In the world of recruiting, misconceptions often run rampant when talking about executive search firms. Despite the value of dedicated executive recruitment firms, many organizations continually question whether outsourcing a high-level executive or C-suite search is worth the cost.

To educate our audience on the advantages of aligning with a proven executive recruiting firm, I’m here to challenge some of the most common misconceptions about executive recruiting. Here are four of the most common myths about executive search firms—and why they are untrue.

Myth #1: Anyone can execute an executive search by using a job board.

With an abundance of digital job boards available on the market today, many companies assume that posting their position to a site like ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn can help discover their next executive hire. These organizations fail to realize the amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an executive search. When recruiting for a C-suite position, the best-fit candidates are not usually found on the job market. Instead, these individuals are typically high-quality professionals currently employed by another company, making finding and recruiting them all the more difficult.

By partnering with a proven executive search provider, your organization will gain access to a comprehensive network of passive candidates—who have the skills you are looking for and are carefully sourced and screened. The search firm will help you to engage with these individuals and sell them on the role. It pays to connect with an executive search firm that can deliver upon important recruitment objectives.

Myth #2: Executive search firms are pricey and provide a low return on investment.

It comes as no surprise that executive search firms charge a premium fee for their premium services. But when you consider the cost of making a wrong executive-level hire—an average of 213 percent of their annual salary—and the crippling effect it can have on your organization, aligning with a dedicated search firm is a no-brainer.

Instead of relying on your internal recruiting resources to source, recruit, and engage a qualified executive candidate, it pays to outsource this function entirely. Internal resources may not feel comfortable doing outreach to candidates working for competitors. In contrast, an executive search firm has no restrictions to access talent that may be the perfect fit for a role. By choosing the right executive search partner, your provider will present a suite of finalists—often paired with behavioral and predictive performance assessment results—for your organization to review. This data can prove to be a critical indicator of the candidate that will align best with the role and your organization.

Myth #3: Internal TA teams can produce the same caliber candidates as an executive search firm.

“We have a team of internal recruiters. Why do we need to align ourselves with an outside firm to do the same work?”

Questions like these are frequently posed to executive search firms. Ultimately, the answer lies in the complexity of the search. It’s likely that your internal TA team is primarily focused on filling lower-level positions within your organization—roles that can be easily replaced. However, when executing a search for a C-suite position, the nuances accompanying this recruiting effort can be entirely foreign to internal recruitment teams. Not only will recruiters need excellent sourcing skills, but they’ll also require superior salesmanship to sell the candidate on the role—especially if it is at a competitive organization.
When you partner with an executive search firm, you gain access to a team of experienced executive recruiters who understand the significance of agility and adaptability in today’s time of economic uncertainty. Executive recruiters utilize data-driven methodologies to identify a diverse pool of the best-qualified talent. Organizations with gender-diverse leadership teams are 25 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies with low diversity representation.

Myth #4: A contingent search firm offers the same value as a retained search firm.

For starters, contingent and retained search firms operate on two different pricing structures. While contingent providers only receive a fee if the candidate they present is hired, retained search firms work with their clients every step of the way throughout the recruitment process.

If your organization is looking for a search partner that will ensure the success of your executive hire, look no further than the retained model. After acclimating to your company’s needs and objectives, your search provider will diligently select right-fit candidates to address your hiring needs. To help facilitate more effective recruiting results, be transparent about the type of skill set you’re ideally looking for. This will ultimately help the executive recruiters carve out an effective talent strategy to find the perfect candidate to round out your C-suite.


The value executive search providers can bring to any company can’t be understated. When filling an executive-level position within your organization, aligning with a proven executive recruitment firm can be the difference between choosing the perfect candidate and making the wrong hire. With help from professional search experts, your C-suite team will improve its performance and optimize your company’s success.

Learn more about the difference between contingent and retained search.

This blog was written by TalentRise’s Practice Leader, Executive Search Pete Petrella.