Selecting a Search Firm – 6 Questions to Consider

How familiar is the firm with the landscape in which we work?

If you are hoping to generate local or regional candidates, as well as applicants from other states, you’ll find it very helpful to engage a firm or consultant who is familiar with your competition, as well as your partners, knows the geography in which you work, and is able to reach into a deep pool of qualified candidates.

How will the search firm get to know our organization and its unique needs?

You want to work with a consultant who is eager to meet with the board, the staff, and other key leaders to get to know your organization and learn what these constituencies wish to see in your new leader. The search consultant will become your representative with potential candidates, and, in order to do this effectively for you, it takes time and attention—at your organization, in person.

Will the firm be ready to adapt the search process to meet our needs?

While there are some standard elements to most searches, it is unlikely that a “cookie-cutter” approach will serve you well. You need a search firm that is ready to help you navigate the challenges that emerge during an executive search—internal candidates, employees who expect to get a “vote” in the selection process, board members who want to apply, the development of exit agreements, or conflicts over compensation expectations. Your consultant should be able to smooth-out the speed-bumps and help you anticipate and avoid issues that can slow or prevent a successful search.

Does the search firm have the ability to access a significant pool of potential candidates?

It is very likely that the best candidates for your leadership position aren’t reading the job ads each day—they are employed and successful but unaware of the opportunity you have to offer. Your search firm should have the ability to access an expansive network of relationships to generate a well-rounded and qualified slate of candidates—emerging and high-potential leaders, working in your sector, who are ready for the next challenge.

How will the search process reflect upon our organization and the image we hope to project?

If you want to attract the very best candidates, and send the right messages to your stakeholders, consider the search process as an opportunity to shine. You want to work with a search firm that can keep the process on a tight timeline and provide timely and appropriate communications with the candidates. It is also likely that you will want support in developing a communications plan that will keep your various constituencies appropriately apprised of the process and offer opportunities for their input.

What kind of support do they offer for the leadership transition?

A successful leadership transition requires a successful search AND support for a transition that will position the new leader and the organization for success. The firm with which you work should be prepared to guide you through the transition planning process and, ideally, be able to offer the support your new leader may require to get off to a fast start and build the team—board and staff—that he or she needs.

Of course, there are many more questions to consider in selecting a search firm or consultant, but these 6 should be at the top of any list.

For more information about executive search or leadership transitions, visit our website: Or, if you would like assistance with your executive search, contact us now to begin the conversation.