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Executive Search

Essential Questions to Ask When Considering Outsourced Executive Search

September 13, 2019

Starting a search for a new executive for your organization is a watershed experience. The new leader will have a substantial effect on your culture, engagement, and business goals. Making the hiring decision for a visionary at this level can lead to immeasurable consequences, positive or negative. If you’re thinking of hiring an outsourced executive search firm for added expertise and assistance, here are the must-ask questions to consider before making your decision.

What are my in-house executive recruiting resources and options?

Almost every firm has some sort of internal recruiting function, but does yours have the bandwidth for a search at an executive-level? When considering an outsourced executive search firm, weigh opportunity cost against the actual financial cost of the decision. An in-house search might feel like the most comfortable option, especially if your internal team manages all of your other recruiting efforts. By keeping the executive search in-house, you see all moving parts and have complete control of the process from start to finish. You don’t have to worry that small details (or red flags) that could get past you.

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At what point do you consider outsourcing? When you find yourself being so overburdened with your day-to-day duties that you can’t give time to the daunting task of choosing a new executive-level employee, it’s time to look to an outside expert. This search could be a months-long, strenuous process. Do you know the traits, specific to the executive level, of a thriving new leader? Do you have a network of executives to source through? How many c-suite hires have you made during your tenure? Having the confidence, experience, and time to fill an executive-level role are paramount to finding the right candidate.

If you feel strongly about keeping the executive search in-house, another option is to hire a full-time recruiter. A seasoned recruiter will likely bring a solid network of potential candidates at all stages of their careers, including the executive level. Being fully immersed in your company’s culture will also give an in-house recruiter a genuine idea of who would make a good fit to lead the company and make a hiring decision that reinforces your company mission, ethics, values, and expectations. Consider the costs and long-term challenges and solutions having another full-time employee can provide before deciding to build your team.

What sets executive search apart from “regular” recruiting?

A recruiting firm that specializes in executive search comes with proven processes for understanding your company’s executive hiring needs from the inside out. They have experience in finding the best fit at the executive-level quickly and usually maintain a network of qualified candidates in their system. The best executive search firms are uniquely qualified to locate and approach executives that are high performers in their current roles within their current companies, who often aren’t looking for a new position. And most importantly, the c-suite executives will take their call.

The average time to hire with “regular” recruiting is around 42 days. And although that may seem like a lengthy time, trying to fill a position quickly for the sake of speed can be a costly mistake, especially in executive search. Finding a new corporate leader can take a longer time than the average, “regular” hire, and it probably should. The resources invested in this new employee will far outweigh the cost of recruiting him or her to the firm. When you outsource the search to an external search firm with a history of proven success in finding executive-level employees, these concerns are mitigated. An executive search firm works with economies of scale and has far more resources than a lone hiring manager has internally. With an outsourced firm, you get the best of both worlds: efficiency and quality.

What about confidentiality?

If you’re seeking confidentiality in recruiting, it’s a sign you should hire an outsourced executive search firm. If you’re searching for an executive to take your company to the next level, it goes without saying that you need someone with a proven history of leadership and success. Generally, the person for whom you’re searching is typically performing well in the role he or she currently has. Most likely, he or she is content in the current situation. Discretion is essential when connecting with these individuals in order not to disrupt his or her current work environment. Again, many upper-level executives need to trust the recruiter who is contacting them. Working with an established outsourced team provides the level of credibility and trust expected by c-suite personnel.

On the other hand, you may want to keep information about your company’s leadership roles confidential until a candidate has been vetted to a certain degree. With large public companies, a change in executive leadership can cause a change in the stock price and beyond. Maintaining internal confidentiality can be difficult if you’re conducting your search in-house. With a third party search team, specific company information is left out of the equation until the vetting process has progressed. You can trust that the search will be private and remain out of the public eye (and out of the corporate gossip chain).

What is your budget?

Hiring an external firm to conduct the search entirely or to augment your internal executive recruiting team will come with a price tag. Before hiring a firm, assess your budget, and evaluate the fee structure of various firms. Most often, the price of the executive search is based on the salary of the position. The higher the salary, the more expensive the search.

However, the executive search model is changing with the advent of technology that allows more people access to a larger candidate pool. The traditional model of hiring an executive search firm and paying an excessive fee is no longer the only option.

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What are the different types of executive search firms?

No two executive search firms are the same, but there are two major categories: retained and contingent.


Retained search often starts with an up-front fee with continual invoices throughout the search. The client signs a contract for a specific amount of time, which will be paid-in-full, typically monthly, until the end of the contract period. In this case, a recruiter will source many qualified executive candidates from their network to present to an organization. The candidates are then vetted within the search firm, and the top clients from the original pool are presented to the client. Because the client has signed a retained contract, the recruiters are not incentivized to find candidates in a timely manner. The client will continue paying the retainer fee, regardless of the results.


Contingency search firms are exactly what they sound like. The executive recruiter or firm is paid once he or she has delivered a qualified candidate that is hired for the role. The contingent search firm will source a large candidate pool from their network as quickly as possible because his or her focus is on the actual hire rather than the process to find the best person. It’s important to note that in a quick process, you should ensure that the recruiter is thoroughly vetting candidates in spite of speed. Contingency firms tend to be very transactional, working from one transaction to the next to earn the (large) commission.

There is another way!

At IQTalent Partners, we do things a little differently.

Rather than contingent or retained search, we work through an hourly model, so you have the executive recruiting support when you need it. We work like any other professional service that supports your internal team such as accountants and attorneys. The process is authentic and completely transparent. It is also efficient. The on-demand hourly model puts the client in charge. You can decide how many hours you need each week, and turn up the service, turn down the service, or completely turn off the service at the drop of a hat.

Finding the right leaders is crucial to the success of your company. We believe in-house executive recruiting is the best system for finding the visionaries for your organization. IQTalent Partners supports the internal recruiting model by providing on-demand executive recruiting and sourcing to maximize your team’s talent acquisition capabilities. From CTOs to CEOs, our systems will optimize your search and create lasting value. Get an expert outlook on the next leaders in your company when you reach out to start your executive search today.

The recruiting you need. When you need it. Contact IQTalent Partners today