Evaluating Top Executive Search Firms: 7 Questions to Answer

By Robert Half on May 13, 2022 at 6:00am

Finding the right candidate for any open role in your business takes time. And when you’re searching for professionals for high-profile, senior-level roles, the recruiting process often requires even more resources — and more careful consideration.

That’s why many companies turn to reputable recruiting firms for assistance in managing the entire executive search process, from defining the position’s requirements to negotiating hiring terms and assisting with onboarding.

There are many recruiters to choose from, but how do you know which ones are the most qualified? More importantly, how can you determine which organization will work best with your business? Answering the following questions during your evaluation can help you create a shortlist of top executive search firms and ultimately identify the best one for your needs.

1. What is the executive search firm's approach?

One of the first things to research when identifying the right firm to manage your executive search is the process a recruiter will follow when working with you.

When it comes to the approach, you’ll want to understand the core steps a firm’s search consultants will take to understand your company’s needs, assess candidates, arrange and manage interviews, and more. Details about tools and processes the organization uses to guide the search and vet candidates are also valuable to know beforehand.

In explaining its recruiting approach, the search firm should also provide insight into how its team communicates with clients about the status of the search. Also, find out whether you will have direct access to the executive recruiting specialists working on behalf of your company.

2. Does the company have a good reputation?

One way to check is by looking at Forbes’ 2022 ranking of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms. Robert Half has earned the top spot on that list. It also ranks No. 1 on Forbes' 2022 list of America’s Best Professional Recruiting Firms and America’s Best Temporary Staffing Firms.

As Ash Athawale, senior managing director of Robert Half's executive search practice, said in this Q&A on executive search trends, "We’re proud to help companies with their leadership needs, whether they’re looking for C-suite or VP/Director-level roles."

3. What is the firm’s geographic reach?

Depending on your organization and industry, and the type of position you are trying to staff, the executive search firm might need to cast a wide geographic net to identify viable candidates.

If yours is a global company in search of a C-level executive, for example, working with a recruiting firm that has well-established international offices and experienced search consultants with deep networks in those markets helps you go beyond your own borders in the search for top candidates.

4. How experienced is the executive recruiting team?

Review the credentials of the search firm’s senior management first; their professional bios should be available online. Consider the following:

  • How long have they specialized in executive search?
  • Have they held leadership roles in business?
  • If so, what positions, at what companies, in what industries and for how long?

Looking at the management team’s LinkedIn profiles may give additional insight into their skills and accomplishments. You may also want to look for details that shed light on how active and well-connected these executives are in their local communities, or on the national or global stage.

Next, take the time to review a cross-section of the search consultants’ career bios, if available. That gives you a sense of the company’s overall bench strength and whether it can assign people to your retained search project who truly understand your business — and the position you need to staff.

5. What kinds of placements has the firm completed?

Details about successful executive placements are a true measure of an organization's effectiveness. Ask for a list of recent placements with details such as job titles and the types of industries served.

Current and credible client and candidate testimonials also help confirm an executive recruiting team’s effectiveness — as well as their integrity and expertise. The company should be able to provide client references that are relevant to your current search. You might also want to ask trusted contacts in your professional network if they have ever engaged the firm or know businesses and people who have — and what the overall experience and end results were like.

6. Does the company emphasize collaboration?

The firm you select to guide your search should serve as an adviser during the entire process. Look for executive recruiting firms that emphasize a collaborative approach and the importance of building strong relationships with their clients.

Search firms that clearly understand their role as an extension of your business’s image and reputation during the executive search should go on your shortlist. So, too, should expert recruiters that emphasize confidentiality and discretion, since the executive search process must be handled delicately.

7. What can you expect once the search is complete?

A top executive search firm helps new hires transition into their leadership role at the new company. Such search consultants also troubleshoot any problems by staying in close contact as the candidate starts the job. Recruiters that provide this level of service to their clients tend to outline it in their stated approach.

Executive searches are complex and require hands-on management by experienced recruiters with the right expertise. Taking time to evaluate available resources helps ensure that you find the right partner to manage your search process and recruit the executive leadership your business needs to succeed.

Do you need help managing an executive search? Learn how Robert Half Executive Search can help you find the right candidate.

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