The Hidden Cost of Corporate Executive Search
March 15, 2021
by Krista Bradford

The Hidden Cost of Bringing Executive Search Inside


Some corporations are questioning their decision to bring executive search inside as they discover the hidden cost of corporate executive search. Over the past few years, more large Fortune 500 corporations with a steady flow of executive searches have implemented the executive search function. They have created in-house executive search firms —  teams that typically are led by former retained search partners. Not to be left behind, mid-sized and small companies have been conducting more executive searches themselves.

While they lack the volume to justify standing up an internal executive recruiting team, a growing number of smaller companies simply task internal recruiters to fill executive openings as they arise. However, there is trouble in paradise. While the internal executive search teams have delivered huge savings in executive search fees, there is a troubling downside they were not prepared to see — a hidden opportunity cost of corporate executive search.

The Opportunity Cost of Internal Executive Search Teams

This year, several CEOs and C-level executives have confided that in the rush to bring executive search inside, something was lost along the way. Senior-level talent acquisition now feels disconnected from strategy. Worse, it lacks a competitive advantage. Corporate executive recruiting teams are simply too busy with the day-to-day to do more strategic work. In fact, many newly-minted executive recruiting teams lack the budget for research and other resources that their colleagues on the retained search firm side enjoy.

Making matters worse, the technologies and solutions that were supposed to make executive recruiting easier have, in many ways, made it more complicated. As a result, while the benefits of internal executive search teams are many, all too often corporate executive recruiters are spread too thin to recruit strategically. There simply are not enough hours in the day. Despite the best of intentions and Herculean efforts on the part of corporate executive recruiters, executive search quality is starting to suffer and, along with it, the quality of the candidates hired.


Common Corporate Executive Search Team Challenges

  • We know we should recruit passive candidates, but we lack the bandwidth.
  • I have no time to conduct candidate research at work. I squeeze it in on nights and weekends.
  • We lack the tools and expertise to develop meaningful intelligence about candidates.
  • Our recruiting research and sourcing is not producing the results we need. We’re drowning in data.
  • Social media has multiplied our communications exponentially, creating more work for everyone.
  • LinkedIn is getting too expensive and is not the solution we thought it would be.
  • Our applicant tracking systems (ATS) does not have a place to put passive candidates.
  • With everything else that I do, I can’t take on an important executive search.
  • Our passive candidate database is a pain. It is hard to get data in and data out.
  • Building progress reports for internal clients incredibly time-consuming.


The Reason Internal Executive Recruiting Teams Must Change

Senior hiring executives at leading Fortune 500 corporations are growing restless for a reason. Recruiting top talent seems to have gotten harder, despite technological advances — or perhaps, because of those technologies. That drag on talent acquisition represents a serious risk to the bottom line. When positions languish unfilled, companies start hemorrhaging revenues, opportunities, clients, and morale. That’s the reason a growing number corporate executive search teams are hitting the “Reset” button. Now that executive search has moved inside and the dust has settled, companies are doing what they can to address the hidden cost of corporate executive search to improve their ROI.

To take corporate executive recruiting to a new level, the heads of executive search teams are bringing in vendors that offer 2 things. First, their services must be tailored to the unique needs of corporate executive search teams. Second, they must offer expertise that the executive search teams lack in-house. In our case, Intellerati offers those teams deep data investigative expertise that they cannot find in the recruiting industry. That is what gives Intellerati, and in turn our clients, a competitive advantage.

You cannot gain an edge by recruiting the same way your competitors do. The competitive advantage comes from recruiting differently. Consequently, an effective strategy for innovation and gaining the upper hand is by applying techniques and methods from other industries. In doing so, you create that competitive difference.


The Steps to Corporate Executive Search 2.0

Making executive search better isn’t always easy. But it isn’t rocket science. The secret lies in making search smarter. Since research is the execution engine of passive candidate recruitment — the more expert the executive search research, the better the search results. Scooping up buckets of possible candidates from LinkedIn makes for a lot of busywork and huge gaps in your work. Huge lists don’t give you the information you need to determine whether you’ve identified all viable candidates at a target company. That is why typical Internet sourcing — Executive Search 1.0 — no longer cuts it. You need to take it up a notch.

For example, many proactive clients have us build org charts of top target companies. Organizational charts are a powerful tool because they lay down research due diligence. They shed light on what talent you have found and what talent might still be out there, waiting to be discovered. When a hiring executive asks whether you’ve identified every potential candidate at a target company, org charts help give you the answer. In other words, one needs to know how to think about data: where it is; how it can be obtained; how the research should be structured; and what questions can be asked of the information to identify the shorter path to the best hire.


Intellerati Prevents a Hidden Cost of Executive Search 

When we partner with internal executive search teams, we usually start with basic blocking and tackling. In doing so, we help our clients move from reactive to proactive mode, freeing them up to do more strategic work. We identify, develop, and hand-off viable candidates to our clients who, in turn, usher those candidates through to hire. Every step of the way, harness the power of intelligence. That is how you reverse the cost of corporate executive search and take in-house talent acquisition to the next level.

Put another way, most major corporations have implemented internal executive search teams. That’s a good thing.

However, in doing so, they unwittingly give something up by following that trend. The Upper Hand. When you recruit senior executives the same way as other in-house executive search teams, you eliminate any edge you had to compete against them. The only way to gain a competitive advantage in executive search is by recruiting differently.  Lately, in partnership with our clients, Intellerati is that “something different”.


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