Finding top-flight talent for your organisation can be incredibly challenging, especially within niche sectors such as automotive, manufacturing and technology. With far more executive roles waiting to be filled than there are candidates in the marketplace, competition for exceptional  talent is fierce, if not ferocious, and remuneration packages need to be comprehensive and market-beating for virtually all senior-level ‘decision making’ roles.

Employers looking to recruit in this environment need to think strategically when it comes to working with a recruitment partner, and building a long term relationship with an executive search specialist is often the approach that yields the best results. In this article, we take an in-depth look at exactly what executive search means, exploring how it differs from more traditional recruitment practices and detailing the benefits it can offer to firms of all sizes.

What is Executive Search?

Before we go into the details of why executive search could offer real advantages for your organisation, it is important to outline exactly what we mean by that term. Put simply, executive search refers to the process of sourcing candidates for senior-level positions or for highly specialised technical roles in a wide variety of fields. Executive search excels in sourcing candidates for roles such as CEOs, Managing Directors, Finance Directors, Operations Directors, Commercial or Sales Directors, General Managers and Supply Chain Directors, as well as Heads of Engineering and Technical Directors.

Generally speaking, executive search differs from traditional recruitment in that it is a much more proactive way of sourcing talent. Traditional recruitment tends to focus on matching candidates who are actively looking for a new position with companies seeking to recruit for roles across a wide range of skill levels. In contrast, executive search typically involves reaching out to individuals who may not be active in the recruitment marketplace to offer them the opportunity to discuss a new role with another firm. The term headhunting is commonly used to refer to the practice of executive search, but this phrase does little to explain the real benefits of executive search, or the work that goes into building an effective and valuable executive search network.

Contingency Versus Retained Executive Search

Traditionally, recruitment firms tend to operate on a contingency search basis, where they do not charge their clients for their services unless a candidate is actually placed with the client firm. In retained search, however, the fee structure works in a different way. As the term ‘retained search’ implies, this is an ongoing relationship between the recruitment firm and the client, and as such, recruitment fees are very different. The specifics of each retained executive search arrangement may vary, but in principle, the client firm pays the executive search specialist an upfront amount, with additional payments being made throughout the search process and again when a candidate is finally placed.

Another key difference between traditional and retained executive search is that it offers exclusivity – the recruitment firm will work specifically on the client’s requirements and will not forward candidates for roles across a number of different employers.

What Can Executive Search Offer Employers?

As we mentioned at the start of this article, finding exceptional talent in a strong employment market can be extremely difficult. Often, key roles require a very specific set of skills, both technical and managerial, and a level of experience that can be hard to find in an open recruitment environment. Additionally, trying to build an overseas recruitment campaign can be expensive and complicated to target effectively. Finally, the fact that a firm is recruiting for a particular senior-level vacancy could be commercially-sensitive information, making it hard to recruit using standard recruitment techniques.

All of these scenarios make executive search a much more sensible choice. Executive search specialists have typically built up a strong and extensive network of candidates and contacts over many years, keeping tabs on exactly how the careers of those contacts are developing and what experience they are building up. Niche executive search firms will always have a better understanding of the roles they are recruiting for, and of the experience and skills required for those roles. Quite simply, they’ll also have access to the very best talent available in their particular niche. They can literally go directly to the best possible candidates for any particular role – in a way that regular recruitment firms just cannot do. With an executive search service, clients get a dedicated and targeted recruitment campaign focussed on one specific role.

This brings a laser-focused approach to finding exactly who to contact for a particular role. The general broadcast approach to recruitment is replaced by a specific and highly qualified direct contact method that brings fast and accurate results. Typically, an executive search consultant will be able to quickly identify potential candidates who may not be currently thinking about a new role, but who are nonetheless interested and motivated when approached with a strong offer. Combining comprehensive candidate screening and targeted search within the search firm’s network and extended databases, both UK and internationally means that the recruitment process is faster, more accurate and more successful at attracting the ideal candidate for each role.

Looking at overseas recruitment next, executive search can again bring real advantages. Specialist recruiters will have a network of overseas talent, who are willing to relocate and who have practical experience of doing just that. This really cuts to the chase when it comes to overseas recruitment, which can often seem overly complicated for firms that have not previously looked to recruit internationally. There is no complex and expensive campaign to run in multiple overseas locations – just a clean, targeted approach to a small number of highly qualified senior level candidates who are keen to find out more about the role on offer.

The final advantage we mentioned is that of discretion. For very high-level management roles, it is often not appropriate to advertise the role publicly and many months in advance of the start-date for the role, as this could provide valuable information to competitors about the future strategy of the client firm, or about possible problems or issues that the firm is currently facing. By discreetly approaching potential candidates on an individual basis, pre-qualifying their interest along the way, an executive search firm can avoid negative publicity or the release of sensitive recruitment information into the wider marketplace.

What Can Executive Search Offer Candidates?

The need for discretion isn’t restricted to the client firm when it comes to senior managerial roles or highly specialised technical placements. Individuals themselves often need to consider their current roles and their future development prospects in a cautious and private way. Putting out a CV is sometimes not an option for many top-level professionals, because at such a senior level or in a highly technical niche, it could be possible to identify the individual from even the vaguest of descriptions of skills and experience. For that reason alone, it pays senior professionals to maintain good relationships with executive search firms. Instead of casting around looking for future opportunities or worse still, simply staying put in an unfulfilling role, many individuals prefer to maintain strong connections with executive search consultants, so that they never miss the perfect opportunity that’s just right for them and their career development.

And because executive search specialists rely so heavily on their network of professional contacts, individuals can be assured that they will only ever be approached about roles that they really are well-qualified for, cutting down on time and effort and avoiding the frustrating situation of being put forward for roles that aren’t really suitable.

Choosing An Executive Recruitment Partner

Hiring at an executive level can have significant implications for the strategic direction of your firm, and for your commercial success overall. Getting the recruitment process right is therefore critical, and it pays to evaluate potential executive search partners carefully, to ensure you get the best fit possible for a long and fruitful relationship.

Of course, the most important factor to weigh up when choosing an executive search firm to work with is whether they have significant experience in recruiting within your particular sector and at the very highest levels. Executive search depends heavily on the network of individuals and contacts that the search firm has built up over many years, so it’s worthwhile asking potential partners to detail their experience and introduce any senior partners who are specialists in your sector.

Reputation is everything when it comes to attracting the most influential and successful talent and guiding them towards your vacancies. Executive search firms need to be well-respected in the marketplace, with both client firms and individuals. In order to be able to initiate dialogues with the most senior professionals, executive search firms need to have consultants who are able to communicate effectively and credibly with people at the very top of their professionals – junior consultants just won’t be able to open the same doors as more experienced recruiters.

A good executive recruitment partner should be able to clearly outline their search process for you, and should be keen to do just that. The search process should be polished and professional and should include reaching out to their extensive network of contacts but also being able to tap into the wider marketplace with focus and integrity. Everything in the search process should be transparent to the client firm, and it should be clear that any relationship will be an ongoing partnership that builds in strength and value over time.

Our consultants have practical, real-world technical experience that helps them understand just what is required for each role they work on. Our trusted networks of contacts are extensive and we make use of a wide range of mediums to build relationships with candidates over the long term. Our approach is collaborative and proactive, with a focus on communication at every step of the executive recruitment journey. We recognise that clients put their trust in us to be the link between them and potential candidates, and we put honesty, integrity and transparency at the heart of what we do and how we connect with both clients and candidates.

Speak to Cartisian today about how our executive search team could bring real benefits to your firm, now and long into the future. We’ll provide client testimonials, real-world examples of our work, and an in-depth explanation of how we work and what makes us different. We’ll take time to understand your business and its strategic objectives, and analyse your recruitment needs in detail, before coming up with a coherent and comprehensive plan for sourcing incredible talent to take your organisation forward to a bright future – a future where we’ll still be there, working alongside you for the long-term.

Call today on 0121 295 1600 to start your executive search.