Myth Busting-Top 4 Executive Recruiter Myths Debunked


It is an uncontested fact that companies and their executive teams depend on the quality of their people to achieve their corporate objectives.

There is an old adage  — and a true one – that the best jockey cannot win races if he only rides slow horses.

In order to have access to the very best talent available in any given market, it makes sense to have a full understanding of all viable options.

There are many misconceptions  surrounding the capabilities of executive recruiters. Having a better understanding of the skills and abilities of executive recruiters will enable any manager to greatly increase the quality of his hiring decisions, and thereby enhance his own career!

Some managers are aware and take full advantage of the best possible means of identifying and selecting top quality candidates for critical staff openings. However, many do not. Frequently, this stems from mistaken beliefs regarding the merits of utilizing the services provided by topflight executive recruiting firms.

By debunking the 4 most  common myths, hiring managers will dramatically improve their ability to secure the most qualified candidates within the shortest time frame.

Myth # 1: Companies Can Find the Same Talent That Executive Recruiters Can

With the rise in popularity of on-line job boards and networking platforms, many companies mistakenly believe that these sources contain the same talent that can be found through executive search firms.

This belief couldn’t be further from the truth.

Think about it….who typically has the time to scour job boards? The top performing sales rep from your company’s direct competitor, or the guy slouched over in his desk, concerned about getting the ax because he has not hit quota the past few months?

The fact of the matter is, as a general rule, on-line ads typically attract the unhappy and unemployed.

High performing professionals that are excelling in their roles simply do not have the time or desire to peruse on-line ads. They are busy working with their head down, achieving their stated goals. It is only when a professional search consultant approaches them, and invests the time to learn about the types of opportunities that they would be open to making a change for, that they become potential candidates.   These types of candidates are typically referred to as ‘passive candidates’.

‘Active candidates’, on the other hand, are those individuals that are actively looking for their next role.

It is the ability to deliver passive candidates to their clients interview tables that sets apart successful executive recruiters,  and what positions companies that utilize their services to the front of the pack.

Successful executive recruiters don’t just post ads on job boards to find qualified applicants. They employ many other means to identify and deliver both active as well as passive candidates to their clients attention.

Executive recruiters typically focus on specific industries, and many even specialize by types of positions within those industries. They invest tremendous time and energy forging relationships with high performing candidates within these niche markets, learning the types of positions in-demand people would perceive as advancing their careers. These unique connections allow access to talent pools built over many years…and which are available through no other sources.

These relationships, along with the ability of executive recruiters to carefully screen and evaluate the best candidates,  are what allows them to bring the strongest talent to a company’s attention.

Companies that solely rely on job boards or networking platforms will never find  the outstanding quality of talent that executive recruiters can provide.

Myth #2: The Internal Staff Can Do the Same Job as a Quality Executive Search Firm

While this belief is prevalent within some organizations, it is materially incorrect. Executive recruiters make a living by finding talent that companies cannot find on their own. While in-house resources can certainly be effective for lower level roles, with the increasing competition for the best talent, it makes sense for hiring managers to give themselves every opportunity to interview the very  best candidates.

Moreover, internal recruiters typically spend their time vetting applicants who apply or can be found through on-line portals. Executive search firms focus on finding superior candidates who are successful in their present situation. This very different methodology results in a substantially different caliber of candidate.

Consider the low probability of a top competitor’s star performer directly reaching out to a rival. Yet this individual may be exactly the best choice for your company. Calling direct competitors and confidentially discussing career options is what sets professional recruiters apart from internal recruiters or HR people. Having the ability to reach out to these peak performers offers hiring managers access to highly-sought-after candidates they would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet with.

What experienced manager has not extended an offer to a candidate who would have helped his company and his career enormously — only to receive a turndown? Professional recruiters have great expertise in developing in-depth individual relationships with the candidates they present. As part of a professional recruiters service, along with their formal presentation of a candidate, they will provide the candidate’s primary motivators to making a move.

Sometimes a candidate wants to make a change due to his compensation package. Other times it is fear of stability of their current employer. Occasionally, they are concerned because they do not see a clear career path. While there are various reasons why good candidates are open to making a change, the fact is that virtually none would be comfortable sharing those concerns with an internal recruiter that works for their direct competition.

By utilizing the services of a 3rd party recruiting agency, the hiring managers will not only gain access to exceptional candidates. They are also given invaluable insights into what their primary motivation is for making a change, and can frame their offers around those concerns and desires.

Myth #3: Executive Recruiters Are Too Expensive and Offer a Low ROI

For many lower level roles, it admittedly does make sense to have internal recruiting teams vet the candidates that apply to their on-line portals. In fact most executive recruiters report that the bulk of their clients have strong internal recruiting teams, and utilize their services to supplement those efforts.

However there is still a common misconception that paying for executive search firms when companies already employ internal recruiters is not cost effective.

A simple comparative cost analysis will prove the opposite.  Consider the combined cost of salaries and benefits of HR personnel and internal recruiters, as well as the time that HR people spend doing non-productive interviews with unqualified candidates. These direct and indirect costs are substantially higher than paying out a one-time fee for an executive recruiter’s services.

Highly skilled executive recruiters dedicate the time to develop relationships with key players within their industry of focus, and invest the money on the amazing technology that is now available, that allow search firms to strategically target very specific candidates profiles, and deliver them to their Clients attention.

Smart companies take advantage of these executive search firms when they need them and when they do not, they are not incurring any of the costs associated with the tools that these firms employ.

Often viewed as a strategic investment, executive recruiters eliminate the time and expense required by a company to find, hire and train a new internal recruiter. The time devoted to these activities is better spent growing the company.

Myth #4  If a Company has an Internal Recruiting Team, There is No Need for Hiring an Executive Search Team as Well

Executive recruiters not only provide access to candidates that  hiring managers would not have access to. They also provide  invaluable insights that are uniquely gained from their position as being a 3rd party vendor.

  • Cold calling in to direct competitors offers hiring managers access to a wide array of candidates
  • When conducting a search, 3rd party recruiters will hear information about the perceived image of a company’s culture and hiring manager that the company would not hear from their internal team
  • It does not make economic sense to have internal recruiters on payroll, in addition to paying for all the tools available to identify the very best candidates for a role, 12 months out of the year when hiring needs are sporadic.   

Additionally, your chances of securing a long-term contributor are much better if an experienced executive search consultant is involved.  Studies have shown that a bad hire costs companies three times more than an employee’s annual salary. With executive recruiters, their work isn’t done once they’ve placed a candidate successfully. Good recruiters make a point of periodically checking in with candidates that they have placed and will  share any concerns with the hiring manager. This is invaluable information and directly contributes to a long-term successful employee ,  and a highly-productive staff.

There is no question that internal recruiting teams can offer a good solution to filling lower level roles.

However, for more significant positions, it is an excellent business decision to utilize the services of a highly-skilled executive recruiter with a strong industry focus.


Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants. Ann can be reached directly at OR direct dial at 888-866-7276.

Steve Finkel is a globally-renowned author and trainer for the executive search profession. Further information on Mr. Finkel’s background, products and services is available at