BOARD TALK | iconic

Making the Right Hire: Why You Should Enlist the Services of an Executive Search Firm

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published October 27, 2022

Executives are no strangers to the work of executive search firms, and with their specialized recruitment services fitting for high-level searches, many businesspeople still view these firms' work only as an option for just that – high-level searches. However, while it is indeed the very field of expertise of executive search firms, Prof. Enrique Soriano, a renowned business family advisor and the Executive Director of Wong & Bernstein Advisory Group, believes that companies are missing a lot by not maximizing the full potential of executive search as they fail to take into account the real considerations for when it is appropriate to outsource recruitment needs. 

Versus Recruitment Agencies and Your Very Own HR Department

Both executive search firms and recruitment agencies work on the same goal: to help companies hire the best possible talent there is. This objective also works for the recruitment side of every HR department. However, while they may appear to offer similar services, Prof. Soriano noted one glaring factor companies should consider to really see what sets executive search firms apart from other recruiting entities: the recruitment process.

Recruitment agencies usually deal with a large number of job posts and play more of a reactive role by utilizing conventional channels such as job boards, online ads and social media to fill a fresh job opening. This leaves them a relatively small amount of time for vetting and undoubtedly limits the scope of the search as the talents they will be able to tap will majorly depend on the reach of their job ads and the number of active candidates in their network. While this might work for entry-level to junior positions, this way of recruitment will not stand a chance in the realm of direct and permanent placements of talents for hard-to-fill, business-critical, and confidential roles where the right and qualified professionals are often employed and not openly looking for new career opportunities. 

Executive search firms, on the other hand, tend to go beyond posting and searching.

As described by Prof. Soriano, based on his observation and experience mainly with executive search firm ICON Executive Asia, the recruitment process of these firms seems to be more "holistic and proactive" than that of HR departments and recruitment agencies.

With a unique approach to recruitment, executive search firms have the advantage of sourcing not only active job seekers but also passive ones or top-tier talents already employed elsewhere but are open to other opportunities. This effectively diversifies and expands the firm's network, connections, and talent pool, keeping them equipped with a pipeline of high-level professionals waiting for the right opportunity.

In Prof. Soriano's advisory work with his clients in search of senior-level executives, he also witnessed how firms like ICON, which have their fingers on the pulse of the recruitment industry, can devise a recruiting solution and make informed recommendations as they build unique relationships with their clients. The ties they build with clients are more of a consultative relationship wherein they take a deep dive into the company's needs and the facets of the role required to be able to provide added value to their services by customizing a recruitment process that takes into consideration extensive job market insights, the importance of the position, competency and cultural fit of potential hires, and organization- and job-specific factors based on the complex requirements at hand as well as the client's industry.

"Executive search firms are experts in their work already; they have insights and opinions that can help companies understand which job titles to look for. Owners and companies may know what they want, but executive search firms translate and dissect those wants to help uncover and understand what these owners and companies actually need." - Prof. Enrique Soriano, Executive Director, Wong + Bernstein Advisory Group

According to Prof. Soriano, this is especially helpful when there is uncertainty on (1) the kind of professional a company really needs, (2) the responsibilities and scope of work of a certain position, and (3) the job profiles requiring specific skill sets. Aside from their knowledge of the job market and different industries, they take the time to do their research and really understand the requirement – its technicalities, the crucial jargon, the job-specific tools and equipment, the green flags, and the red flags – to help companies understand what they truly need.

To sum it up, executive search firms do go beyond searching. Their work is not as simple as posting a job ad and waiting for job seekers to engage. They look in every crack and crevice of the company or client, the position at hand, and its duties and responsibilities to not only tap qualified professionals but also effectively steer the search in the right direction toward the right candidate.