Understanding Executive Search Consulting

It is not clear for most people what an executive consultant does. For most people we are a “good person for them to know” since we might be the source of an interesting job opportunity.

Our job is to be a valued counsel to our client—the person with the authority, resources and need to hire the right person for a key position in their organization. The most famous firms are known for their ability to work behind the scenes for their clients when a new CEO is needed for a Fortune 50 or 100 organization. The big firms are active globally in every industry from for profit public companies to universities. Some are public companies like Korn Ferry, Heidrick & Struggles–and C-T Partners. There are a plethora of firms that mirror the structure and operation of the global firms. Executive search firms share a common approach: they work exclusively for their client as “counsel” to help them understand their hiring need in depth before they begin to identify and qualify potential candidates who they believe fit well with the hiring need.

What have we said so far? Executive search consulting is really about understanding the client’s need; the hiring organization…and then providing a service to the hiring organization that ultimately involves bringing forward a slate of qualified candidates who closely match the hiring need.

Executive search consultants work on searches on an exclusive basis for their clients. The client and search firm partner together on the project and the search consultant provides valuable counsel to the client—and often, to the candidates as well. Once the search consulting agreement is signed it is clear to the client and the search firm that they are a team working together on the project in an effort to find and hire the right candidate. It doesn’t matter who identifies the potential candidate—the client and the search firm are working together: they are on the same side of the table. Sometimes the client and the search firm are not successful in finding that “right” candidate. The search firm is still paid for their consulting effort. Sometimes a client will decide that the hired candidate is not acceptable after a relatively short time on the job; 1 year or less. When this happens, because the search firm has already been paid for their service, sometimes the search firm will be asked to “re-do” the search. Most search firms will either ask for and receive a consulting continuation fee or they may elect, for client relationship management purposes, to continue the search at no charge.

What is the point of my telling you all this? I want to see more business professionals understand what a search firm really does and why we are so valuable to clients who take the time to appreciate that we are not just “headhunters” opportunistically snatching people from one organization and “placing” them with another. Executive search firms are paid for the value of their counsel and consulting effort.

Please feel free to ask a question or get in touch with me if you would like. I will be glad to be responsive.

Keith D Kulper

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About Keith Kulper

Keith D. Kulper is the president and founder of KULPER & COMPANY, LLC an executive search consulting firm working in the area of senior level leadership for academia and corporate innovation. We are strong advocates of nurturing the linkage between academic investigation/research and corporate innovation/full commercialization of new product solutions. We specialize in attracting proven leaders who can effectively drive transformational change. The firm operates an Advisory Board that meets annually to bring together leaders from academia and corporate innovation to help drive continuous improvement of our professional practice. We are also an investor in early stage companies. We take pride in supporting the growth and development of business and engineering schools at leading universities throughout the United States.

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