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The executive search market is increasingly more crowded and finding a firm that aligns best with your organisation’s needs and ethos can be tricky.

In this guide, we give nine practical tips for finding the right firm. These tips cover the search process and initial conversations and are designed to help you evaluate prospective search firms and decide which one will be the best to help you achieve your recruitment objectives.


How to find the best executive search firm

We want you to find the best executive search firm to help you fill your role(s). Below, you’ll find nine tips taken from our years of experience in the executive recruitment space. 


Don’t just smile and dial

Picking up the phone and calling a list of executive search firms is time-consuming, and even though we imagine most people wouldn’t take this rudderless approach in a digital age, we’ll touch on it briefly anyway.

A more efficient starting point is to evaluate the web presences of a few firms and to see how they align with your initial criteria. In executive search, this could be requirements such as robust industry knowledge, demonstrable portfolio of successful hires and strong thought leadership. 

Once you’ve got a shortlist of firms who look like they might fit the bill, it’s time to strike up a conversation.


Speak to your network

You’ve no doubt got contacts in your industry who have faced their own hiring challenges, giving you a valuable vein of information to tap into. Pick up the phone and call a few people - it could be former colleagues or someone you met at a conference…the list is endless. Ask them which firms helped find the right candidate for their role.

Then, write down all the answers you get. It’s likely that certain names will crop up more than others: these are the firms to add to your call list.


Go location-specific

This may seem obvious, but make sure prospective firms operate in the right geographic area. Even though candidates may be sourced from other areas, familiarity with the region your organisation operates in will help an executive search firm to operate more effectively.


Have a conversation 

It’s a tired adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression, but there’s truth in it. Initial conversations with an executive search firm will give insight into their attitude, their ethos and the type of rapport you may expect to build.

This is likely to be a long-term relationship, so it’s really important to trust your instinct and to be willing to strike a firm from your list if things don’t feel right in the early stages.


Understand the firm’s processes

At the initial conversation stage, it’s up to you to steer things towards getting the information you need to make a decision. Although you’ll be working with your own criteria, below are some guiding questions that can be helpful in understanding a firm’s processes:

  • Where and how do you source candidates?
  • How do you vet prospects?
  • What is your average time to fill similar positions?
  • Do you have experience in this industry?

Answers should be insightful, confident and allow follow-up questions as well. 


Understand their systems

During initial conversations, also try to get a feel for the systems and techniques a firm uses. Are they reactive and responsive to emerging industry trends, for example? Are they rooted firmly in traditional techniques?

Although traditional techniques aren’t inherently problematic, a firm unwilling to engage with the modern realities of the industry may struggle to remain relevant or to deliver good results.

Asking whether a firm uses bespoke software and systems is another good indication of their approach to recruitment: bespoke solutions often alleviate common industry pain points and enable a firm to increase the power at their fingertips.


Compare proposals

The next step is to understand what a firm’s specific approach to your situation might look like. Here, you invite several firms to provide a free proposal. Then you compare the contents of each. 

This step has the potential to reveal a huge amount of information, from indicative costs to the firm’s understanding of the industry in which they’re recruiting, to the types of tools and techniques on offer. 

When you’re comparing proposals, evaluate each against the criteria you outlined earlier. If you communicated these to a prospective firm earlier in the conversation, their proposal should demonstrate that they’ve understood your challenges and are willing and able to develop a strategy to help you solve them.


Check out their thought leadership

Accomplished firms will have important things to say and will invest time and energy in thought leadership. Browse the output of executive search consultants in the firms you’re considering and see whether the beliefs and values they espouse in their thought leadership aligns with your expectations.

Thought leadership can include written contributions to industry publications and websites, keynote speeches, slide decks, social media profiles and more.


Remember the little courtesies

Working with an executive search firm should be smooth and free of hassle. You want to know that they’re working efficiently toward solving your recruitment challenges and that any issues or concerns you have will be addressed promptly.

The conversation should be ongoing and you should be kept up to date with what’s happening. In no circumstances should you be left in the dark and unable to get information on how things are progressing.

The best executive search firms will value traits like transparency, responsiveness and helpfulness. In successful relationships, these are non-negotiable.


Why you should choose Carrot Executive for your search

At Carrot Executive, we’ve refined our expertise into a suite of powerful executive search services.

Our strategic market insights service helps organisations to refine their market positioning, enhance USPs for attracting candidates and strengthen their ability to compete in their industry. 

We also offer talent attraction and retention reviews, both of which are designed to empower organisations so that they can understand the obstacles they may face in the recruitment process and remove them. 


Making the difference between success and failure 

Finding the right executive search firm is the difference between recruitment success and failure. As a result, putting in the time and energy to source and evaluate a range of prospective firms is an essential part of the process. To aid you in this process, we've created a free, must-have screening template to use when selecting your next executive search firm. 

Download screening template

At Carrot Executive, we leverage our extensive expertise to help organisations find the perfect candidate for their executive roles. Get in touch with us today - we’d love to talk with you about the challenges you’re facing and advise on how we can help you to solve them.

We’ve also written a Guide to Executive Search and Recruitment in which you can find much more information about the intricacies of the process. 


Carrot Executive

Carrot Executive work in partnership with a large number of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences companies and consultancies, supporting with a range of executive search and bespoke insights projects to support clients in their strategic decision making in relation to talent attraction and retention, market penetration and competitor benchmarking.

For more information, please contact Martin Anderson via, call +44 (0)1625 541 032 or use the 'schedule a call' link below:

Schedule a call

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