Blog & Resources

Executive Search Firms vs. Staffing Agencies


By Jeff Herzog, President FPC National

There is a common misconception in talent acquisition circles that staffing agencies are the same thing as executive search firms.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Let’s take a few minutes and outline both so we can draw a distinct comparison:

Staffing agencies generally serve a local market and their employees are split into two distinct categories – staffing coordinators and salespeople.

  • Staffing coordinators spend their time interviewing and “registering” candidates (many of whom are unemployed) who have trouble obtaining full-time employment on their own. They put these candidates into their database which they will then use to do keyword searches and fill jobs that the salespeople hand off to them.
  • Salespeople, on the other hand, spend most of their time going from company to company in the local area trying to get “job orders”. They do their best to understand the job description and the company’s needs, but speed to market is generally the differentiator in that type of environment.

These firms work on both temporary and permanent roles often for junior level candidates that may not warrant specific skills or experience.

Executive search firms on the other hand are generally staffed with professional recruiters, who specialize in a discipline and/or an industry.  They spend most of their time networking with executives in various locations around the country that are currently succeeding in their specific role.  Good executive recruiters develop deep, long-term relationships and are able to match top quality talent with cutting edge companies.  The strategic partnerships they cultivate allow them to help employed professionals find opportunities to do the best work of their life and assist companies to exceed their business goals.  To this end, strong executive recruiters are smart with the search assignments they accept and are able to justify the fees they charge.  Some only accept retained searches or engagement fees to begin searches, but many others will deliver the same service, but work in a contingent fashion.

If you take a closer look at one specific search firm it’s apparent why they have been so successful and have been able to keep their pricing stable.  FPC of Greensboro, NC was founded in 1988 and is still owned by Bill and Sandy Martin.  Their team specializes in placing executives in Lean Transformation, Supply Chain Synchronization, Pharmaceutical Sales, Manufacturing, and Research. A majority of their placements are candidate referrals from the large base of candidates in those specific disciplines that they have developed over 30 years as national leaders in executive search.  More than 90% of their placements are made with candidates who were not actively searching for a job which allows them to find the best talent for the search.

Most CEOs will tell you that hiring the right talent is paramount to their success.  It is critical to understand the different type of recruiting firms that exist and what to expect when you engage them.  Make sure to ask them about their history, specialization and recent placements before deciding who to work with to fill your critical needs.  Keep in mind that focusing on price when it comes to talent acquisition can cost you a whole lot more in in missed opportunity.

If you are looking for more information, or to partner with an Executive Search Firm in your industry/discipline give us a call at FPC National, 212-302-1141.

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