Partners & Board Member Search Firm - Executive Recruiters

      What is Executive Search & How Does it Work? 

      When looking to fill leadership roles, many companies find in-house executive recruitment to be challenging. This is unsurprising, given the widening skills gap in the labor market and the increasing scarcity of top-level talent, especially for senior management positions. 

      One meaningful solution to this difficulty is collaborating with an executive search firm. As specialized experts in C-level recruitment, executive search firms possess the know-how and niche connections to unearth, attract, and place executive candidates that meet client hiring expectations. 

      However, unlocking maximum value from this partnership depends on understanding the role of search firms in executive recruitment and how the process works. 

      What is executive search? 

      Executive search is a targeted recruitment process aimed at finding and hiring top-level talent. Compared to recruitment for junior or mid-level roles which is focused on finding suitable hires to keep operations ticking, executive search predominantly seeks to fill senior leadership positions with candidates that are a right strategic and commercial fit for the company. 

      C-level positions are typically within the purview of executive search, as it is used to fill roles including CEO, CHRO, COO, CTO, CFO, CIO and so on. In practice, companies only need to hire for these roles once or twice in a decade or more. As a result, filling these positions requires a specialized approach that creates the perfect match for both role and company. 

      Besides, junior or mid-level recruitment will ordinarily attract candidates that are active job seekers. But executive roles need to attract the best people, and they rarely fall into the category of job seekers. Executive search exists to seek out excellent candidates for senior leadership positions, whether they’re actively seeking a new experience or not. 

      What does an executive search firm do? 

      Search firms augment the executive search process with their professional skills and niche expertise. They are experienced management recruitment specialists who can provide a variety of services to help companies find their ideal C-level candidate. 

      Executive search firm services include establishing settled search priorities based on a company’s hiring needs, identifying and clarifying what the ideal candidate looks like, creating relevant search documents including position description, and leveraging their industry contacts and network to find and qualify candidates. 

      Where a corporate client requests, search firms may also be closely engaged in or take charge of preliminary candidate engagement, final interviews, and post-hiring processes. 

      Since the executive search process is relationship-driven, great search firms will strive to gain a granular appreciation of your business, strategies, and goals for the position. They will spend the time to learn your values, culture, and people, and then put this knowledge to work in unearthing the best recruitment opportunities. 

      Additionally, prime search partners will bring the following qualities to your executive search process: 

      • Functional expertise: Your search firm should add value by bringing excellent market knowledge to the assignment. They will contribute functional expertise that is as deep as it is broad, giving you the best opportunity to find optimal recruitment solutions. Crucially, they will have a deep understanding of evolving leadership expectations in your industry and the know-how to generate candidates who can arrive with new ideas. 
      • Professional acumen: As they will be engaging candidates on your behalf, it is critical that your search partner present a favorable, professional front to potential hires. The search firm should know your company well enough to promote you honestly, accurately, and positively to candidates. And the search process they provide should be thoughtful, efficient, and professional so it gives the best possible impression of your company. 
      • Strategic excellence: As mentioned above, executive search is a highly strategic procedure, which is why your search partner should bring a keen understanding of strategy to the assignment. They should be able to support you with additional services like executive coaching, succession planning, or organizational design, where needed. 

      How does the executive search process work? 

      Executive search firms aim to provide valuable and timely strategic advice throughout the phases of a search. As a result, they will remain in close communication with their client company, working to clarify requirements and present advice on the most effective approach to lure suitable candidates. 

      To maximize the value of the process, executive search firms typically bring a research-led approach. This might include comprehensive market mapping to assess industry standards and uncover role, qualification, and salary benchmarks. The procedure will five critical stages: 

      • Establish search priorities: At this stage, your search partner will work with you to determine the required skills, qualifications, and experience. They might also offer novel perspectives on how you might approach these needs and what a modern candidate looks like. Based on your discussions, the search firm will develop a customized brief that describes the requirements and responsibilities of the position. 
      • Plot search approach: Next, the search firm will identify your most productive pool of candidates and the best approach tactics, whether that includes targeting competitors to poach suitable talents or interfacing with third party contacts to uncover top prospects. 
      • Provision candidate shortlist: The search firm will next develop a shortlist of candidates for the position based on their match with the job profile and interest in the opportunity. Populating the list will most likely require approaching strong prospects to test their interest in the position and potentially persuade them to consider a new experience. 
      • Present qualified candidates: At this stage, the search firm will whittle down their provisional shortlist based on in-depth analysis and appraisal of the candidate’s achievements, track record, and fit for the role. Additionally, all candidates on the list will have been thoroughly checked and their qualifications verified. The client company will receive the final shortlist for concluding interviews and make their final selection. 
      • Complete search: After the client has made its final selection, the search firm assists in negotiations over terms such as compensation and other benefits. They will also provide post-hiring services such as checking placement fit, transition progress, etc. 


      Due to the impact that a senior hire can have on a company’s bottom line, the executive search process is high stakes and demands a deliberate approach. Companies that wish to make the most of their C-level recruitment and uncover candidates who fit perfectly can benefit from working with an executive search firm.

      National Executive Search Firm | How We Help


      Our hands-on 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 between $500 million to $15 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, 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, Portland, Dallas, Los Angeles, and beyond.

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