’re ready to find your next executive, do you know how you will discover the right fit? Here are 5 must-ask questions to consider before hiring an executive search firm


1. What are my options, besides using an executive search firm?

The deceptively simple-looking option is to perform the search in-house, yourself. You would have full and complete control over the entire process from start to finish. You would evaluate every aspect of every candidate personally and nothing would get by you. However, chances are if you find yourself in need of bringing on a new executive, it’s because you’ve found yourself a bit too burdened by daily tasks already. Do you really have the time to perform a months-long, in-depth search on your own? Do you have the network and expertise to find the right person on your own?

Hiring an executive search firm

Another in-house option is to hire an HR-lead or recruiter to work for your team full-time. They will most likely have a pretty solid network to bring with them, but you’ll need to make sure it’s within your niche. They also have the ability to dive really deep into evangelizing your company, and could even help establish and reinforce your culture through their hiring over time. The downfall is you will need to get them onboarded fully prior to them beginning the process of finding your new executive. Also, the demands and requirements of executive recruitment are very different from those of hiring the rest of your team. It takes a certain level of specialization, and someone who is great for hiring your team from the ground up may have different strengths than that of an executive recruiter.

2. So, why should I use an executive search firm?

One of the most costly hiring mistakes is moving too hastily and bringing in the wrong fit. Worst case scenario, you spend the money to find the candidate, vet them, and hire them, then they produce little to no results while also tearing your team and culture apart from the inside-out. The cost of the hire plus the productivity that you could have had in that position with a good hire is already worth thousands upon thousands of dollars, and the ripple effect through the rest of the team will probably end up costing you millions.

Use an executive search firm to avoid hiring mistakes

An executive search firm will have a tried and true process for understanding your company inside and out to find you the right candidate, the first time, allowing you to avoid the nightmare of a bad hire.

Any good executive search firm is already going to have a solid network of extremely qualified candidates in their system. They come in with the ability to locate and approach executives that are high performers in their current roles within their current companies, those that aren’t actually out looking for a job.

3. Are there different types of executive search firms?

Yes, indeed. There are actually two different types of searches, Contingent and Retained. Some firms are able to do both types of search, but many tend to specialize in one or the other. Let’s break each down:

Contingent Search

The definition of contingent is that one thing will happen dependent on something else happening first. In this case, a contingency recruiter is only paid once they have delivered a candidate that is hired for a role. These recruiters tend to have a large portfolio of candidates and they attempt to reach out to as many as possible as quickly as they can because placing candidates is how they get paid. This obviously makes them extremely motivated to find you as many decent candidates as possible. However, it may cause them to overlook or pass by some of the best candidates because it would take more time to locate or “sell” them on the position. Contingency recruitment is typically great for hires that are below the executive and management level or for highly skilled positions such as engineers.

There are two types of executive search firms

Retained Search

A retained search begins with an up-front fee to get the process started and is typically paid in invoices throughout the search. Unlike the contingency search, where the recruiter is trying to get as many qualified candidates in front of you as possible, the retained search is digging deep into their network to locate very highly qualified individuals. Once they’ve located several, they assess them internally for their overall ability to perform the work and fit within your company culture. They provide you with only the very best fit and most highly qualified candidates.

4. Do I need to be concerned about confidentiality?

The truth is, if you are looking for an amazing executive that is going to help take your company to the next level, you will need to find someone who is really great at what they do. Those people are typically performing well in roles and at companies within which they are quite content. Confidentiality and discretion are extremely important when reaching out to these types of individuals. You need to ensure that if they are willing to speak with you and consider the role, there is no way it will get back to their current company.

The need for confidentiality is a sign that it’s time to hire an executive search firm. Read what the other 7 signs are here. 

You may also want to keep your own company information confidential until a candidate has been fully evaluated. It may be difficult to  guarantee confidentiality if you are performing the search in-house or if a contingency firm is sending candidates to you for full vetting. 

Executive search firms can maintain confidentiality

5. What is the firm’s past success rate?

The last question to ask before hiring an executive search firm is their success rates. Once you have a handful of search firms to evaluate, you’ll want to dive into some metrics with them. Below are a few things you’ll want to note for each firm:

  • How long does their process typically take?
  • How often can you expect to receive updates throughout the search?
  • At what points will they plan to pull you in and what will they handle on their own?
  • What is their placement rate?
  • What is their retention rate for the 12 months following placement?

Ask for an executive search firm's success rate before hiring them


Finding the best fit for your next executive hire can come down to finding the best firm to discover and present that person to your team. Andcor is fully dedicated to undertaking executive search the same way we’ve done for the last 49 years: Thoughtfully, methodically, personally, and strategically- with your long-term growth and success in mind. To learn more about how to find the right executives to grow your business, contact us today!

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