Executive Recruiting in Today’s World

The dynamic landscape of executive recruitment has been undergoing rapid revolution over the past few years, marked by several emerging trends that are shaping its future. AI and data analytics are being used more and more to streamline the candidate screening process and evaluate a candidate’s fit with a company’s culture. In a recent study, 65% of recruiters currently use AI in the recruitment process, 67% say AI has improved the hiring process, 96% think that AI will significantly enhance talent acquisition and retention, and 95% of recruiters believe AI will help applicants with the application process.

In addition, the rising prominence of remote work, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been influencing a shift towards sourcing talent globally, leveraging cutting-edge virtual interviewing technologies and remote assessment tools. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has published an extensive playbook that outlines recruiting strategies for post-pandemic recruiting, with a focus on the changing dynamics of work, new types of workers, digital work, internal mobility, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The latter focus, DEI, is becoming increasingly important at high levels and has compelled companies to actively seek diverse leadership teams that drive innovation and guide their organizations into the future. In addition, soft skills and emotional intelligence are gaining prominence in recruitment, emphasizing the need for new methods to more meaningfully assess interpersonal qualities and communication abilities.

At the heart of all of this, though, is heightened attention to hiring speed and candidate quality, which inherently impact a company’s bottom line when seeking, onboarding, and committing to new talent. Understanding this, recruiters continue to embrace new technologies to ensure they can identify and capture the ideal executive candidate for an open position. In addition, these trends might also influence whether an employer will engage in a contingent or a retained recruiter search for the right candidate. Below, we will discuss the differences between the two. 


Contingency Search

Contingency recruiting involves agencies receiving compensation only after they successfully identify a candidate that results in a hire, similar to the relationship between realtors and those trying to sell their houses. Because of the nature of this payment model, most contingent recruiters take on numerous searches to maximize their chances of earning fees. This also means that they may give less attention to an organization’s search, choose to prioritize more lucrative assignments, or eventually walk away from an engagement entirely.

Furthermore, contingent recruiters are often focused on filling positions quickly, potentially leading to less-than-thorough candidate assessments and interviews that overlook important criteria. This approach can result in your organization still being handed a large number of resumes to sort through, thereby negating the intended reduction in workload that should come from working with a recruiter in the first place. Since executive-level positions hold significant influence over an organization’s financial well-being and organizational culture, filling these influential roles quickly and with the right candidates is paramount to a company’s future success.

When companies engage contingent recruiters, they are not tied to a single agency and might opt to work with multiple agencies. Although this can create healthy competition among agencies and accelerate the process of identifying an ideal candidate, it can also pose security and confidentiality risks for the hiring organization. Additionally, if several agencies approach the same candidate, it might communicate a sense of desperation on the part of the organization.


Retained Search

In contrast with contingent recruiting, which often covers a broad range of positions at all levels, retained executive searches are focused specifically on placing candidates in executive and senior-level roles of strategic leadership. When engaging a retained executive search firm, hiring organizations benefit from the agency’s vast industry, service, or function-specific knowledge and experience. Retained executive search professionals specialize in making high-impact placements, where the right choice of leader can provide a competitive advantage to the company while aligning with its unique culture.

Retained executive search consultants usually handle only a few searches per year, allowing them the time and resources needed to fully commit themselves to the hiring organization’s specific requirements. As a dedicated team of professionals, they work to source both active and passive candidates and can engage with top-tier candidates who might not be actively seeking a position but who possess the qualities the hiring organization is looking for.

Furthermore, because retained executive search firms and consultants work exclusively, there is no need on the part of the hiring organization to coordinate with multiple agencies and the risk of potential confidentiality issues is negated. Additionally, a retained executive search arrangement prevents candidates from receiving multiple requests from different agencies. 



According to leading global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, “In contingency recruitment, you might find the right candidate. With retained search, you definitely will.”

Why, then, might an executive recruiting firm not always prefer retained searches? If a specific search is exceptionally challenging, the company might be reluctant to undertake a retained search due to the significant time and resources the search will demand of them. Such a search could extend over several months, and as a recruiter, this might not seem like a favorable opportunity. Instead, having some flexibility in the search for an appropriate candidate can occasionally be advantageous to the recruiter if they believe they are seeking the proverbial needle in a haystack.

There are firms dedicated exclusively to either retained or contingency work, encompassing the majority of search types, although some firms choose to adopt a hybrid approach that combines both models.

Additionally, regardless of the type of recruiter an organization engages with, it’s critical for candidates to not pay recruiters, and reputable firms typically refrain from charging candidates for their services.

For more tips and strategies regarding the executive career search, visit www.executiveresumewriters.com.