When top-tier organizations want to bring on powerhouse executive leaders, they generally have two options for finding their dream placement: executive search services or executive recruiting services. While the two terms might seem similar (and used interchangeably), there are significant distinctions between them. 

Understanding these differences is critical to finding that perfect-fit leader, which is more important now than ever before, and more challenging. The global talent shortage is at a 16-year high, and many of the world’s best executive candidates might not be sitting on the job market.

When landing on leaders who can help take your organization to its desired future state, executive search processes are more active, robust, and aggressive. On the other hand, executive recruiting services typically require in-depth screening of incoming candidates and have a more intimate approach.

When looking for your next compelling executive leader, it’s vital to decide on a process that best serves your organization’s needs and to know the differences between them. Let’s break it down.

Executive Recruiting Services vs. Executive Search Services

To start with, let’s dive into the main differences between both executive recruiting and executive search services. Both aim to leave organizations with the best candidates possible, who ultimately become exceptional leaders; however, the methods vary.

What Are Executive Recruiting Services?

Executive recruiting services tend to operate reactively. They will primarily consider active candidates (either those who have applied for roles or are open about their job search status). Executive recruiting services will cultivate a list of candidates, assist partners with the interview stages, and offer various amounts of assistance throughout the offer process.

What Are Executive Search Services?

Executive search services take a far more proactive approach. Executive search is typically more in-depth, and your executive search partner will go to great lengths to understand what your perfect-fit leadership hire looks like. Then, they will actively seek candidates who may or might not be currently in the market for a new role. 

This opens up a much wider applicant pool, especially considering that about 70% of the global workforce includes passive candidates. Executive search services also develop candidates, facilitate client interviews, and assist through the transition stage. 

Expectations of a Leading Executive Search Firm 

Leading executive search firms today operate at a very high level of proficiency and have distinct expectations from executive recruiting services. World-class executive search firms typically conduct a retained search, known for being aggressive, proactive, and uncovering candidates with a ​​high probability of aligning with the role description. 

They also typically expect to conduct in-depth discovery and synthesis processes to best align with key stakeholders and craft the position description to identify exceptional leaders. Lastly, retained executive search firms assist with assessing and evaluating candidates and ensure smooth closing procedures.

Understanding the Executive Search Process

The executive search process is a multi-step system that uses best-in-class and industry-leading practices to reveal the best candidates. Here is what you can expect.

Step 1: Discovery and Synthesis 

The executive search process begins with discovery. An executive recruiting partner dives deep into an organization to understand what makes it tick, uncovers its needs, and learns precisely what type of skills and competencies will help the organization arrive at its desired future state. 

Next, your executive search partner works with you during synthesis to craft the position description and build target profiles. You also might be introduced and onboarded to digital tools and systems (here at N2Growth, our clients connect to our transparent search application, Vue, which gives you 24/7 access to your entire pipeline).

Step 2: Candidate Development

Next, during candidate development, your executive search partner will rigorously source candidates until the search is closed. This includes finding prospects who are not only skillful and have the right background but also culturally and skillfully additive to the organization. 

Step 3: Client Interviews 

Then, kicking off client interviews, your executive search partner will introduce you to qualified candidates. This is a collaborative process where they support the interview experience and leverage acquired information to inform the executive search strategy further. 

Step 4: Assessment and Evaluation With Candidates

After that, leading executive search firms will conduct assessments and evaluations as a form of due diligence to land on candidates who are genuinely a 1-to-1 match. For example, N2Growth conducts leadership assessments for every finalist and ensures the validity of results with a candidate debrief. Only then are results presented to the client. 

Step 5: Negotiations

Once the perfect candidate is found, an executive search firm will go to great lengths to ensure negotiations and closing efforts are smooth and effective. For example, N2Growth pre-closes candidates for a seamless negotiation process or broker negotiations as you see fit. 

Step 6: Transition

Transition support is critical to ensuring new executive placements are successful in the long run. Because the first three months are crucial for any new hire, frontrunner executive search partners will stay close to candidates. 

How N2Growth Can Help

Whether you’re looking to conduct an executive recruitment or search process, N2Growth is the leading outcome-driven executive search firm best positioned to help. We’re best known for our track record of handling highly confidential and complex Board, CEO, and C-Suite retained search assignments. 

There’s a reason why we’ve been named on the Forbes List of Best Executive Recruiting Firms for six consecutive years, ranking in the top 10. We conduct our industry-leading approach by understanding that you’re not simply looking to fill a vacancy: you’re looking for a talented leader who will propel your organization to new heights.

Executive Roles We’ve Placed

If you’re wondering how we know so much about retained search assignments, we’d like to let our track record speak for itself. We’ve had the opportunity to partner with some of the greatest companies in the world in a wide variety of industries. We worked in partnership with key stakeholders, hiring leaders, and recruiting teams to attract and employ thousands of diverse talent leaders at companies in industries such as:

  • Agriculture, energy, and natural resources: Aramco, BDR Thermea, DayBrook, Shell, and KETOS
  • Business and professional services: PWC, Odyssey Systems, Deloitte, and Park Place Technologies
  • Consumer: Gap, Stetson, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, IKEA, CVS Pharmacy, Macy’s, and Chewy 
  • Healthcare and life sciences: Henry Ford Health System, Lam Research, Arbo Unie, and BioMAP

N2Growth also placed executives in industries such as: 

  • Education, government, and nonprofit
  • Financial services
  • Industrial
  • Private equity and principal investors
  • Technology, media, and communication

Multiple Location Advantage

N2Growth knows no borders, and we conduct global executive search processes serving more than 50 markets worldwide. We also have locations across the globe, including in the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Greece, Germany, France, Benelux, Bulgaria, Poland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.

Our Team

We know how much a team matters because we invest aggressively in filling our organization with diverse individuals who are skilled and capable, and driven by shared values. Plus, as it’s worth repeating, our team is also strategically located across the globe, so they’re ready to meet where you are. 

Find Your Perfect Match

Finding executive candidates who bring skills, innovation, and diversity to an organization has never been more critical, and hiring them has never been trickier. But by learning the differences between executive recruiting services and executive search services, organizations can land a world-class executive search system that best meets their needs to help them find the executive placement of their dreams. 

When you’re ready to discover your new world-class executive hire, we’re here to help. See how partnering with N2Growth will help with your next executive recruiting assignment by contacting us today.