What's the Difference Between Executive Search and Recruiting Firms?

What's the Difference Between Executive Search and Recruiting Firms?

We often hear the question: what's the difference between executive search and recruiting firms.

Since I have founded and ran both a recruitment agency as well as an executive search firm, I can clearly define the differences and the values each service offers. 

The client does not give exclusivity when they hire a Recruitment Agency, RA,  and often works with more than one agency.  The client believes by not giving an exclusive agreement, and hiring more than one agency, the chance to meet many good candidates fast is much greater. The reality is just the opposite.  

The main focus of a RA is speed because a RA must get their candidate's resume to the client before another recruitment agency beats her/him. Often, a RA engages in an ugly rat race, does not always take the time to properly interview and evaluate the candidate, and often sends out a candidate's CV without even contacting the candidate, so as to be the first to claim a candidate as their own.

I have seen too many incidents where the client, candidate and agency all lost out and sometimes there were even lawsuits between agency and client. 

RA agencies are never retained by their clients. i.e.: they work for free, sometimes many months, until they make the placement. If the client stops a search in the middle, or finds a candidate on their own, or if another agency makes the placement, the RA will not be compensated.  

The conditions that RA's are working under do not create a trustworthy and respectful partnership, there is little transparency, no real commitment and lacks a thorough candidate evaluation.  

The only merit I see is that despite the many challenges to both client and agency, it is possible to do a quick hire. If such a candidate can make a long-term commitment remains to be seen. The reason is due to a deficient screening process and a focus on quantity over quality. 

Executive Search, ES, means that the agency is retained by the client to conduct a search to find the "perfect" candidate. The client pays the agency upfront in different stages throughout the search. ES always works exclusively on each search. There is no competition between different agencies, or between client and agency. 

The ES firm will treat his/her relationship with the client and with the candidate in the most professional manner because ES is about long-term relationship building on both ends.

The ES firm provides weekly or bi-weekly search reports to the client, followed up by a call to go over the results. 

Generally, an ES may last between 3 and 8 months.

 The client will benefit from having a consultative representative from a ES agency, whose focus and objective is to introduce the most qualified candidates to the client. They look for compatibility, culture, background, experience and conduct references and negotiations on behalf of the candidate and the client. The goal is to make a placement that will be long-lasting where the candidate is well suited for the client's culture and where the opportunity and career of the candidate is of key importance. This is the responsibility of the ES to ensure a good cultural fit. 

Talent is not a commodity, we are an extension of the brand we represent. The candidate experience with the ES consultants should be a positive one that evokes trust and respect.  An ES firm is often considered to be a Diplomat for her/his client. The ES represents the client in the best possible light. 

When there is a strong relationship between client and ES agency, the ES could propose introductory interviews with special candidates without being retained to ensure their clients are aware of high potential candidates.

Janou LLC is a global creative and marketing executive search firm that works with luxury and lifestyle clients. For 35 years, clients have relied on Janou's intuition and creative marketing experience to introduce diverse and unique global executives. Today, Janou and her partner Damian, run JANOU LLC, a global creative search firm in NYC. JANOU offers talent acquisition services to a diverse range of industries and businesses from global brands to start-ups focusing in the areas of Creative Design, Design Strategy and Digital Marketing.