Reflecting on a number of years in the Executive Search industry, we occasionally find ourselves in the situation, when talking with clients, where the perception of Search consultancies is that we “all seem to be the same”. 

Well, yes and no. 

While it is true that search processes are quite similar from one organisation to another, and most will result in an outcome, great results for clients are a mix of both sound process and expert judgement by your Search Consultant.  So, before you make that decision of who to use, here are a few areas to reflect on.

How deep is their access?  I highly recommend talking with your Search Consultant to understand the methodology that they intend using to attract candidates.  While we all know the days of inserting an advert in the newspaper and hoping for the best are well gone, so too is relying solely on LinkedIn as your single search tool. 

In the current candidate-scarce environment, most processes, be it for a Director, a Chief Executive or a C-suite Executive, require a mix of advertising, database research and targeted search.  Some questions to ask are; What is the depth of your LinkedIn reach - both for your company and your Consultants?  What is the extent of your Executive database? How do you keep that up to date? and How is it developed?   Is the firm you are looking at purely regional in its networks and database, or do they have true national capability?  Some Recruiters claim to have offices in multiple locations, but very few actually do.  Finally, Do they know your sector? and, What is their success rate with similar appointments?

Who are you dealing with?  Are you dealing with a front person who will have no involvement in managing your assignment?  What is the depth of experience of the Consultant that will manage your assignment?  Do they have experience in the Executive Search industry which enables them to challenge your thinking, provide insights and an understanding on how to attract the right candidate?  Importantly also, What is the team?  Are they supported by dedicated Researchers? Or is the Consultant expected to do that by themselves?  True talent sourcing/research is a highly skilled and time-consuming process.  Also, what is the level of executive and administrative support, particularly as it relates to candidate and application logistics, and management of the recruitment project?

Can you represent my brand?  It is often said that an Executive Search company is an extension of a client’s brand.  Are your values aligned?  Will they take the time to understand your business, your unique values and what success looks like in the role? 

Do they know good from bad?  When it comes to evaluating candidates what is the methodology used?  Are the Consultants trained and experienced in using behavioural interviewing?  What sort of dedicated psychometric assessment do they utilise?  Is this a customised process, using robust tools with a report aligned to your unique role and its requirements, or is it simply an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution that lacks the validity and depth of insight required?

Relationships.  How is the organisations long term brand perceived in the market?  Are they merely a transactional firm where Consultants are rewarded through success?  or Are they salaried professionals with a career in Executive Search gained over a number of years? 

Finally, what is their track record?  There is a huge variation in the length of placement guarantee provided by Search firms, but, more importantly, I suggest you look for some statistics on candidate “stick rate”.  This is the true test of a consultant’s performance.  Stick rate is the number of appointees who remain in their jobs or who have been promoted after say 1 to 2 years of placement.  Good consultancies will be able to provide you that information, as well as provide referees in relation to client and candidate experience. 

In summary, highly qualified Executive Search Consultants reduce the risk of you and your business making the wrong hire.  As we all know, the risks associated with an unsuccessful hire can be catastrophic.   The selection of the right trusted advisor can ensure the entire process is successful. 


Mike Stenhouse is the Executive Director of Sheffield South Island and has extensive experience working on Chief Executive Reviews, Board Appointments, Board Effectiveness Reviews, Executive Search and Selection and Organisational Development projects.

He has undertaken numerous Director, CEO and Senior Executive selection projects including the appointment of Chief Executives to a wide range of organisations.

Mike works across industry sectors including local government, finance, agriculture, not-for-profit, education, manufacturing and export.


Mike can be reached at



Posted in: News

Get in touch with us


Contact us now

sourcing, selecting and shaping leaders