Executive Search Vs. Contingency Recruitment – interchangeable resources?

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Adam Walker.



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I am increasingly finding that executive search and contingency recruitment offerings are often believed to be subtle variants of the same service when in reality they are vastly differing models designed to provide a very different outcome from a very different service. More concerning is where the word ‘search’ is being applied all too readily and incorrectly to what is fundamentally a contingency process with ‘search’ meaning a search of a company’s own plus perhaps a handful of the readily available databases – of the readily available candidates.

As with most miscommunication and misunderstanding, we need to look at ourselves and our industry in the first instance. Perhaps we have not been clear enough in communicating the difference. Perhaps one definition has been steadily pushed toward the other in a bid to lend additional credibility and a sense of an offering with greater depth and endeavour than is truly the case. 

Every potential assignment needs careful discussion and assessment. It may very well be that a contingency process is what you need. Much as it surprises clients to hear me say it, it is far from unheard of for me to tell a client ‘You don’t need a search for this’.

Whilst our overall process in executive search is staged, extensive and involved – it is the ‘search’ part that is the most time-consuming and labour-intensive. Contingent recruiters tend to be working multiple roles and representing the ‘ready and available’ candidate base. They work to the ‘point of delivery’ after which time their involvement is largely administrative.

Executive Search Consultants on the other hand are rarely working more than a select handful of assignments. Their intention is to offer the very best the market has to offer, rather than the most available. The point of delivery in executive search is a halfway point in the process at best. Extensive briefing, debriefing, psychometric profiling, background checks, resolution of potential conflicts of interest, reference checking, offer management, onboarding support and so on have all yet to take place.

It seems to some in the contingency world like overkill, but then a poor hire in the lower to mid-tier positions registers more as an inconvenience and perhaps something of an embarrassment. In the mission-critical world of the D or C-suite search assignment, a poor hire can be a disaster.

Our 9 stage process is designed to mitigate risk at every stage, whilst providing maximum transparency and insight. To find out more give me a call on +44 (0)1582 878907 or drop me an email to ARaymond@RedlineExecutive.com

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