What to Consider When Evaluating a Search Firm - Spoiler We Think Boutique Search Firms Rule
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What to Consider When Evaluating a Search Firm - Spoiler We Think Boutique Search Firms Rule

Updated: Feb 26


Contingency Firms, Retained Firms, RPOs, Large Firms, Boutique Firms: There are so many types of recruitment firms out there. 


Search firms are not all created the same. Some are public and some are private. Some have shareholders and some are held by the partners. Some firms embrace many industries and some have a niche.  So what is important when considering? Consider your business needs and what your expectations are for recruitment or talent acquisition.  This will set the stage for what firm will be the best recruitment partner.


A boutique executive search firm is a smaller retained search firm that is capable of performing unique searches, especially within a specific industry.


What are the advantages of working with a boutique firm?


  • The consultants within boutique firms typically take on a smaller amount of searches in order to give each search personal consideration and allows for less “conflict of interest” in serving their clients.

  • Since boutique firms tend to focus on specific industries or functions, the consultant's knowledge of an industry is vast and their niche expertise helps the process to run smoothly. 

  • Boutique search firms also allow consultants to grow and develop in a way that is different from large firms.  A boutique firm environment lends itself to allow consultants to develop their skills in a way that is focused more on the client needs,with less worries about a company’s shareholder’s needs. Larger firms tend to be public or have several partners.

  • Smaller firms tend to have an all hands on deck strategy.  Though the main consultant or partner acts as a liaison between the firm and the client, in a smaller firm the main consultant typically is more involved in the targeting and sourcing strategy. 

When considering any firm it is important to interview who will be working with you. Since a company is hiring a search consultant and their team, it is important to focus on the consultant's ability, not just the firm. Good consultants are able to learn your particular business and understand your business strategy, which enables the consultant to find high-potential candidates that will be able to contribute to your company for the long-term. By setting the foundation for the search, starting with what potential talent is best for the client, a good consultant will be able to set a targeting strategy and to talk to talent best suited for the company's growth.


To make sure you get the best service it is important to understand what areas the consultant has worked in and their methodology? Is it related to your industry or will it complement the search? If your company needs very specific skills: it is important to find out if the firm has experience with niche positions (positions that are hard to fill or specialized)?  Find out who will be engaging in the initial targeting strategy and what kind of experience the consultant has in doing this work. Each search should be tailored to the company the consultant is working with. In boutique firms, typically the consultant will directly target candidates as well as network with sources, to get a well rounded slate of candidates.


With a vast knowledge of the industry, a consultant will be able to reach out to both active and passive candidates, most importantly the passive candidates (those not currently seeking new opportunities and probably would not hear about your opportunity otherwise), which account for 88% of qualified candidates.


When considering a search firm, it is important to find a consultant that will represent your company's interests. Choose a search consultant that is a partner to your business and does everything to find a successful candidate that creates a return on investment quickly, and for many years in the future. When talking to a good consultant it is easy to notice that they pride himself/herself on knowing how to implement a solid recruitment process, understanding how to engage interest in the market for specific positions, the quality of the final candidate found for past client positions, and the overall business impact they see the final candidates create in the companies they are placed in. 

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