What is Executive Search?

The UK has the second largest executive search market in the world but executive search is not widely understood. Lee De Souza of Harrison Bridge explains:

It is most commonly used for roles above £70k+

Typically, organisations will engage an executive search firm, also known as a headhunter, where the base salary is anywhere from £70,000 up to board level. It is often for business-critical roles and can be any role across any function, sector and location whether national or international.

How a headhunter maps a market

The headhunter will work with the client to define the requirements of a role and then create a target list of companies (typically up to 50) where they will identify people that match the competencies and skills required by their client. The target list created might be a list of competitors, a range of organisations from similar sectors or from an industry that is leading the way in an area that the company would like to develop their expertise in.

Conducting research to find the best candidates

The research phase can involve identifying 200+ candidates, which the executive search firm will then directly speak with 50 – 100 of those over a four to six week period. During this timeframe, an executive search firm will often create a longlist of 5 – 10 candidates and a shortlist of between 2 – 5 that they then recommend to the client.During this period, clients can expect a weekly progress updateto review CVs, market insight and what is available in the market place that is within their budget.

Candidate attraction

Headhunters will use a variety of methods to find candidates using technology, referrals, social networking as well as their personal network. Headhunters take a proactive, direct but discrete approach to speaking with candidates ensuring they do not put the candidate at risk during any conversations.

The difference between recruitment agencies and executive search firms

Recruitment agencies may sometimes take a proactive approach to finding candidates, but their time is spread thinly working on upwards of 20+ jobs. Headhunters may spend upwards of 100+ hours per assignment which may entail interviewing candidates across the UK as well as Skype calls across different time zones to suit candidates and clients’ needs.  An executive search consultant will typically only actively work on two to four roles at any one time due to the labour intensive nature of each search.

A fundamental difference between an agency recruiter and a headhunter is their ability to engage with senior level candidates.  The best executive search consultants can engage a candidate that they have never spoken to before and uncover their motivation, drivers and remuneration details and then use this to engage them in a recruitment process with their client.

A search process that mitigates risk

The business benefit of using a headhunter is that it gives the organisation confidence that it is interviewing the very best available talent rather than a small sub-section of people that are actively looking or relying on those that are in their network.  Even at a mid-manager level, the cost of hiring the wrong person on a salary of £42,000 can cost a business more than £132,000 (Recruitment Employment Confederation). Therefore, the cost of using a headhunter, far outweighs the cost of getting it wrong.

Proven track record

Ultimately, any good headhunter will have an extensive track record of case studies and recommendations and their process should be a transparent one that allows you to manage, monitor and measure their performance.

For a more detailed explanation of the process and the business benefits contact Harrison Bridge, Lee De Souza, Managing Director at:lee.desouza@harrisonbridge.com01212894293.

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