Hire the Wrong Executive and Risk your Company’s Growth

Hiring talent remains the number one concern of CEOs in the most recent Conference Board Annual Survey: it’s also the top concern of the entire executive suite.

Why is hiring talent the top concern of the C-Suite, and why is it so hard to get right?

Companies are people.  Yes, there are products and services, but the backbone of delivering on those promises are people.  Without the right people in the right roles, your company is not delivering to its full capabilities and the opportunity costs are tangible.

Talent acquisition is not a one size fits all strategy. Finding the best talent is dependent upon utilizing the right recruiting strategy. If you deploy a mismatched strategy, the road to hiring success can be arduous.  To determine what fits your needs, read on for a review of the most widely used recruiting strategies.

Retained Executive Search

This type of firm is viewed as a professional services function, providing management consulting services, industry knowledge, and access to networks of business leaders. Through intensive research and screening, retained search firms identify candidates with both the relevant functional experience, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and offer the right add to company culture.  Fees are typically paid on engagement, and at key milestones through the process.

When to use:

•           Retained search firms are hired by companies for executive leadership and key contributor roles where it is important to find that CRITICAL FIT, from an industry, function, leadership and cultural add perspective.  Increasingly, retained search firms are also hired with a mandate of addressing Diversity within their client’s business.

•           When you are seeking the best of the best.  The most valuable candidates are often those not actively seeking new roles and need to be RECRUITED. According to an article by Harvard Business Review, “Census data shows that the majority of people who took a new job last year weren’t searching for one: Somebody came and got them”. Retained search firms get the attention of successful top executives through a direct recruit approach and influence top performers to listen and consider.

•           Executive searches often require CONFIDENTIALITY, whether it be for a strategic replacement or a new company direction. It is often imperative to minimize disruption among staff or in the market through a confidential process. Executive search firms can also act as an intermediary that allows you to directly recruit from competitors without a conflict of interest that arises from your internal talent acquisition team making those calls.

•           You need a GUARANTEE. Executive search firms guarantee their process, the outcome and the hire.

Contingency Search

This type of firm can bring sector experience and solid networks as well.  Fees are paid contingent on the successful placement of the candidate the search firm has put forward.  Some companies engage multiple contingency firms for one role to increase the size of the candidate pool. This approach however could require a greater investment of time by your organization to manage the multiple firms and the flow of candidates.  Candidates are further recruited on multiple opportunities concurrently, putting your organization in a competitive situation before the process even begins.

When to use:

•           A good choice when the requirement is NOT COMPLEX, fit is less of a critical factor, speed is required and the perception by candidates of the partners chosen and the commitment made to the hire is less critical.  Contingency is also useful for multiple requirements of the same role.  Buyer beware, don’t expect a large investment of time by the recruiters.  Time is money, if the project is too difficult, the firm will need to move onto another easier to fill project.  This can leave a company with an uncompleted search and loss of time and resources.

•           In-depth candidate assessments are NOT REQUIRED.  Candidates come through a database of resumes on file or online postings and are presented to the company based on matching the skills and requirements outlined in the job description. Candidates are primarily

“on the market “and actively looking and are recruited regularly by the contingency firm.

Online Search

Tools have proliferated in the last decade, from the website launch of Workopolis in 1999, to the first professional networking site, LinkedIn, established in 2003.

Search engines can now aggregate job listings from, job boards and careers sites and display them prominently in Google Search. Job seekers engage actively with these platforms, enabling companies to have a faster hiring process.

When to use:

•           Main benefits are low costs, wide audience REACH, and potentially high volumes of resumes and applications to your job posting. Internal resources required to process these applicants are significant. Expect that you will receive a number of applicants who are unsuitable based on qualifications or location from the office.

•           If your search is TIME SENSITIVE, job seekers can begin applying immediately as can your application review and selection process.


It is paramount to clearly define and understand your company’s objectives in order to choose the relevant recruitment process that will ultimately lead to hiring success.  Selecting the right search partner is a critical step in ensuring your company’s full potential is realized through people. Without the right people in the right roles, your company is not delivering to its full capabilities and the opportunity costs are tangible.

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