Why your organisation must consider bringing executive search in-house

Many people find the concept of executive search somewhat mysterious, characterised by secret shortlists of very senior figures who might be open to a move but only if approached by someone ‘in the know’. However, executive search is also used as a means of finding talent across a wide range of niche sectors, where particular skills sets prove rare and hard to find.

Traditionally, these searches have been conducted by executive search firms but many organisations have come to realise that it makes good business sense to source talent from in-house and are subsequently building their own internal executive search functions.

A primary reason is to achieve substantial cost savings: while setting up a team of internal resourcing specialists isn’t cheap, it’s certainly more economical in the long run. Given that head hunters typically charge fees equivalent to about 30% of the recruit’s salary, an organisation could typically pay a head-hunter a fee in excess of £70k for securing a single C-suite professional earning £250k. Sourcing a few of those yourself would more than pay for the base salary of an in-house executive search professional.

However, it’s not just about cost. Having in-house recruiters who are immersed in your organisation’s culture and who truly understand your brand as an employer means that you can deliver a consistent message to the marketplace. Having complete control over that branding is vital when recruiting senior individuals and is integral to your ability to hire the most effective talent.

Furthermore, keeping things in-house means that organisations can move away from the more straightforward model of recruitment and build an in-house team which genuinely understands the goals and drives of the business. This insight puts them in a prime position to make more strategic decisions about talent acquisition which mirror organisation goals, including developing talent pipelines and pools in order to future proof the business. Consequently, having the input of at least one board-level stakeholder during the strategic planning stages is important.

Unfortunately, not all organisations understand the complexity of high-functioning executive search yet. A number make the mistake of tasking overworked, less experienced and lower cost recruiters with the job, when really it requires the skills of researchers with niche experience. If organisations scrimp on the quality of the individuals that will be undertaking this highly important work for them, the quality of talent procured could end up being distinctly sub-par. Given that human capital is usually by far the most capital intensive and largest determinant of an organisation’s success, great importance must be placed upon the process. Equally, in-house consultants should be rewarded for their performance in the same way as their external counterparts.

It should also go without saying that a delivering a positive candidate experience must be at the heart of what every in-house executive search function delivers. C-suite talent and those with hard to find skill sets do not want to feel part of a system where the sole objective is getting them to fill a vacancy quickly. They want to be made to feel special and their value noted, which is fair enough considering they will be integral to the success of the business.  A quality executive search function will facilitate these relationships.

For the function to flourish, it does need to be set up strategically and run with the input of suitably experienced executive search professionals. This is so important that at ALC we’ve actually created a new advisory firm to help hiring organisations build their own high performing in-house executive search functions. Firms which do so will find this leverages their brand, culture and values, as well as providing golden access to talent.

Tim Connolly is the founding Partner of ALC, a global human capital consultancy, dedicated to search firms and to providing in-house executive search functions within corporates


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