4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Retained Search Firm

The market for senior talent is tighter than ever, and companies are continuing to rely on retained search firms to fill crucial roles. Senior employees matter to companies, boards, leaders and investors, and the right hire can make a substantial difference in the company’s performance. Selecting the right search consultant is as important as choosing the right candidate, and the below areas are worthy of consideration.

Industry Knowledge

The most important role a consultant fills is that of an advisor. Companies should look for a Retained search firm with an in-depth knowledge of the industry, but one that also recognizes each organization’s unique corporate culture. The right consultant will do his or her homework before accepting an assignment, and they will evaluate the company’s goals, priorities and challenges before proceeding.


Another important area of consideration is the search consultant’s past work—the searches they’ve done within the industry. Clients should learn how previous projects were completed, and how the chosen candidates performed in their new roles. For instance, it’s good if the consultant recruits a well-known executive to run a Fortune 500 company, but the way that person does his or her job is the real test of the consultant’s proficiency.

Creative Thinking

Some search firms develop innovative ways to evaluate executives, while others apply real-world experience to tailor efforts to clients’ needs. Regardless of a consultant’s approach, they should understand that recruitment isn’t just about having an extensive network, it’s about choosing the right candidate for the job.

A Solid Reputation

While credible search firms have references to offer, most industries are their own communities. Odds are that potential clients can find someone who’s used the consultant before, and who can provide an unbiased opinion of the firm.

Terms and Pricing

As important as it is to most clients, price should be the least important consideration. While clients prefer firms that offer prices and terms within a range, they shouldn’t choose a consultant based on price alone. After all, hiring the wrong consultant can be an expensive decision indeed.

A quality executive recruiter will ask questions like an insider, and he or she will focus on discussing the search’s possibilities. Consultants should work to understand the company’s values and decision-making style, because only then can they find the right candidate for the job.