How Executive Search Firms Work | Top Executive Recruiters | Cowen Partners

      How Executive Search Firms Work

      With the increasing complexity and dynamism of business environments, organizations are under greater pressure to appoint executives that are agile, future-focused, and equipped to succeed in a modern business world. While certain companies can find internal solutions to this conundrum, other enterprises must look outward for top-level candidates who can lead them into the future.

      However, hiring for C-level positions can be incredibly complex, primarily due to the small pool of eligible candidates for these positions.

      As a result, many companies choose to rely on the services of executive search firms for specialized support in finding and attracting perfect-match candidates.

      Despite the popularity of their services, the inner workings of search firms can be somewhat opaque. For talent head-hunted by search firms or companies looking to retain specialized search services, understanding how executive search firms operate can be beneficial.

      Executive Search Firms Are Specialized Recruiters

      Executive search firms are specialized recruiters who act as consultants on highly niche or C-level recruitment campaigns. Companies will hire them to provide high-value prospects in relation to an open position, usually in senior management, particularly if they do not have the resources or time to fill the role. Sometimes the company will already have unsuccessfully attempted a hire or they may be highly keen on finding the right candidate who will hit the ground running.

      While traditional searches for mid-level or junior talent might generate hundreds to thousands of applications via job board postings, executive searches work differently. With executive search firms, the company will receive an extensively vetted and pre-screened shortlist of frequently less than a dozen prospects that are a potential match with the role.

      Unlike contingent recruiters, executive search firms do not merely aim to fill a role with a qualified candidate. Instead, their recruitment services are consultative, solution-oriented, and research-led. Their goal is to facilitate an excellent hire that fulfils all or most of the prerequisites on their client organization’s wishlist. They are able to deliver on this promise through a variety of strategies including a vast library of industry contacts and access to so-called passive candidates.

      In addition to surfacing a shortlist of desirable prospects, executive search firms may contribute actively during recruitment proper. This might include sitting in on final interviews, providing intel on what may turn a high-value candidate’s head, or generally supporting the client company with their unique insights.

      How Executive Search Firms Find High-Value Talent

      One of the core strengths of executive search firms is their ability to deliver a shortlist of exemplary candidates that a client organization may not have access to otherwise. For example, a search firm may be able to interest coveted superstars from a company’s rival or other names that might have proved challenging for the company on its own.

      Executive search firms utilize various resources that enable them to deliver high-value talent in senior roles. These include:

      • Extensive personal and professional networks: Executive recruiters often maintain an impressive rolodex of rising stars and established talent within their niche industry. They often have direct access to or third/fourth party ties to candidates with the track record and skill that would interest their client organizations.
      • Access to passive candidates: Job seeking, and consequently job posts, typically occurs only at the junior and mid-level. At the higher end of the scale, executive candidates are rarely actively seeking a new role and as such are often outside the scope of traditional recruitment drives. Executive recruiters enjoy access to candidates of this level, sometimes through previous professional engagements.
      • Specialized industry knowledge: When organizations wish to hire for new or evolving roles, they often turn to executive search firms for support due to the novel challenges that such hiring poses. Search firms are able to bring a deep knowledge of major industry players and profiles in populating a candidate shortlist that meets client requirements.
      • Artificial intelligence: Modern executive search firms are also able to bring smart strategies to the search process by leveraging AI tools and techniques. Much like advanced insurance rate and term search tools, executive recruiters can employ sophisticated technology to benchmark candidates within a given industry and unearth the gems that organizations are seeking.

      There are numerous other specialized skills and services that executive search firms are able to bring to C-level recruitment, which is why they are a trusted resource for organizations faced with filling strategic executive roles.

      The Growing Value of Executive Search Firms

      Executive search is a delicate, high-stakes process. That is why intrepid firms are careful to make the right decision. The implications of a senior management hire will have not only short but also long-term effects on the hiring company, and it may impact both revenue and profitability when done poorly. As statistics indicate, the cost of a poor hire can reach up to 27 times an executive’s salary.

      To avoid the potential costs of a mis-hire or failed recruitment, organizations choose to secure the expertise of executive search firms. Whether the goal is to fill a niche role or find C-level candidates with the right skillset, executive search firms help mitigate the risk of a bad decision. 

      Executive Search Conclusion

      Overall, the top-most priority of executive search firms is finding and attracting candidates that fulfill client expectations for an open position. With the research-led and solutions-oriented approach, executive recruiters bring to the process, they maximize organizations’ shot at finding candidates who are truly a perfect match for a C-suite role, their company culture, and their overall objectives.

      Cowen Partners, a National Executive Search Firm


      Our top-rated executive recruiters have experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets over a billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEOChief Operating OfficerChief Financial Officer, and include vice presidentgeneral counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.

      Cowen Partners delivers 3X more qualified candidates than the competition. Through our proven retained executive search process, we find, vet, and deliver the top 1% of candidates for positions across the C-suite. Our process works for all industries, including technologyhealthcaremanufacturingretailreal estatefinancial serviceprivate equity, artificial intelligence, and more.

      Learn how we deliver top talent, no matter the need, with our industry-leading research and resources. Discover the strategy that made Cowen Partners the top retained executive search firm in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Boise, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond.

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