How do you define greatness when it comes to finding a search partner for your company? Is it all about just finding the best candidate for the opportunity at hand or is it more than that? Forget about the search fee, trying to negotiage a lower search fee will just cause grief and lower the value of your partnership. It’s not about the money unless the search firm in question goes beyond reasonableness and requests the CEO’s firstborn or some other ridiculous stipend. You need to pay a search firm a top fee for them to be able to deliver great service.

In the intial stages you should rank your key firms based on how they answer the following more traditional questions:

  1. What do you know about our unique environment and its challenges?
  2. What recent searches have you completed in our industry?
  3. How would you describe our organization, its potential and this management opportunity?
  4. Who will lead the search process and be ultimately accountable to us? Who will make up the entire team?
  5. Do you companies in our target candidate market space where you have restrictive "off-limits" or "hands off" agreements that will prevent you from recruiting executives from their organizations?
  6. When can we begin to interview candidates?
  7. What kind of guarantees do you offer and how are they managed and delivered?
  8. What specific commitment do you need from our internal stakeholders in order to expedite the process?

Once they have answered these inital questions to your satisfaction you should assess the following to make your final selection


This is a bit touchy-feely but getting a search firm that tells it like it is, is much more likely to get your company results. If the search firm tells you that your company has a poor reputation for attracting and retaining top talent, listen well to their comments as these will help you tremendously in dealing with potential future search candidates. Any firm that says everything is hunky-dory is not a good partner to bet on.

Competitive Intel

This was a deal breaker for me and many of my counterparts, we wanted to know how other businesses in our market were doing, how they were dealing with the markets, customers, competitors, how certain products were doing and much more. The worth of this information alone made the search fee sometimes seem paltry.

Damaging Intel

We also wanted the search firm to tell us what the candidate market was saying about our company. What were they saying about our business, products, customers, vision,  so we could better understand how we fit in to the overall equation.

Sourcing Intel

Tell us what candidates are saying about working for us, the salary, culture, leadership, perks, locations, promotions, training so we can make changes or prepare to answer candidate questions on these issues.  Also provide us with a full list of all the candidates you are approaching on our behalf, include bio’s and information on each candidate so we can keep it on file. No worries, we will call you up if an appropriate position comes up.

Retention attention

Great search firms follow up with their candidates once they are hired to ensure they stay with the company and are happy. Touching base like this with the recruiter who brought them in is key to candidate longevity.

Follow up’s

Search firms should follow up with Human Resources and top company officials to see how things are going and to share any key information that may indicate a flight risk for the candidate.


Many search firms poach from companies that they do business with. To me this has always been unacceptable and is a key reason I have always tried to deal with mid-sized niche search firms that are in a position to promise not to recruit from the company the search is with.

Take a look at what is critical and non-negotiable with your key executives. Make a list and then research and rate search firms in your market area. Be sure to stay firm to your needs and turn down firms that are not willing to meet your terms. You can be sure that the partnership will be much stronger and provide much better results. And finally if you want to have a truly great partnership with this search firm make sure you give them fairly regular business and please dont’ try to reduce their fees as they are worth every penn. It’s up to you to ask for what you want in a truly great search partnership.

For more on this author visit:
Linked in –
Blog –

Twitter –!/GuayFrancois