• Carola Chard

Why and when to engage an Executive Search Firm?



Today’s guest blogger is Carola Chard of CMCC in Hong Kong. CMCC was established in 2009 as a specialist recruitment firm for the apparel, footwear, toys, and consumer goods industry. Since 2017 the firm has expanded to include new technologies, financial and legal appointments. Carola is currently serving on the NPAworldwide board of directors.


Even in a tight-down market situation, where many face uncertainty in their business and career prospects, there is still a shortage of talent in certain sectors. Great people are always in demand, and even when unemployment rates are high, the people who are currently active job seekers in the market, may not fit the profile of the candidates you wish to employ.


In turbulent and disrupted markets, companies will hold on to their top talent even tighter to ensure that the top revenue producers remain on board to see the company through the rough times. So if you are looking to hire top producers, the traditional ways of advertising may not yield the results you as the employer are looking for. Only a few of the suitable talent to fill a role would actively be on the lookout for a change.


Even with aggressive downsizing, unless the organization collapses and everyone is out of work at the same time, companies usually first let go of the people who were not the top-performing or cooperative staff. The good people will only go when the cutting of the team gets closer to the bone, and only in the second and third round of layoff, you may find some good talented people the competitor company can no longer afford to keep.

Ask yourself – can I afford to wait until then?


Here are some service options for recruitment and the pros and cons:


Trade publications and or online job advertising:

It works well if you wish to broadcast new growth, launch a new brand or announce the expansion of operations. You will attract active job seekers, who represent a mere 5% of the talent in your industry. If time is pressing and you want someone immediately available, this is a good way. However, the top talent in the market is likely too busy creating revenue for your competitors and NOT reading adverts, so you are missing out on attracting these. Screening CV’s is time-consuming for the recruiting manager, as now with keyword auto-response, candidates will automatically reply even for jobs not suitable. Be prepared to receive as many as 500- 600 resumes for the position, which need to be screened by someone in the organisation. Ask yourself if you have the time and the manpower?


Employment Agency or Executive Search Firm – What is the Basic Difference?

Employment agencies work mostly with more junior / middle management candidates actively looking for a career change and will match your job criteria against candidates in their database and then present you those candidates from that pool who match the criteria. They will update information on existing candidates, but do not directly approach talent in the market place. This will give you 5-15 % of the talent available, and the information will be pre-screened for you.


A word of caution here: many companies engage several employment agencies simultaneously, and assume that they will get faster, better service and better candidates. The reality is that the moment you split your order to several providers, it becomes a race of who will present the candidate first to earn the fee. This means the screening process will be severely compromised. You may be sent raw data, and often the candidate is not even interviewed, which means the work of screening and selecting falls back to your HR team or you. It also means the recruiter will not be as diligent to follow leads, as their chance to earn income is cut by however many companies you choose to share your search with. They will focus their full energy on the clients who give them exclusive right to the project, and therefore a genuine opportunity to complete the assignment and earn a fee.


Executive Search Firms – when does it make sense?

Engaging or retaining an executive search firm means you will have a full scale of services, from the consulting part on what the true needs are, in-depth market analysis and active approach to the right and most suited candidates. A great executive search consultant is a trusted business partner, who you can share requirements and skills with, and they may offer alternatives and solutions where a project did not yield the desired outcome via your traditional methods. They will be holding in-depth conversations not only with the employer, but also with candidates to see if indeed the opportunity makes sense for both parties. Only then will the candidate be introduced. This process will often make the difference to convince the best-suited candidate to take the next step to explore the opportunity, even though they are quite settled in their current career path.


Working in exclusivity with one executive search firm also means the search will take place in strict confidentiality, which is critical when seeking to replace a team member who is no longer suited to the company’s long term plans, but is crucial to efficient running of the current business.

While some may consider the search fee structure an obstacle, take into consideration the time cost of having your own team farming through an avalanche of CV’s or managers interviewing and engaging with candidates who may not be suited, or even if suited may not really be interested in a change, but just fishing for a counter offer from their current employers. The process can be very frustrating, distracting from the day to day management of the company.


A true executive search firm is a partner that will look after the entire recruitment process, so you can focus on what you do best – running your business.





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