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What should you look for in an executive search consultant

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

When on the hunt for a great search consultant, it’s key you find a person or agency that will not only help you find top tier talent for your business, but also someone you can work with and trust.

Ultimately, your executive search consultant should be a reliable resource, skilled in locating, assessing, approaching and placing top tier candidates to help you achieve your strategic business goals.

They should be an expert, there to understand your requirements, support your whole hiring process and provide you with excellent candidates.

So, how do you find this excellent search consultant?

We’ve written up a guide to the role of the executive search consultant and what you need to do to make sure you’ve got the right person or firm for the job. Take a look.

What is the role of a search consultant?

The first step to understanding whether you’re on the right track with a search consultant is understanding what they should be doing for you. And that means looking into the detail of the role of your search consultant.

We’ve laid out the key responsibilities below:

  • Understanding your needs: A good search consultant should work closely with you, the client, to gain a thorough understanding of your business, culture, and requirements for the position. They should then use this information to develop a detailed job description and search strategy that will find candidates specifically suited to you. A really strong search consultant should also be an expert in your industry too, providing a strong foundation of understanding of your specific requirements.

  • Sourcing candidates: Your executive search consultant should utilise various methods to identify and attract potential candidates, including networking, online research, and leveraging their personal and professional connections. They may also use their own industry-specific resources and knowledge to identify potential candidates with the most appropriate skills for the job.

  • Screening and evaluating candidates: Your search consultant will carefully review resumes, conduct initial interviews, and perform reference checks to evaluate the qualifications and fit of each candidate. This way, you can rest assured that any candidate who comes across your desk has the required skills, qualifications and personality traits. They provide the client with detailed profiles and recommendations for each candidate, highlighting their strengths and potential weaknesses.

  • Facilitating the interview process: While it’s up to you to perform interviews and make final decisions on hiring, your search consultant should work closely with you to schedule and plan interviews with selected candidates. You could also call on them to help conduct interviews. On top of this they may provide guidance on interview techniques, questions to ask, and help manage the entire process to ensure a smooth and efficient experience for both you and the candidate.

  • Negotiating job offers: Once you’ve selected a candidate, the search consultant helps negotiate the terms of the job offer, including salary, benefits, and other terms of employment, taking you through to the final stages of the hire.

  • Providing ongoing support: A good search consultant may provide ongoing support to yourself and the candidate after the hire, helping to ensure a smooth transition and satisfactory outcome for both parties.

What questions should you ask a search consultancy firm?

With the above information about the role of a good executive search consultant, and what they should be doing for you as the client, the next step is ensuring you’ve found the right consultant or agency that meets these requirements.

A great way to decipher that is to ask all the right questions right at the beginning of the process.

This way you can be sure you have all the information you need before you commit to anything.

We’ve pulled together a few questions we think would be valuable to ask up front when evaluating whether you should invest in an executive search consultant:

  1. What is your experience in our industry or field?

  2. How do you source potential candidates?

  3. What criteria do you use to evaluate candidates?

  4. Can you provide examples of successful placements you have made?

  5. How do you handle confidential searches?

  6. What is your typical timeframe for completing a search?

  7. How do you handle communication with both clients and candidates during the search process?

  8. Can you provide references or testimonials from previous clients?

  9. What are your fees and how are they structured?

These questions should help to address just how suitable an executive search consultant will be to you and your organisation.

They should help give you an idea of the experience, the expertise and working style of the person you’ll be working with. All of which is important to know before you ask about fees.

When you’re asking these questions you should be on the lookout for key traits and skills that make a good search consultant. We’ve highlighted what that looks like below.

What makes a good executive search consultancy agency?

In order to deliver the role details we’ve highlighted above, there are some key attributes you need to be looking out for in a good search consultant.

  • Industry expertise: A good executive search consultant should have a deep knowledge and understanding of your industry or sector, alongside the role they’re recruiting for. This enables them to identify the right candidates with the necessary skills, experience, and cultural fit for your organisation.

  • Strong communication skills: Your search consultant must be an excellent communicator, able to build relationships with clients and candidates and clearly articulate the position and the requirements for the role you’re looking to fill.

  • Strategic thinking: They should be able to think strategically, providing insights and advice to you on market trends, salary expectations, and other factors that may impact you and the search process.

  • Analytical skills: A good executive search consultant must be able to analyse resumes, job descriptions, and other data to identify the best candidates for a particular role.

  • Ethics and integrity: Your search consultant should operate with the highest levels of ethics and integrity, ensuring that both you, as the client, and candidates are treated fairly and with respect throughout the search process. Approaching potential candidates who are already embedded within an organisation can be a sensitive proposition too, so it’s important they act with a good sense of professionalism throughout.

  • Results-oriented: Delivering results is a must for any good search consultant, whether that means finding the best candidate for a particular role, or building a long-term relationship with you based on trust and mutual respect. By understanding their experience in placing candidates, you can get a good idea of how results oriented they are.

Here at SPS International, we pride ourselves on our team of highly-skilled, experienced search consultants, who have a track record of placing high calibre candidates in senior roles.

Our teams specialise in specific industries to ensure we have the knowledge and networks to find the best possible candidates for you.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help you with your next executive level hire.


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