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Executive search companies come in a variety of styles; some are flashy and fast, others quiet and thoughtful. Some seem more like salesmen, while others operate like scientists. Whatever their approach, the best executive search companies all possess certain internal traits that help them succeed. Here are four of the most critical.

Great executive search companies aren’t afraid to ask questions (and don’t make assumptions)

Before they do anything else, they seek to understand their clients’ needs. In turn, they’re not afraid to admit when they don’t know the answer to a client’s question. That requires more humility than you might think. Executive recruiters face a certain amount of pressure to be seen as industry experts. As a result, many recruiters feel they have to provide immediate answers to every question their clients ask out of fear they’ll appear unprepared or undeserving of their search fee. But succumbing to this anxiety isn’t just tempting–it’s also dangerous. Recruiters preoccupied with perception skip steps in favour of seeming smart. They make assumptions, rely on surface-level conceptions of what it is a client wants in a new hire, and ultimately produce answers that are inadequate at best and irrelevant at worst.

Good executive recruiters resist that impulse. They know they’ll never have an answer for every one of their clients’ questions. They also know that when they don’t fully understand a client’s question or request, what they need to do is to obtain more information, even if it means risking sounding unprepared. This is something a lot of other experienced recruiters still struggle with–but in 99% of client engagements, asking questions is the key to search success.

Great executive search companies can find the answers they don’t yet have

Of course, it’s not enough to simply ask questions. Quality executive recruiters also need to be able to put their money where their mouth is and track down mission-critical information when that’s what they’ve promised to do. In other words: great executive recruiters follow through. Often, what that entails is conducting thorough and thoughtful research. What it comes down to is competence and reliability. If you’re not able to research this way–if you’re not able to deliver the information requested of you by a client–you will never be able to complete searches successfully at scale.

Great executive search companies have high standards for themselves and their work

Here’s the truth about maintaining efficient and inspiring processes: to do it, executive search companies have to hold a certain standard of professionalism and excellence. Executive recruiting is a lot of work. It entails outbound engagement with candidates, client management, process management, a veritable orchestra of responsibility.

Great recruiters ensure the mechanics of their process stay finely tuned. They arrive at meetings and status calls on time and well prepared. They use platforms like Clockwork Recruiting to stay organized and keep all relevant reports and research findings in one collaborative space. Moreover, they don’t make excuses.

Great executive search companies inspire confidence through a process-driven approach

As an executive search company, one of your more implicit jobs throughout the search process is to inspire confidence in your client that by hiring you, they’ve made the right decision. What separates the low performers from the experts is how they accomplish this. Average recruiters seek to appear qualified. These are the folks who pretend to have all the answers, who offer nothing but bluff, bluster, and a slurry of buzzwords.

Professionals, meanwhile, inspire confidence with a process-driven approach–one proven to produce results. These are the kinds of executive recruiters who enjoy continued success over time, the sort that builds upon itself and earns them a reputation. They don’t need to sell themselves or convince a client that they’re working hard because they can point to the machine they’ve built, the results it has generated, and let that do the talking.

Bastian Consulting is a boutique search practise that concentrates on sourcing leaders that deliver change across the Asia Pacific, we have the expertise to source leaders that can transform your business and thrive in times of rapid change. To know more, you can reach out to me on +61 (0) 409 090 434 or