Apples and Oranges – Recruiting Senior Level Team Members Requires a Totally Different Process than Recruiting More Junior Staff

Kathbern Management - Toronto Recruitment Agency - A scale weighing apples versus oranges

Recruiting the best senior team is one of the most important strategic responsibilities of the CEO. A similar and perhaps equivalent strategic responsibility of the CEO would be ensuring the financial viability of the enterprise.

In far too many cases however, the responsibility for initiating and managing the search for the best senior level candidates is pushed too far down the organization and is treated like a mechanical exercise on a tight budget, the same way that customer service agents or junior sales reps might be recruited. Often this process is run internally or may be assisted by one or several contingency recruiters who are paid a commission if they bring forward a candidate who is ultimately hired.

Insufficient Research = Small Pool of Candidates
The problem with internally run processes run by middle management (or more junior staff), or run with the help of contingency recruiters, is that these approaches cannot generate a large enough pool of candidates from which to pick the very best. Middle or junior in-house staff do not have sufficient senior level experience themselves to generate the right candidates for Senior Management to interview and select from. They don’t have the research skills, network sources or impartial position to be totally effective (for example, they would be unlikely to contact direct competitors – a prime source of good contacts).

Contingency Recruiters Cannot Fully Commit
Contingency recruiters are paid a commission only on the successful hiring of one of their sponsored candidates. They are often competing with other contingency recruiters, and so are unsure of the likelihood of their financial success with a particular project. Because they must operate on thin budgets and are at risk financially, they will typically invest only enough time to share their existing data base of candidates and perform some cursory research, however they cannot afford to invest the time and effort necessary to conduct an intensive research project designed to unearth the very best candidates in the marketplace.

Consider the advantages of trusting your senior level search to a single trusted retained recruiting firm. Due to the retained nature of their agreement with you, they will have the exclusive right to execute this search for you and will continue to work on the project until you are satisfied, however long that may be. Because they are paid as the project progresses, they are financially more secure and are able to invest the full resources that are required to generate the best candidates in a reasonable amount of time.


A single senior level hiring event which fails will, on average, cost a year of progress, recruitment and severance costs and have a negative impact on the organization’s goodwill as perceived by other employees, customers, shareholders and outside agencies.

Larry Smith founded the management search firm Kathbern Management in 2004 after a multi-decade career in senior roles with organizations in the office equipment, communications technology and investment banking industries. Kathbern Management focuses on working with owners and senior managers to “get the right people on the bus”.

While most of Kathbern’s projects have been in North America, others have been in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, West Africa and the UK.

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