May 13, 2024

Disrupting Traditional Executive Search

By: Ravi Dikshit

The massive risk of a “bad hire” is quite prevalent in today’s market, with enormous cost implications for companies looking to hire top talent. The consensus is growing, it’s time to collectively reinvent executive search, embracing adaptability in order to succeed within today’s fast-paced business world. 

Disrupting traditional executive search using SucceedSmart's hiring platform

Executive search began when the need for experienced executives could not be filled internally requiring a different approach to retain talent. Currently, it represents a $7B industry. In the last twenty years, a massive shift occurred throughout global markets, with additional markets emerging with a powerful influence, yet little to no change took place within the fundamental structure of executive search.

The massive risk of a “bad hire” is quite prevalent in today’s market, with enormous cost implications for companies looking to hire top talent. This fascinating report describes how a “bad hire” can cost a company around $240,000 in expenses. Along the same lines, a study and survey on corporate executive search practices conducted by the Executive Search Information Exchange states that 4 out of 10 searches fail to successfully hire an external executive. The consensus is growing, it’s time to collectively reinvent the current process, embracing adaptability in order to succeed within today’s fast-paced business world . 

Per LinkedIn, up to 85% of jobs are filled through networking. In total, 63% of recruiters say a talent shortage represents their biggest challenge. While many industries have been disrupted over the past two decades, executive search is not one of those industries. Yes, there have been technological improvements, but at its core, executive search has not evolved significantly.

The industry is poised for disruption, let’s look at a few things that will help move the industry in the right direction. 

  • Generalists or specialists – One of the pillars of executive search firms is the concept of specialization. However, new players in the space think differently, recognizing that too much specialization might limit creativity and diversity of thought. The expertise of a strategic generalist who has the experience of working with Fortune 500 clients and VC-backed firms is in the best position to find the right talent.
  • Incentive system – Sometimes, a misaligned incentive system between companies and executive search firms results in advancing less qualified candidates through the process without any comprehensive screening. Companies need to acknowledge that a volume-based incentive system won’t cut it for the clients hiring an executive search firm nor the leaders being tapped to potentially fill the role. 
  • Technology – We should never underestimate the critical role technology plays in shaping executive search. Having a large database of candidates or a leader with a list of credentials has simply become outdated, losing its efficacy in today’s dynamic business world. LinkedIn and other recent trends have commoditized some of the best talent. An executive’s inbox can quickly become inundated with requests to connect from recruiters, significantly reducing the chance an executive entertains an opportunity. Technology needs to be utilized in a way that encourages executive participation in the process.  
  • Transparency – Bottom line, transparency always yields the best results for all involved. This practice goes a long way in the effectiveness of an executive search. Many traditional executive search firms don’t openly collaborate with clients, denying them the ability to track the progress of an executive search or to offer insights on the candidate funnel.
  • Performance metrics – The benchmark of a successful executive search firm should not be based on historical data and what type of experience a firm has in a specific industry. The industry needs to pivot to relevant performance metrics like cycle time and stick rates. 

SucceedSmart executive search platform was created to bring about the disruption desperately needed within the executive search industry, providing executive talent and hiring managers with the tools needed for success. To learn more visit

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is an executive search strategy?

An executive search strategy is a specialized recruitment approach used to identify and attract top executive talent for senior-level and C-suite positions. It involves a comprehensive process that includes understanding the organization’s needs, defining the role, sourcing candidates through networking and talent mapping, and conducting thorough assessments to ensure a candidate’s fit not only for the role but also for the company’s culture and future direction. This strategy is often employed by organizations in partnership with executive search firms to fill crucial, complex, and sometimes confidential roles, ensuring that the leadership hired can significantly contribute to the organization’s success.

What is executive level search?

Executive level search, also known as executive headhunting, tackles recruitment for the top rung of the corporate ladder. Imagine them as talent detectives focused on C-suite roles like CEO, CFO, and COO. These firms don’t just post ads – they leverage their network and expertise to find the most qualified, experienced leaders for these critical positions. It’s a specialized form of recruitment with a high impact on a company’s success.

What are the two types of executive recruiters?

The two main types of executive recruiters are: retained and contingency recruiters. Retained recruiters act as trusted advisors, working closely with a single client on a specific high-level search for a fixed fee. They delve deep to understand the company’s culture and needs, ensuring a perfect fit. Contingency recruiters, on the other hand, work with multiple clients simultaneously and get paid only if they place a candidate. Their focus is on speed and filling roles quickly, offering a wider pool of candidates but potentially less personalized service.