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Is It Time to Engage a Search Firm?

Is It Time to Engage a Search Firm?

Many factors have impacted the realm of recruitment over the last decade. Technological advancements, social media, and even changes in workplace environments have altered how organizations of all sizes hire employees. But, none of these can compare to the impact that the limited pool of experienced talent across almost every function and business sector has made. Finding and securing professionals, especially those who are in middle and senior management, can prove to be challenging for even the most prestigious and high-performing organizations with the best recruiting and talent acquisition teams.

When it’s necessary to find professionals with specific and critical competencies, skills, and mindsets, and high performers who can execute complex initiatives and achieve lofty objectives, traditional recruitment methods rarely generate desired results. In these situations, the consideration of an executive search firm comes into play.

As executive search consultants who have partnered with diverse organizations for the past 26 years in securing professionals for roles related to facilities managementarchitecture, engineering, and construction; and real estate development, we appreciate the fact that it’s a big decision to partner with an executive search firm. Before we even more forward with a potential client, we make sure they’ve given considerable thought to certain questions related to the role, department or business unit, overall organization, and specific objectives they want to achieve. After we know they've done so, we are comfortable with their commitment to conducting an executive search and working in partnership with us to bring an assignment to a successful completion.

What are important questions to consider prior to engaging a search firm?

First and foremost, are hiring managers, executive management, governing boards, and/or other stakeholders in support of engaging a search firm? Do they understand the importance of the role and the impact the right person can make?

Is recruitment for the role confidential?

Is the vacancy of the role having a negative impact on the organization and/or department? Is it delaying important initiatives and programs, and impeding the accomplishment of objectives?

Does the role require specific experience and a specialized skill set to meet/exceed objectives?

If this is the case, it is likely that candidates who have these capabilities are hard to find and in high demand, which would entail developing a comprehensive strategy for how to identify, attract, and secure them.

Is filling the role critical within the department’s/organization’s structure?

Is finding an ideal professional essential for addressing both short- and long-term goals?

Would partnering with a search firm save you, your team, and the organization time and money? Does partnering with one make sound financial sense?

Have all candidate identification techniques been tried to their fullest extent?

According to McLean & Company’s 2019 HR Trends Report entitled “Prepare for the Future of HR,” the most effective candidate sources are employee referrals, social media, talent pipelines, and industry or functional associations.

In considering the role’s responsibilities and objectives, would it be beneficial to expand the talent pool to include candidates who may be considered “out of the box” or “non-traditional”? (i.e. professionals who are in different sectors and/or functions but whose experiences and skills are relevant to the role) 

As the sectors we represent continue to advance and the talent pool shrinks, we are seeing organizations realize the advantages of expanding recruitment parameters to include non-traditional candidates. Candidates can be considered “non-traditional” for a variety of reasons. Typically, they are professionals who are involved in tangential industries of the hiring organization and who offer different experiences, corporate culture mentalities, management styles, skill sets, and personality characteristics that may not have been initially considered but would be beneficial.

When you look to the future (i.e. two years from now), if the right person were hired, what impact would they have made, and what does the department, business unit, and/or organization look like?

Would expanding recruitment to include passive candidates (those who are not actively seeking new career opportunities) make a significant impact on the quality of the talent pool? 

Consider the limitations of only reaching candidates who are seeking new opportunities. Weigh out the financial impact the right person can make and if paying the fees of a search firm is a solid financial decision. In many instances, candidates who can bring the highest level of skill are not actively seeking new career opportunities. To put that into perspective, consider the top performing people within your organization. Do you think they would spend time looking at job boards and sending out resumes?

Do challenges in filling the role lie in the quality of the talent pool, or is there another reason? 

There can be a host of reasons why recruitment isn’t effective, and can range from the quality of candidates to the abilities of interviewers/hiring managers and/or the organization’s reputation in the marketplace. Identifying the precise challenge(s) is critical for moving forward regardless of whether you are doing recruitment internally or utilizing a search firm. 

Is the role newly created? Have you refined the position’s responsibilities and expectations? Are you confident that ideal candidate qualifications (both technical and soft skills) have been identified?

Are you, the hiring manager, and other stakeholders comfortable with assessing these abilities and skill sets in candidates?

Would partnering with a search firm ease internal bureaucracy and politics that could affect recruitment of an ideal professional? 

Do you need assistance “selling” your organization and the role to prospective candidates? 

Do you understand how to assess the cultural fit of candidates to the extent that is necessary? 

While technical skills are important, it is many times a candidate's cultural fit that determines their true success in a role, department, and organization.

Is the role open due to a retirement, and has the departing professional been in the role and with your organization long term?

There can be multiple scenarios when it comes to situations such as this. It may be desired to find a successor who has the same management style as the departing professional and can pick up where he/she left off. On the other hand, you may want someone who has a completely different mindset and management style. Either way, it can be a touchy matter, and having the support of an experienced search consultant can be highly beneficial to a smooth transition process.


Once you've considered the above, you can be confident that you are making a solid decision to engage or not to engage a search firm. If you'd like more insight about using a firm to help you with your talent needs, feel free to reach out to one of our Managing Directors any time.