How to Select an Executive Search Firm

Choosing the right Executive Search firm is a crucial first step in your executive hiring process. We’ve developed a handy guide to help you find the right firm to suit your organisation’s needs. 

Growing from a startup to a scale-up? There’s a lot you’ll need to think about. And one of the most pressing issues is how you’re going to build your leadership team. From bringing in a CEO to growing your Board of Directors beyond yourself, having the right people in place is key to moving forward. 

The problem? Hiring for C-suite and executive positions isn’t quite as straightforward a process as recruiting operational managers or administrators. Executive level recruitment goes far beyond finding someone with an ability to do the job; it means finding someone with a strong legacy of achieving success. 

That’s why smart businesses seek assistance in building their leadership team. 

In this guide, we’ll be taking a deep dive into how to select an Executive Search firm. We’ll also answer some of the most common questions that businesses ask at this point in their growth journey. Two examples of these questions are: “Why use an Executive Search firm?” and “Are Executive Search firms worth it?”

Read on to discover more about finding the right support, and to learn how to approach executive search firms. Get the ball rolling in growing your organisation with help from the right people. 

Why use an executive search firm?

Hiring for executive positions isn’t the same as hiring for day-to-day office roles. It’s not a case of simply listing responsibilities, duties, and desired skills. It’s about identifying someone that shares your organisational values – even if you’re not entirely sure what your values are yet. It’s about finding someone with in-depth experience in leading organisations within your niche. It’s about bringing in a forward thinker who isn’t just going to fit in with your business, but is also going to shape it. 

And that’s a challenge. 

Fortunately, Executive Search firms can help, by…

  • Connecting you with top candidates in their field, who may not always be easy to find
  • Reducing the risk of making a poor quality hire through stringent processes and vetting
  • Providing you with a deeper understanding of the candidate market and hiring trends
  • Advising, guiding, and supporting you throughout the interview process, and beyond
  • Shortlisting, interviewing and negotiating, leaving you with more time for your core business
  • Helping you move quickly during the hiring process to avoid losing out on great candidates

Are Executive Search firms worth it? Yes. However, to get the most value out of working with a search partner, it’s important for businesses to ensure they’re making the right choice for them. 

5 things to consider when choosing an Executive Search firm

  1. Expertise within your industry

In order to grow, guide, and lead your business in the right direction, any executive hire must be able to demonstrate expertise within your industry. They must also boast unrivalled knowledge of the sector. This means that your Executive Search partner should do the same. Whether you’re operating in the Fintech, Cyber Security, SaaS, or Technology niches – or any other niche – find someone that ‘gets’ you, and understands your needs. When search partners can see where your gaps are, and when they know where to look to fill those gaps, the likelihood of a successful outcome is enhanced.

  1. Industry credibility

The type of leaders you’re looking for are experienced, smart, and savvy. They don’t answer calls from recruiters. Instead, they maintain relationships with credible, reputable industry experts who can help them further develop their well-established career path. Without credibility, executive search firms are unable to get past the first hurdle: initial contact. It’s important to do your own research to scope out the reputation of different firms, such as reading case studies or testimonials. You might also want to create a list of questions to ask, to help you judge reputation.

  1. Commitment to diversity & inclusion

Cultural fit is rapidly giving way to a similar yet distinct hiring priority: diversity & inclusion. The term ‘cultural fit’ is now primarily used to refer to hiring people that ‘get on well’ with the team. D&I is about building diverse environments that promote the importance of innovation and ‘out of the box’ thinking. Experts are noting close and positive correlations between diverse leadership teams and financial performance. An Executive Search firm dedicated to D&I can help you bring in new ideas and ways of working, from people across a range of different backgrounds and experiences. 

  1. Search processes

Any good Executive Search firm will have a robust strategy for identifying and assessing talent. There’s no one single process that works; many different ways of working can produce successful outcomes. However, there are some common foundations that every good strategy is built upon: transparency, communication, timelines, and candidate engagement. It’s important to look for these elements in the processes that a search partner uses. When a strategy is rooted in these core elements, it’s easier for you to remain involved and better understand the status of the journey.

  1. Reach

Are you looking to hire from a local talent pool? A national talent pool? Maybe you’re open to extending your search internationally. The markets within which an Executive Search firm operates really matter. You need to define the scale of your search, and find a partner that has the capability – and the know-how – to support that scale. One thing to remember here is that what you want today may not match what you need tomorrow. Even if you want to hire locally now, a search firm with a global presence could help you recruit for new leadership roles from international pools in the future. 

How to find and approach Executive Search firms

As shown above, Executive Search firms can differ in many ways, from their reach and processes to their values, expertise, and credibility. It’s crucial to find the right partner for your business. Unsure where to start looking? Here are a few places to start researching potential search partners:

  • Direct company websites, such as
  • LinkedIn searches
  • Google searches
  • Recommendations from organisations within your network

Once you’ve narrowed down your shortlist, it’s a good idea to adopt best practices for reaching out and approaching these partners. The best way to approach Executive Search firms is to lead with questions. This can help you see quickly who’s worth considering, and who isn’t a good fit. 

Questions to ask include…

  • What’s your success rate?
  • What are your specialist areas?
  • Where do you operate?
  • What are your values?
  • How much do you charge?

You can find a full list of questions to ask executive search firms on our website. 

Initial meetings with an Executive Search firm are likely to focus on your core needs and requirements. Follow-up meetings will usually be more in-depth. These will give the consultants an opportunity to ask more detailed questions, to ensure they find candidates aligned with your values. 

Consultants will work on developing an ideal candidate profile and researching talent on your behalf. In most cases, you should be provided with a regular, convenient point of contact at the business. This will be your ‘go to’ contact for all progress updates across the entire executive hiring journey. 

At Innovex, we provide our clients with an account manager as well as 24/7 access to our Executive Search platform, Loxo and weekly update calls. 

Finding the right Executive Search firm for you

There’s an Executive Search firm out there for everyone. You just have to find them! At Innovex, we know that bringing the right people on board – people who are going to be instrumental in helping you grow your business – is critical. That’s why it’s so important to spend a little time really assessing the different firms out there. You need a partner that’s both ready and qualified to help you scale. 

To find out more about Executive Search, and discover if Innovex could be the right search partner for you and your business, get in touch. We’re here to help you build an impactful leadership team. 

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