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Choosing The Right Executive Search Firm

Each work day, I receive an e-mail from Hunt Scanlon Media (a source of information in the human capital sector) – see  Last week, they included an article on selecting the right search firm – see

The Right Partner Is Critical

You are about to partner with a firm to select one of your company’s future leaders.  This is not a decision to be taken lightly.  The future of the company and all of its employees will be impacted – hopefully in a positive manner – by the process and outcome.  While I hope you will look at the entire article, here are a few of its key points. 

Owner/Senior Partner Involvement

Who is actually doing the candidate screening – from the first call through to the interview and candidate presentation?  You need to understand each firm’s methodology.  For better or worse, there is no standard protocol for a retained search process and it does vary greatly.  What is the background of each participant?  Ask! 

Critical Success Factors

The actual title of this section of the article is, Going Deep – The Critical Success Profile.  While we commonly (although not always) get a draft position description, it rarely covers what we at Abeln, Magy, Underberg & Associates call Critical Success Factors – the cultural aspects of the company and the nuances that are important to working in the particular environment at this time.  The Principals conducting the search should want to meet the hiring leader(s), key members of the senior team, and tour key facilities.  The more the search firm invests in the search, the better the job they do in vetting candidates for the cultural fit. 

Off-Limits Restrictions

While I have written about (and presented on) different Ethics in Recruiting topics, this is critical to understand before the search begins.  If I, as your search consultant, am engaged by your organization, can I take people from your organization?  What are the geographic, functional and time-related rules governing the search firm’s behaviors for this key Off-Limits topic?  As mentioned, we have facilitated discussions on this topic in the past (and have written numerous Blog posts on Ethics).  Each presentation was predicated on an issue the client encountered with another firm – usually a firm that placed a candidate one day, and took one the next. 

Choosing a firm is an impactful decision.  The right firm will bring you the right executive.  Take your time and choose wisely.