Why should a company hire a search firm?

  • Speed and Focus

  • Ability to research and perform a deep dive into the marketplace

  • Specific positions require experience and expertise

  • Inside Recruiters or Hiring Managers just don’t have the time to recruit

Should I work with a Retained or Contingent firm?

  • Think about the requirements of the position. If the position is a lower level position with a basic/general set of requirements hire a contingent firm to generate candidates.
  • Level of experience. The more experienced the position the more you would want to hire a retained firm that will use a thorough recruiting process.
  • Services needed. If you just want resume flow, hire several contingent firms. If you are looking for a recruiting process that will provide a targeted short list of qualified candidates select a retained firm. You and your firm will do significantly more work in the recruiting process when using a contingent firm versus a retained firm for a similar fee. Their is much more value in using a retained firm.
  • Make sure you select a firm that can represent your company and position professionally in the marketplace. This means they can discuss your industry, company, dept. and position effectively.

Does the search firm’s database and network matter?

Yes, but be careful with believing this will be the ultimate solution for your search. Make sure the firm has expertise to start with a blank sheet of paper and analyze how to customize your search by industry, company, level, requirements compensation and location. Have them draw a centric circle and define their recruiting strategy to locate the best candidates. Their database is a crutch to a lazy recruiter!!!


Search firms have a variety ways to price their services but it normally comes down to a percentage of total compensation in the range of twenty to thirty-three percent. This range will be based on a variety of professional services and the type of search. Another way is to determine a flat rate for a given search. Normally this is discussed after the definition of the position has been thoroughly understood.

Understand the Search Firms Process

  1. Requirements Definition – define the position and gain team agreement with the position description including responsibilities, tangible and intangibles, personality/style and expectations over time

  2. Sourcing activities – determine the industries, “like” companies to pursue as well as what the recruiter will be marketing to the candidates

  3. Screening/Evaluations – define how the search firms process in evaluating candidates

  4. Interviewing/Assessment – define what you will be looking for out of the recruiters face to face meetings

  5. Selection – define how the final candidate will be selected and who will be communicating the employment package

  6. Integration – prepare a document on the integration or onboard process for the new hire

  7. Overall Candidate Management – who will be the point person on the search firm side and the employer side in managing all candidate activities

How to Work with a Search Firm?

  1. Discuss with the recruiting team details about our industry, company, department and position

  2. Describe the history of the company as well as the vision of where the company is going

  3. Provide them with a tour of your facility

  4. Allow the Recruiter to speak to the Leadership team and/or others in the area of the position to get an idea of the culture and fit

  5. Define and agree on a Project Plan regarding search deliverables. Determine who does what when regarding the recruiter and the evaluation team

  6. Make scheduling a professional process. Define a point person that has access to the evaluator’s schedules and the authority to move things around to accommodate candidates

What kind of information should be share with a candidate?

This is not a dating game. The employer has a role to fill. Provide a comprehensive view the position including company, department, Hiring Manager and details about the position. Include the business objective of hiring for this position. Provide as much detail to have the candidate self-select into the process. Once motivated to move forward, the employer has a choice to remove the candidate from the process.

How much time should the recruiter spend with the candidate?

  • An initial half hour to 45 minutes that is scheduled to discuss the industry, company, department and position and to do a basic screen of the candidate determining if the key selection criteria has been met

  • After the candidate has reviewed additional information about the candidate schedule an hour to an hour and a half face to face meeting to “evaluate” the candidate. This meeting is a deeper discussion about the candidates work experience and expertise. In addition, you want to determine the candidate’s motivation to pursue this opportunity

How much time should the Employer spend with a candidate?

There should be two interview teams. 1st team are the primary stakeholders. Along with the Hiring Manager these individuals assist in making the hiring decision. This whole team should meet the candidate the in the first meeting. The second meeting should be with the Hiring Manager and the second team. The purpose of this meeting is to socialize the candidate with others in the process. The Hiring Manager should seek confirmation that this is a good fit. The majority of this second meeting is to have the candidate meet others on the team.

How do I present an offer that gets accepted?

The Search firm should be discussing the candidate’s compensation expectations every time they speak to them. The Search firm and the Hiring Manager should discuss this compensation of each candidate before in-person meetings. References should be checked before the offer is presented. Once a candidate is selected, the employer should put their best offer on the table based on internal equity and where the candidate needs to be. The complete benefit package should be shared at this time. An offer can be contingent on background and drug tests.