Best-in-class organizations require best-in-class leaders because nothing impacts a company’s trajectory more than the people in executive positions. On the heels of unprecedented circumstances such as the global pandemic and the Great Resignation, companies need an elite, next-generation approach to filling these crucial executive roles, including executive, board, and C-suite positions. And the truth is that top-tier performers and ceiling-shattering disruptors who are technically, academically, and culturally additive to an organization aren’t going to walk in the front door. Instead, companies are turning to leading executive search firms to help them source one-to-one elite executive candidates and ensure they can cross the finish line with the selection process. 

What is an executive search firm? 

What exactly is a leading executive search firm, and how can it help businesses? Executive search firms serve companies looking to place executive, board, and C-suite positions, by identifying top-tier candidates who are well aligned to t the role. Executive search firms don’t simply post a job vacancy. They conduct a complex and precise talent search, identifying key candidates who are typically already employed in executive roles and aren’t actively seeking new employment. Executive search firms use their unique approach to assess their candidate pool, conduct a robust search process, and fill executive roles with game-changing leaders. 

Why do companies use executive search firms?

There are many reasons why companies choose to use leading executive search firms when they’re filling roles. Firstly, there is a growing global talent shortage across industries, and the demand for executives is far outstripping the supply, creating more pressure in an already highly competitive executive search environment. Companies often aren’t equipped to navigate these challenges on their own and, instead, turn to the expertise of executive search firms. 

Next, although executive hires can truly be make-or-break for an organization, studies reveal that about half of new executives hired are considered to fail in their role. Research shows that 15% of all CEOs leave within two years. Executive search firms mitigate this issue by finding “one-size-fits-one” matches for executive vacancies deemed to be the perfect fit for the role. 

Lastly, making an executive hiring mistake can be extremely costly in terms of direct and indirect costs. These costs might be related to time and resources allocated on that hire, plus the resources needed to conduct the hiring process yet again, along with the costs associated with leaving that role unfilled. Executive search firms work with speed and precision to make the hiring process as efficient as possible while bringing on a candidate who is the right hire from the get-go.

Executive Search Engagements

The best executive search firms will use data-driven methodologies to conduct a robust search process optimized for confidential and complex executive roles. They will also take a personalized approach, which can be extraordinarily detailed, allowing time and space for listening, connecting, coaching, and advising. Leading executive search firms also emphasize the current engagement (as opposed to cross-selling services). 

How do executive search firms work?

Leading executive search firms operate in very specific ways to find top leaders who can take a company to its desired future state. In general, they work by first deeply understanding a company and the executive role that will add value. Next, executive search firms identify key candidates by conducting a methodological search before matching the perfect fit for a company and role. 

While executive search firms have been around for decades, there’s been a recent, revolutionary shift in the ways executive search firms operate. Here’s a look at how executive search firms using more antiquated services function versus how forward-thinking, elite firms work.

The Old Way: Contingent Search Model

In a contingent search model, a recruiting agency receives payment after they’ve identified a candidate who is hired for the position. This can lead to a “quantity over quality” approach to candidates, without particular attention to reasons why one candidate would be a better fit than another. 

Another hallmark of this strategy is that while companies might see a lot of resumes, the best candidates can often go to clients who are paying the highest fees (which can reach 30%). Recruiters might also be inclined to let a company’s hiring managers bear the brunt of vetting with little transparency on why this candidate was even selected.

Typically with Contingent Search, recruiters will not give a client access to their database to see what is occurring in connection with their searches or what commentary is occurring with recruiters and candidates. Because these recruiters work with multiple clients, they also typically have overwhelming workloads, and clients likely will not receive exclusive focus, ensuring timely results for searches.

Lastly, if the search becomes tough (for instance, the agency is receiving no feedback from hiring managers), the contingent recruiter will typically focus their efforts on other searches, while the focus on the previous company slows to a crawl.

The Improved Way – Why N2Growth

Leading executive search firms have recently developed a progressive process that far outstrips what was previously “industry standard.” Here at N2Growth, we operate as a retained executive search firm. Our improved methodology plays the whole spectrum (from working with large companies to small firms with niche needs), enabling us to service both generalized and specific needs.

Clients typically retain N2Growth to identify current leaders. We reach out to highly-qualified passive candidates who are not actively looking for positions and are not part of an application process and market our clients’ opportunities to them. Our firm assigns a dedicated team of researchers and associates that work exclusively on that search until it’s 100% completed.

When companies partner with N2Growth, they get transparency, including bi-weekly meetings where updates are given on go-to-market activities on behalf of clients. These updates include information on companies, candidates that are being contacted, and their interest level, as well as competitive analysis. Candidates also get direct access to our proprietary N2Vue dashboard to see the status of the search engagement in real-time. 

Lastly, as human capital can be an unpredictable commodity, N2Growth provides a one-year guarantee on any candidate we place within your organization, replacing the leader if necessary at no additional cost.

How to Choose a Leading Executive Search Firm for You

While there are several executive search firms, including everything from incredibly large firms with prominent brand recognition, to boutique, well-resourced firms that take elite approaches. Here’s how you can choose the right leading executive search firm for your organization. 

Executive Search Consultants Who Understand the Market 

Today’s executive search market is incredibly dynamic, and it typically doesn’t reward the age-old mantra of “bigger is better.” In fact, in today’s executive search landscape (and the one of the future), better is simply better. This noisy, crowded executive recruitment market requires a personalized approach, with executive search consultants who assess a client’s unique needs and customize their approach accordingly. With that in mind, companies should look for executive search consultants who understand the market and who operate with a hands-on, better-resourced search process. 

At N2Growth, we use a “top-to-bottom” approach that offers clients extraordinary attention to detail, setting clients and candidates up for success on the first go-around, saving everyone valuable time, money, and energy.

Greater Access to Executive Talent (greater candidate pool) 

Regarding candidates, executive search firms have an ethical and contractual obligation not to recruit from client companies. Because large firms conduct business with so many organizations, they have significant hands-off limitations which severely restrict their recruiting strategies. This can result in thousands of candidates being deemed unavailable during a search. With this in mind, when choosing a leading executive search firm, companies should look for executive search firms with fewer constraints on their talent pool. 

Transparency in the Executive Search Process 

Transparency is not necessarily a guarantee in the executive search process. Many partners at large firms cannot describe their approach in detail and don’t adhere to an established methodology. That’s because it’s difficult to consistently execute a data-driven methodology with a large firm. Companies should consider transparency in the executive search process when looking for a leading executive search firm. Here at N2Growth, we have a transparent search application known as N2Vue, which gives clients 24/7 access to their entire pipeline with real-time reporting, data, and analytics.

Provides Board Advisory Solutions

Executive search needs go far beyond C-suite positions. Today, leading executive search firms understand how to fill other critical executive positions, such as boardroom positions. Today’s boardroom has never been under more scrutiny, and many boards are under pressure to provide strategic value and ensure the enterprise’s sustainability. Here at N2Growth, we specialize in different aspects of executive search. Our team has deep expertise in amplifying boards by helping them identify their needs, align their resources, lead in the present, and plan for the future.

Choosing the Executive Search Firm That Is Best for You

The leading executive search firms that are serving future-focused companies are not the same as the firms that are still using antiquated practices and “one-size-fits-all” approaches. Executive hires can be make-or-break for an organization, and in today’s hiring market, finding a game-changing leader is extremely challenging. To overcome the substantial obstacles and risks of the executive hiring process, companies can turn to elite,  leading executive search firms, which use their personalized approach and transparent search process to ensure positions are filled with the perfect candidate every time.

At N2Growth, we work differently to provide better outcomes for your executive talent needs. Like “the big firms,” we have significant horsepower and global reach. But unlike them, we use a bespoke approach and proprietary technology to focus on engagement and outcomes. 

Find out why N2Growth is continuously named one of America’s best executive search firms, and join Fortune 500 companies, leading private equity firms, fast-growing startups, and successful middle-market companies in selecting N2Growth as your preferred leadership and talent partner. Get in touch to learn about partnering with N2Growth.

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