What Is An Executive Search Firm?

This is a question that commonly comes up. People ask, what is an executive search firm, or even what is an executive recruiter, or what is a recruiting agency? Or sometimes different versions of this question. The bottom line is people are sometimes, and often times, not familiar with what an executive search firm does, or an executive recruiting firm does. So, the purpose of this blog is to give a little bit of insight into what an executive search firm is, how executive search firms work, and why they are valuable.

Here at Aldebaran Recruiting, we really try to set ourselves apart from other executive search firms out there in terms of providing a high level of customer service, and quality versus quantity. Most executive search firms, though, serve a similar purpose. The easiest analogy of an executive search firm is to think of it as a consulting firm. While there are many different types of consulting firms out there, you can find consulting firms for marketing, you can find consulting firms to help your business with sales, you can find consulting firms to help your business with accounting or finance, or even legal matters.


An executive search firm is a consulting firm that basically helps in the human resources department specifically with recruiting. There are a lot of other types of human resource consultants out there as well. Many executive search firms like here at Aldebaran Recruiting offer other human resource workshops and resources, as well. But from an executive search perspective, this is referring to recruiting or head hunting. And this recruiting or head hunting is typically done at the executive level, and we would define the executive level here at Aldebaran as director level and above. Many companies may define the executive level in different ways, maybe VP and above, or maybe someone who’s considered an executive in a different fashion. This definition isn’t as important.

Most executive recruiting firms will recruit positions outside of the executive suite, as well. So, this can include managers, and even entry level positions. Here at Aldebaran Recruiting, we do work a lot of mid-level, manager level and director level positions for clients as this type of talent tends to be very sought after in the market, and difficult to recruit.


You could be in many different positions that would require you to hire an executive search firm, or where it may benefit you greatly. For one, you might own a small or medium size business, and you don’t have a true human resources department. If you don’t have a true human resources department, and no internal recruiting function, you may reach a tipping point. Your own networks and posting on job boards may no longer be sufficient for you to be able to attract the right kind of talent for open positions to grow your company. If this is the case, you’re left with two options. One, either hire someone internally to join your team who can recruit for you as a full-time recruiter, or hire an executive recruiting firm to outsource your recruiting needs to.

This is something that we’ve written about in the past in terms hiring a recruiter, or how to hire a recruiter, and you should check out some of those other blogs as well.

Another reason might be that you have an internal human resources department, or an internal recruiting team, and they might be overloaded. So, they may not be able to handle all of the open requisitions that you have, and at this point, you may need to pick some of your difficult positions, and outsource these to an executive search firm. You would then be using the executive search firm as a supplement to your internal department.

Another scenario where companies hire executive search firms is if they have a confidential role, or a position that they need to keep hush hush that needs to get filled. Sometimes it’s because there’s work on a new client, or a new part of the business that wants to be kept confidential. Sometimes there’s somebody that you need to replace in your organization, and you need to find their replacement before you let them go, and this needs to be kept confidential for obvious reasons. Executive search firms tend to be very good at keeping searches confidential, and keeping things under the radar so that you don’t worry about any unnecessary exposure.


These are the most common reasons for needing to hire an executive search firm. When it comes to hiring an executive search firm, there are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind. Again, we recommend looking at some of our other blog posts that have talked about the things to look out for when hiring your recruiter, and how to hire a recruiter. In general, it always is good to find a recruiting firm that is smart. You want to interview different recruiting firms, and find someone that you feel is going to truly be able to understand your company and your business.


Someone who can understand your company and understand your business is much more important than someone that has “industry experience.” Industry experience is only as good as someone who’s able to truly understand your business. So, don’t get too caught up on if someone has worked the particular type of position or industry. While this is important, and this is something that you should be looking into, what you want to be paying more attention to is, is this recruiter smart, and are they going to actually focus in on what I need for my team? This is the most critical thing.


In summary, an executive search firm is a consulting company that is going to help you and your organization from the recruiting or head hunting perspective. Typically, this recruiting or head hunting is going to be happening at the director level or above, but many times it’s happening at the manager level, and even entry level type positions. There are many different types of executive search firms out there, and we’ve talked about some of these in some previous blogs.

If you’re thinking of hiring an executive search firm, you want to be sure to educate yourself on the different types of companies, the different types of models, and be sure you have some good questions to interview some recruiters so that you hire the right person. We always recommend hiring only one executive search firm, maybe two maximum. Some companies will use several recruiting firms for their needs, and this is typically not a good idea. Good luck out there, and we hope you hire the best talent in the market.

Here are some more great tips to consider when hiring a recruiter: https://bit.ly/2REt7eY

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