Agency v Executive search – why you don’t have to choose

I get asked about this a lot. Agency recruitment works – it is the recruitment model that many companies use, and successfully so. You have a Preferred Supplier Agreement (PSL) where you release roles to agencies, get CVs back, interview and hire.

It works, so why fix what isn’t broken?

Around 90% of your recruitment is filled using either Agency, internal referrals, or direct applicants. For the remaining 10%? They are a headache.

It could be because it requires a niche skillset, or it is a strategic hire for your business. In these cases, suitable candidates generally aren’t searching for new positions, making it difficult to reach them.

You have likely tried your PSL and direct advertising, and it just hasn’t worked. At this stage, a different approach should be adopted for a successful outcome.

When and why to use Executive Search?

When you have tried other avenues, and this has been unsuccessful. Or if the role is critical to the business, niche, or difficult – then you need someone who works with you to solve your specific problem.

What makes an Executive Search different from Agency recruitment? When chatting with clients who have gone through our Executive Search process (Corvus Assured), the same three areas keep coming up.

The first area is Alignment. Picture this – you have gone through the recruitment process – you’ve reviewed some CVs, interviewed a few people, and finally found someone you think is perfect for the role. You and your fellow stakeholders engage in a final interview, but at the end you find yourself confronted with opposing opinions from the group. It’s a nightmare.

Some companies go to market repeatedly, never hiring the right candidate – stuck in a cycle where they can’t please everyone. But how can you find the right candidate when there is no agreement on who the right candidate is?

This is where aligning the team is critical, and failure to do so could lead to the breakdown of the recruitment process – which would be an enormous waste of everyone’s time.

At the beginning of a Corvus Assured project, we work with the stakeholders to identify the requirements of the role, but this goes deeper than just the skills and qualifications. We use behavioural assessments to look at the ideal candidate from each of the stakeholder’s perspectives and work with them to align these views with their peers. This gives us the ability to find agreement on the desired candidate.

Once the assessments have been carried out internally, we use this profile as part of the recruitment process for candidates. This helps ensure that the cultural/behavioural fit is right. For one of our repeat Corvus Assured clients, this is their reason why. They opt for an Executive Search because they know that the stakeholders are all on the same page going into the process.

You have likely seen it before – hire for experience but fire for culture. You can teach some aspects of a role, but you can’t teach someone how they behave. In my experience, especially at a senior level, if you are aligned with your company, you will thrive. You feel connected to your peers, have the same ethics/viewpoint, and are easily bought into the company’s guiding principles. It’s easy because you know you are in the right company for you. That’s what aligning the team will deliver.

The second area is a robust recruitment and attraction process, tailored to the role and candidate profile. I once had a client who didn’t want to be involved in the long list, an initial list of candidates that are considered a fit for the role. Why would they waste their time when that’s what they pay us for? Here’s the thing – you know your business better than we ever will. You know your competitors and their reputation in the local marketplace. You know the companies you don’t want to recruit from. Years’, potentially decades, worth of knowledge that we just don’t have. Investing more time in the initial process will help us to attract the candidates you are looking for and produce a suitable, qualified shortlist.

To create these custom approaches, we work together with our clients to get a deeper understanding of their business. This requires an investment of time from both parties at the beginning of the process, but it ensures every stage, from the initial phone calls to the interview process, is bespoke to the role, the business, and the candidate, helping to secure success.

And finally, is partnership – not a transactional ‘send me some CV’s’ relationship. We problem solve and work together to find solutions. No recruitment process is without issues, because let’s face it, we are dealing with people. It’s working with someone with the experience and expertise to provide you with options and solutions that you potentially haven’t considered previously.

We have a depth of experience in recruitment, so we work together with our clients to decide how we deal with any situations that occur during the process. Salaries outside of the range, perceptions of your business, specific candidate requirements – there is a myriad of situations that I have seen arise. We deal with them together.

So, now you know when to choose Executive Search, but does this mean guaranteed success? In short, no.

If your role is impossible to fill from a skills, remuneration, or location standpoint, then we have no problem telling you – sometimes the person you are looking for simply does not exist. However, at that point, we will work with you to explore the options available, so that you can make an informed decision in terms of where you go from here. 

It has happened to me once in the past when we took on a Corvus Assured assignment and in the end, we did not fill the role. My client, an amazing local brand which had gone through explosive growth over the last number of years, pivoted mid-process and changed the entire focus of job role and job title.  High growth typically means a dynamic environment where change can come rapidly.

Was I still happy to take payment for the first stages of the process? Yes, because a great deal of time and effort was invested into the process. Did I shrug my shoulders and move on? Absolutely not. I have never felt so disappointed and deflated. I know it’s hard to believe, but when taking on a Corvus Assured assignment, we make a commitment to fill it – it’s personal. We trust our process and enjoy delivering unique and complex assignments. We are passionate about what we do. We care about our reputation and our relationships with clients and candidates. This applies to Agency and Executive Search, so you don’t have to choose. Your recruitment partner will guide you as to what works best for your business and the role. If you ever need some assistance, feel free to reach out. Our team of experts are always happy to help.


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