Five Questions to Ask When Hiring a Retained Executive Search Firm

When you’ve got a tough-to-fill role, confidential search, or your internal People and Culture team is at capacity, hiring a retained executive search firm can make a lot of sense. At Waterstone, our executive search experts have worked with hundreds of clients over the past 20 years – placing senior level leaders who are high performers and who align to our clients’ cultures in a way that sets the company (and the leader) up for success.

If you’re considering hiring a recruitment firm to help with your next search, asking these key questions can help you make an informed decision about the most suitable firm for your needs.

1. Talk about the types of companies you typically work with.

Understanding a firm’s core client base can help you determine whether they’ll be the right fit for your organization. Do they typically work with large or small clients? What type of leaders or hiring committees do they usually work with? Are they exclusive to one geography or are their clients spread across the country? If a search team is used to working with $8 billion, multi-national companies and you’re just getting off the ground, you may not receive the service and attention their larger clients would; likewise, a local boutique firm may not have the resources or networks to meet the expectations of a larger client.  A firm’s knowledge of, and success rate in working with companies like yours, in industries like yours, is important. It will help give you confidence that they can sell your role (and your organization) to candidates, and that they will be good partners in your search.

2. What is your approach to candidate sourcing and screening?

Understanding how the search firm works – from processes to timelines to handling questions and concerns – allows you ensure your expectations match right from the start. It also helps ensure that your company’s values and culture are a match for the firms, and that there is no confusion around specific requirements for the role being filled.

Understanding how they approach candidate screening and references is also key. What kinds of verifications so they complete? Do they do social media checks? How many references do they ask for – and what types of references? (For example, at Waterstone we use directed referencing and extensive checks on character, performance, and reputation. Our verification methods also include education, professional roles, finance, legal, and social media.)

3. How do you ensure candidates are the right fit for our culture?

Finding a candidate with the right experience and leadership skills (or potential) is only part of the equation. Finding a candidate who fits your culture, and who has the skills and behaviours to take your culture and performance to the next level is also key. Knowing that your search partners understand your culture today (and what you want your culture to look like in the future) is important because it means they’ll be more likely to find leaders who possess the attributes and behaviours that signal success for your top performers – as well as those that will help drive growth and success.

4. How do you use psychometric testing as part of your recruitment process?

Many organizations leverage psychometric testing to help them uncover a candidate’s unique attributes, behaviours, and motivators. These assessments are pivotal for matching the right candidate with the right job and the right organization, and they provide essential insights into for onboarding, engaging, improving performance and communication, developing corporate culture, and motivating teams.

But don’t just ask if your potential search partner offer psychometric assessments – find out about the specific tools they use and what in-house expertise they have to interpret the results effectively for you and your hiring team. Psychometric asessments are powerful tools for recruiting high-performance talent that aligns with your culture and performance goals – but their effectiveness hinges on proper use and interpretation.

5. What is your follow-up process?

Finding the right candidate is just the beginning. Asking about the firm’s follow-up process will give you insight into what your organization (and your candidate) can expect between the final interview and your hire’s first anniversary. Does the search firm support you throughout negotiations and making an offer? Is someone available to advise throughout onboarding and the first 90 days? What happens if the candidate doesn’t make it through the first year?  Knowing what you can expect once you’ve found your candidate is just as important as what to expect during the search phase.

At Waterstone, our search team has experience working across a broad variety of industries – meaning no matter the role you’re looking to fill, and no matter what industry you’re in, we’ve likely completed a similar search and can leverage that expertise to recruit the best fit for your organization.  And our Recruit4Fit process is built on consistent, transparent communication throughout the search process. This is how we find the right candidates to take your organization to new heights. And our one-year guarantee means that if for any reason your hire doesn’t work out, we’ll re-do the search at no additional cost.

Find out more about how Waterstone can help on your next search – schedule a call with one of our experts today!

*This content was written with the support of ChatGPT