Practical tips for choosing a recruitment firm

executive search

A profession open to all

In US, since 1998, a large number of recruitment firms have been united in a professional union, whose members have undertaken to respect a code of ethics. Nevertheless, any professional with or without a diploma, but with some experience in business life, and a good sense of business, can immediately put up an “Executive search badge“.

Fishing for candidates

When choosing a recruitment agency, it is best to keep in mind the two main methods used to find candidates. Recruitment through advertisements in the print media or on job boards is the most common. Some call it fishing, we put lines on digital streams and wait for the fish to bite. A more quantitative than selective approach that can satisfy some recruitment needs.

Generalist or specialist firm

Firms specialize by sector or function. Some fields require technical expertise: IT, new technologies, medical professions. The firms therefore have consultants from these fields with additional training in human resources or management. The specialization of a firm raises the issue of ethics. A specialist firm must properly separate client companies from those it keeps as hunting grounds, at the risk of violating its ethics. In US, a preconception is that you don’t hunt with your customers.


Hunting, more commonly known as the “direct approach”, consists in contacting an executive by email or telephone, who has not asked for anything and the firm offers him a new opportunity. Head hunting approaches executives and managers. The firm identifies the “target” framework corresponding to the requirements of the companies that have commissioned them. The budget for a hunt is higher than that of an advertisement recruitment consultant. A hunt requires time, know-how to target the right setting, to understand an organizational chart. In an era of unemployment for executives and senior managers, increasingly changing organizational structures, hunting has its limits, and firms, in order to have an exhaustive approach, increasingly use social networks. The rare bird can now be between two posts.

Choosing the right firm for you

To limit errors and make the right choice, here are some practical tips:
1 – Consult several firms
2 – Meet the consultant who will be in charge of the mission
3 – Ask which method is best suited to your research
4 – Ensure that the one who convinces you is the one who leads the recruitment
5 – Ask for rules of conduct with candidates
6 – Find out about the method of calculating fees
7 – Check the e-notoriety of the firm and the consultant
8 – Choose the one that inspires confidence and trust him/her.
9 – Require references and guarantees

There are more than 1200 firms or recruitment agencies in US, 1 in 5 is created by a sole trader, 80% have less than 5 employees, 20% of the firms make 80% of the market. The firm market fluctuates according to the economic situation, a drop in recruitment as in 2012 leads to firm closures that are often resurrected as soon as the economic situation is more favorable. It is up to each person to recruit their recruiter according to all this information, without forgetting that mutual trust is the basis for the success of a mission.

Published by Dave John

Decade of work experience in leadership consulting with strong focus on talent acquisition & assessment across different industries and geographies.

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