Executive Search (synonyms are Headhunting or Retained Search) is a method used to find the most suitable professional for a specific role whether they are openly looking for a new challenge or not. When a company has a vacancy to be filled, they normally task a recruitment company with finding a suitable individual to take up the challenge. "Active" jobseekers are easy to find. They are actively applying to roles, contacting recruitment companies or posting their CV onto job boards. With that approach clients are missing out on large numbers of suitable candidates.
The Executive Search professionals take a different approach to their task, in that they look for the best individual for the role and approach them directly, rather than waiting for them to approach the recruiter. It is very common for the most suitable individual to already have a role, so it's a case of finding them. As such executive search agents target the “grey area” of the market i.e. people who are not actively looking for jobs but when presented with an opportunity may move. We estimate this is somewhere around 80% of the workforce and when we find these candidates, we find out that they are not registered with recruitment agents or actively interviewing anywhere. They are a great pool of candidates.
The other major difference with Executive Search recruitment is the way the consultancy works alongside the client. Executive Search is a more resource intensive approach and gives the client a thorough understanding of what they will need for the role, the landscape of the role and skill sets in question, the type of people they can expect to entice as well as a managed timeline for the whole project. With many of our clients we are advising them at board level who the best candidate is, for a certain role.
Although Executive Search can be used on any vacancy, it is usually reserved for senior appointments, strategic hires and roles that are hard to fill.