Executive Search Industry Insight: Advantages of Working with a Boutique Search Firm

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According to industry experts, 2021 was the strongest year on record for executive search and leadership consulting. The President of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) attributes the growth to an “environment of accelerated change on a global scale.” Not only has the “Great Resignation” led to an increased need for executive search services, but the pandemic has accelerated a mass societal shift that demands a new kind of business leader who can adapt to change and foster innovation. In addition, digital transformation, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the continued focus on ESG has led to an increase in searches on average.  

According to AESC’s annual report, AESC members are optimistic about the continued growth of the profession in 2022, especially as companies continue to navigate this “environment of accelerated change” and enter a “recovery phase from the global COVID-19 pandemic.” This means the expectation is that even more companies will turn to executive search firms in the future. However, with an increasing number of players in the executive search space, how do companies decide which firm will best fit their needs?  

There are several types of search firms: large global players, independent recruiters, and boutique firms. Human Capital Solutions, Inc. (HCS) falls under the boutique search firm category, which functions differently than bigger firms that have more brand name recognition. 

Perhaps the number one advantage of working with a boutique firm is the personalized care. Boutique firms not only work with a smaller set of clients, allowing them to focus more of their time on each search, but more time is spent with each client to identify their specific needs. For example, HCS has a proprietary discovery process that begins with a unique tool called the Desired Business Outcomes Questionnaire © (DOQ). This tool is used to gain information about a position before a search is launched. The DOQ targets the strategic and desired projected financial impact the position is to achieve, the organizational culture and core values, and the role dimension. That is followed by the Department Current State and Subdiscipline Assessment, which is used to determine the current state of the department for which the client company is hiring and the importance of the open position to the functionality and health of the department. HCS has a vast library of subdisciplines, which are different than competencies. While there has been a large amount of research and development done on competencies, there’s limited work that’s been accomplished in the area of subdisciplines across job families. This means that before the search is even launched, HCS understands client culture, the current state of the department for which the client company is hiring, and the desired business outcomes of the position on a granular level.

Boutique firms tend to also offer a high-touch experience that is often lost in the shuffle when working with a larger firm. The process is more than just a search – it’s an ongoing relationship between client and firm that is prioritized and developed over time. Not only is HCS in constant communication with its clients, but our teams provide a detailed weekly status report that breaks down the state of the search, including key performance indicators, action items, and market intelligence. That human-centered approach is extended to our candidates as well. HCS has a unique tool called the Candidate Summary Value Proposition Matrix © (CSVP) that aims to clearly lay out a candidate’s background, highlighting their specific, position-relevant experience and qualifications in a SOAR format – Situation, Organization, Action, and Results.

While large firms certainly have their advantages, more resources, higher volume of job orders, and brand name recognition, bigger is not necessarily better depending on your company’s needs and values. The big takeaway: as more businesses turn to search firms, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all. However, a boutique firm would best fit your needs if your business is looking for a focused, personalized experience with a search firm that is fully invested in your talent discovery journey. HCS focuses on knowing the sectors in which we recruit – health care, the industrials, life sciences, technology, and private equity – with our team of industry veterans.  Our subject-matter experts come from the industries we represent. 

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