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Can executive headhunters find the right executive for your firm?

One out of every three google searches are employment related. This means that about 300 million times per month, people around the world search for something to do with a job. That’s the equivalent of every single person in South Africa performing a relevant search six times a month.

This telling figure throws light on an important fact about employment in today’s society. People are spending millions of rands, thousands of hours and masses of resources trying to connect the right people with the right jobs. And by the looks of things, it’s not working very well.

The situation is even more pronounced in South Africa, where unemployment hovers around 25%. With the plethora of people trawling the market for a job, how do South African companies ensure that they attract the right talent for their positions, and effectively screen out hundreds of other unsuitable candidates?

The answer, for some, comes with the use of executive headhunters. For senior, specialized positions, many companies are favouring an outsourced solution rather than using their own Human Resources personnel to get the job done. The reasons are self-evident:

  • Executive headhunters can hone in on the skills necessary for a specific role. Most executive headhunters follow a screening protocol, and develop a list of skills and personality traits best suited to a certain position. The more focused the placement company is, the more chance they will be able to accurately identify the needs requisite for a certain role. For this reason, it makes sense to use a specialized company to help fill senior posts within the company.
  • Recruitment is time-consuming. A second reason is simply for companies to save their own HR personnel the time it takes to implement the recruitment process. Following the traditional route of advertising, screening CVs and arranging for interviews can take days, if not weeks; diverting senior staff from their core and ancillary functions within the business. Often, HR managers will turn to a recruitment agency in exasperation after spending too many hours neglecting important duties in a fruitless search for the right candidate.

It’s uncontested, then, that executive headhunters play their role in the job placement environ. But they’re not suitable in every case. While executive headhunters can effectively help connect senior staff to a permanent position, traditional agencies have their limitations.

  • High placement costs. Recruitment agencies traditionally charge a placement fee after finding a full-time candidate. For senior executives, that fee could be anywhere between R80k and R800k of money that could be otherwise spent.
  • They are motivated by a commission-based model, which is to place as many candidates in a fulltime role as quickly as possible. Ultimately, you might find your company’s interests at loggerheads with that of the executive headhunter. While you might be shopping around for an interim role only required to carry out a specific task, the executive headhunter is motivated to push for a permanent appointment in order to secure the fees associated.
  • Placement is often a long process. Because executive headhunters will often only start searching for a suitable candidate once they have received your job spec, it can be an indeterminate amount of time until the job is filled. Meanwhile, you will be under pressure to have the role filled as quickly as possible.
  • Misunderstanding of the job requirements. Then, there is also the very real possibility that your executive headhunter misinterprets the requirements of a specific role. Typically, consultants are not experienced in the professions within which they consult or specialize in and this limitation makes it very difficult to correctly scope the requirement on the one hand and match the available resources on the other. You could end up with someone more junior or with a slightly different skillset to what you required. It goes without saying how difficult it then becomes to remove that person from the position.

For these reasons, HR managers often find themselves in a catch-22 situation when trying to place senior personnel. Should they outsource the recruitment of a manager to an executive headhunter and take the associated risks and costs, or keep it in-house and spend weeks of their working lives on an oft-discouraging search?

In response to this, a new vein of company has sprung up: business consultancies that specialize in specific areas and help place professionals from a niche vantage point.

When it comes to short-term or interim placements, more and more companies are moving towards using specialized consultancies for the following reasons.

  • No placement fee is charged – companies save themselves hundreds of thousands of rands by avoiding this cost.
  • No long term commitment is extracted – clients are required to make a 30 day commitment to the consultant being placed. If they’re unhappy, they can move on without falling prey to binding long term contracts.
  • Job placement is immediate – If you’re looking for a project to be carried out immediately, consultancies have the resources to fill the role instantly with a candidate whose profile they are well familiar with, and whose strengths have already been tested in previous engagements.

The goals of the business consultancy align better with the HR manager than those of an executive headhunter. The consultancy is motivated by placing the right candidate in the right position, for the right amount of time rather than viewing a placement fee as the mark of success.

The Finance Team is one such company operating in the financial space. Instead of being a recruitment agency, it is run by Chartered Accountants who draw from an existing pool of qualified, experienced associates. If you are looking for part-time or interim assistance from high level financial professionals, The Finance Team can help provide you with the candidate you need for the time that you need them.

Image credit: greatresumesfast.com

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