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What factors should I take into account when selecting an executive search company?

Before selecting a search company for a vacant position in your company consider the following:

* Make sure you know what you are looking for.  Prepare a detailed job description but also consult all the stakeholders involved and make sure you have identified the key skill requirements for the position.  

* Make sure you are approaching search companies that have experience in the level of position you seek to fill. Meet a selection of firms and ask them to explain their strategy for your particular vacancy.  

* If a contingency based firm is selected, where possible, give your chosen search firm a  period of exclusivity even if it is only for a period of around a month. They will carry out a much better quality search for you because they will have the time to research and interview candidates properly without entering to a "who can get the resume into the client first" race that usually arises when multiple search firms are selected.

* Make sure the services offered by the search firm are relevant to your needs.  For example if the position you seek to fill is fairly generic and you need it filled relatively quickly it probably won't make sense to engage a retained search firm who are likely to offer a number of additional services that are not relevant to completing the search and charge you considerably more for the service.  

* Beware of over confidence in a recruitment company; "we guarantee we will fill this position" are words you should be wary of because they usually come with a hat full of caveats at the end including the line "well these candidates have all the skills you said you wanted when we first spoke to you" i.e. it is your fault that you didn't like any of  the candidates.

* Above all, remember that the ultimate commodity in recruitment is a human being and by nature human beings are unpredictable and often change their minds at the last minute.  Remember a quality search firm is working for you and has every incentive to complete a search successfully, so listen to their advice.

* Above all approach the search with a partnership mentality“ the more you are involved and the more you work with you search firm the more successful the results are likely to be.