Many executive search consultants are quick to encourage companies to hire them for help filling leadership roles. However, the truth is that there are many situations when it does not make sense to hire an executive search firm, and when I would actually advise companies not to hire me or any other executive recruiter. Engaging an executive search firm is a significant investment, and it’s not always the right move, so you should make the decision carefully.
When Not to Hire A Search Firm
Before we discuss when your company should hire a search firm, let’s look at three situations when you should not.
(1) Your company wants to fill a role by promoting from within.
Before conducting an external leadership search, ask if you want to fill the role by promoting one of your current employees. While you should always look for ways to add new talent to your organization, your organization might already employ the ideal candidate for your open position. If so, there is no reason to hire a third-party firm to conduct an external search.
(2) Your company has the bandwidth and capability to run an external search on your own.
If you are not able to fill your open leadership role internally, you should then ask if your company has the bandwidth and capability to run an external search on your own. For example, maybe you have a very experienced in-house executive recruiting team that has the time and ability to attract and engage top candidates for your open role. If so, then you might not want to hire a third-party firm to run your search.
(3) Your company is not clear on the ideal candidate profile for your role.
If you cannot fill a role internally, and you cannot run an external search on your own, you should then ask if you are clear on the ideal candidate profile for the position. As discussed here, lack of clarity and alignment is the number one cause of a slow or unsuccessful executive search. If there is any confusion about the ideal candidate profile for your position, hold off on hiring an executive search firm for now, and clarify what you are looking for first.
When Should Your Company Hire an Executive Search Firm?
As mentioned above, there are certain situations when you should not hire an executive search firm. That leads us to the obvious question: when should you hire an executive search firm? Here are the three most common reasons why companies hire executive search firms.
(1) Your company is unable to fill a leadership role by promoting from within.
Many times, the ideal candidate for an open leadership role will not be currently employed by your organization. Perhaps there is no one internally who is ready to step up to the next level. Or, maybe you are creating a new role and there is no one internally with the experience required for the position. If this is your situation, then you should hire an executive search firm.
(2) Your company lacks the bandwidth or capability to run a search.
Perhaps your organization does not have an in-house executive recruiting department. Or, maybe your executive recruiting department lacks the time or ability to engage and attract top talent for a high-profile role. If this is your situation, then you should hire an executive search firm.
(3) Your company needs to conduct a confidential search.
Sometimes, you need to fill a role externally, and you cannot afford for the search to be public. For example, maybe your company needs to replace a leader who is under-performing. Or, maybe one of your leaders is about to retire, and you don’t want your staff or competitors to know until you have identified an external successor. Whatever the reason, if your search requires confidentiality, then hiring an executive search firm might not just be an option. It might actually be required.
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, you can share it by clicking a social media icon on this page.
About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for companies that make the world stronger. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and Fortune.com, and he is the author of two books and over 150 articles on career management, healthy living, high performance, and executive recruiting.