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8 Benefits for Using a Search Firm

August 12, 2020
Written by James Kenneth Koh

One thing I learned very early in my recruitment career was how important it is to be constantly on the lookout for potential new business opportunities. And not long after learning that lesson came the realisation that along with every new prospect comes a suite of roadblocks and objections that could potentially stand in the way of me building another solid business relationship.

I could fill multiple blog posts with lists of hundreds of objections that have been thrown at me over the years, alongside stories of how I overcame them. Perhaps that could be a project for another time, another way for me to help educate the new wave of recruiters eager to get a foot in the door of their target client companies.

Undoubtedly, the most common objection would come when I would be sitting opposite a senior decision maker who would look across the desk from me, acknowledge my passion and enthusiasm for what I did, thank me for my effort and presentation, before asking, “but why should we use you?”.

This was typically closely followed by a carefully scripted list of reasons why they shouldn’t engage me including, “we have a top employer brand with candidates constantly knocking on our door”; “we already have a very lucrative referral program in place”; or “our internal talent acquisition team is flooded with direct applications every day”. But they’d usually save the best for last… “and besides, your fees are too high”.

Now I know many recruiters who, at this point in the meeting, would politely thank the client for their time, professionally shake their hand, and walk away… with a partnership deal clearly still on the table.

That has never been my style.

The rest of this blog post is based on what I would then go on to say to counter their supposed ‘slam dunk’ rejection.

For any hiring manager who might still think they’ve got all their bases covered, and for any recruiters out there who may have felt that any (or all) of the above excuses were actually a cue to wrap up your meeting, here are seven reasons why, despite the plethora of DIY recruitment tools and technology available today, companies should still (without a shadow of a doubt) engage the services of an executive search firm.

1. The difference between active and passive candidates

You want the best person for the job, not just the best available candidate, right?

There’s a big difference between active and passive candidates. Active candidates are those (as the term implies) who are actively looking for a new job. They are the ones knocking on your door and applying directly through your career site. They may be disgruntled at work, or even currently out of work.

A passive candidate, on the other hand, is someone perfectly happy in their current job, isn’t applying to positions on career sites, in fact probably isn’t even looking at any online job boards. But… (drumroll please), if approached about an interesting opportunity, are wide open to entertaining an initial conversation.

That’s exactly where search consultants come in. We don’t just find you the best applicant. We endeavour to provide you with the best person in the market.

2. Timing is everything

We get this a lot when we recruit for creative candidates.  The hiring manager, most often an CCO, ECD will say that they know everyone because it is quite a close knit community.  Hence the challenge recruiters face is their clients advising them that they know everyone or anyone we present they will say. “Oh he is my friend”  or “Yup I know of him, he won a Gold at One Show this year right?”.

Great, so you know them, but did you approach them for the role?  No?  Why?  We did not think he was on the lookout.  Bingo!

Hence, that is the value that we bring – we know when candidates are thinking of moving (active seekers) and what candidates will move for (passive seekers) – it’s all about timing.  If you did not know this, you might lose a great candidate to one of your competitors just because you did not know.

Timing is everything.

3. Confidentiality is key

There’s no denying that there are some roles you want the world to know about and for these, by all means have your talent acquisition team promote your brand across LinkedIn, or whatever happens to be your preferred job board.

However, there will come a time when you want absolutely no one to know about your hiring plans. You might not even want your internal recruitment team (perhaps not even your leadership team) to know. The new role may be highly confidential (for example, the incumbent may still be in the role) or you may not want to alert your competitors to a kink in your armour.

When you absolutely need complete discretion to maintain your brand reputation, a search firm will help you navigate through this sensitive time, all the while ensuring the utmost confidentiality.

4. Knowing exactly who’s out there

Coming back to my earlier point about wanting the best and not simply the best available, only a specialist (boutique) search firm will know exactly who’s who in the zoo.

This is because we are experts when it comes to mapping the market. When we are briefed on any new opportunity, the first thing we do is create a market map and, in turn, a long list which we will then share with you before approaching prospective passive candidates to then help form a shortlist, determining who is open to moving and who is not. This helps you avoid having to second guess if you have completely combed the market, or wondering if there might be someone better out there.

Trust us, there won’t be.

5. Tapping into a vibrant network

Picture this: On average our team speaks to 15 prospective candidates each day. For us, this means approximately 75 potential future employees of yours every week. 300 passive candidates every month. 3,600 of the best individuals in the market every year. That’s a hell of a lot of people, not to mention market information (such as salary data etc).

Now multiply that number by the number of years the search firm has been operating (in our case 10 years) and you can see how and why we proudly stand by the network we’ve created.

6. The importance of an objective third party perspective

As I have just pointed out, we are constantly talking to prospective candidates, so we have a birds-eye view of the industries that we recruit for. Given our in-depth understanding of the market, we will be able to give you an unbiased assessment, eliminating any biases you may have, be they conscious or unconscious. We’ll also happily share market data such as whether or not you are offering adequate salaries.

7. Everyone should stick to their knitting

You know you’re good at what you do. In fact you’re probably very good at what you do if you’re thinking about growing your team. So, whether you’re an advertising, marketing, media or PR guru, why get distracted in all the nitty-gritty details of running a lengthy search process?

And just like you’re good at what you do, we are really good at what we do. So keep in mind, when you engage a search firm, it means you can get on with what you do best while we get on with what we do best.

If there was something wrong and you needed surgery, you wouldn’t even dream of operating on yourself, would you? You also wouldn’t go to a general practitioner and ask them to operate either. You’d go straight to the best specialist surgeon. It’s no different when you identify a hole in your team. Why spend weeks and weeks trying to fill it yourself?

8. It’s what happens beneath the surface that really makes the difference

Close your eyes. Picture an iceberg. You’re probably not visualising the little pointy bit sticking out of the water. There was a whole chunk of ice below the surface that the crew of the Titanic didn’t (or more realistically, couldn’t) see.

I know that many employers think that all it takes is to brief a search firm, wait for a few days to pass, then, lo and behold, a shortlist appears, and finally, an invoice gets sent. Ha! Gosh, if only it was that easy.

Trust me there’s so much more happening behind the scenes, some of which I’ve alluded to in this post.

We are constantly speaking to top quality candidates, so we know exactly when they are ready to make a move. We have spent years cultivating relationships with our clients and candidates in order for us to achieve the all-important ‘right fit’ – every time. That’s the power of having built a passive candidate network.

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