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Executive Search vs. Volume Recruiting

The world of recruiting can be a great mystery to people outside of the industry.  Many companies rely on recruiters to find people to make their businesses run.  Sometimes that means hiring hundreds of people in a short amount of time – as in the case of an expansion project – and sometimes recruiters are seeking just one, critical hire.  I’ve done both.

I have spent many years working with volume recruiting and I’ve spent many years with executive search.   There are many similarities that are found in both recruiting functions, but there are also some vast differences.  For anyone confused about how these two types of recruiting can warrant such differing processes, this article is for you.

Skillsets with Volume Recruiting vs. Executive Search

To put it simply, the ultimate goal of any recruiting process is to find people to fill the roles that need to be filled.  However, volume recruiting is targeting a general skillset that needs to be met while executive recruiting focuses on a very specific skill set and a very specific culture fit.

In volume recruiting it is possible to hire someone with no experience, knowing that it will be fairly easy to train them for the role you are recruiting for.  Or in a bit different scenario, you may interview someone with inbound and receiving experience and feel good about putting them in a role in the outbound and shipping department.  The skills required for those two positions are similar enough to be a good fit.  With volume recruiting you can confidently hire people who are a general fit for the role, knowing they can be trained in the areas that they need it.

However, in executive search, a “general fit” isn’t enough. The nuances to a person’s skill set are much more impactful at the executive level.  A sales leader with a decade of experience in the automotive industry will not be a great candidate as a sales leader in the food and beverage industry.  There are just too many details that are different in these two industries for there to be a simple transfer of skills.

Without a thorough match of character, culture, chemistry and competencies, an executive will not be able to deliver the results that the organization is looking for.  That is why I firmly believe in Centennial’s 4C Recruiting Process ®.  We very intentionally interview candidates to ensure they match the character, culture, chemistry, and competencies of the organization we are representing.  This sets up both the candidate and organization for long-term success.

A Thorough Understanding of the Candidate is a High Priority in Executive Search

When you’re hiring a key executive, the recruiter really needs to understand the candidate.  Putting a person in a top leadership role without a thorough examination of their long-term fit, will not create the results anyone is looking for.  This thorough examination takes a lot of time and requires a curious and discerning recruiter. This is a huge difference between volume recruiting and executive search.

Here are several of the areas an executive recruiter will need to spend a good bit of time unpacking as they gain a better understanding of the candidate:

  • strengths
  • weaknesses
  • passions
  • leadership style
  • cultural preferences
  • communication style
  • how they get work done
  • values
  • motivating factors
  • past employment
  • personality traits
  • career goals
  • education/certifications

To further understand the importance of this deep dive, think of it this way:  In executive search, you’re finding the leader to lead the changes. With volume recruiting your finding the people to execute the change.  You need the leader to be fully aligned to the vision of the company for the people under their leadership to help the company succeed.

Executive Search is a Development of Relationships

Due to the necessary deep dive with executive search candidates, the recruiter develops quite a relationship with the candidates they interact with.  Once they’ve invested time to really get to know them, there is a connection there that doesn’t happen with volume recruiting.  This can be a challenge and a highlight for the recruiter.

The tough reality is that not every candidate journey with an executive search firm is going to end with a job offer.  This can be a tough message to deliver when you, as the recruiter, have developed a relationship with the candidates.  However, an ongoing benefit is that, due to this relationship, the recruiter knows these candidates well and can call them up when a similar opportunity becomes available in the future.

The relationships that are developed during an executive search are often relationships that surface again and again over the years.  Just recently we had a candidate who was interviewed for two different jobs and then ultimately, we hired her to work internally!

Respect Should be Unquestionable in all Recruiting

An important value to remember no matter what kind of role you are recruiter for: people deserve respect.  A significant part of respect in the recruiting world, is communication.  Whether someone has applied for a 3rd shift housekeeping job or a COO of a multimillion-dollar company, they deserve to be told if they are still being considered for the role or if it is not going to be a good fit.  Give them the courtesy and respect to know where they stand so they are not left in the wind.

We know that too many candidates have had poor experiences with recruiters so they may feel perfectly justified to no-show for an interview.  This is the sad reality of recruiting today and something my team and I are actively fighting to correct.

I thoroughly enjoy executive recruiting, which is why I returned to it after being in volume recruiting for a number of years.  All recruiting is challenging, but executive search is a different kind of challenge. I enjoy finding leaders that can impact a business positively for all levels.  I find great fulfillment in building a relationship with someone and ultimately placing them in a role where they can drive positive change and positive culture.

However, my time in volume recruiting was also a great experience.  It was especially exciting to see the importance placed on essential workers during the thick of COVID. We all relied on our essential workers to make it through.  Now, back in the executive search seat, I enjoy finding the right person to advocate for those essential workers.

All recruiting is a challenge but it’s a rewarding one!