Hiring an executive recruiter? Ask these 3 questions first.

Posted by Kurt Rakos on 5/9/22 9:32 AM
Kurt Rakos
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Permanent Placement and Contract recruiting both serve important functions. But beware of the firm that tells you they can do both.

Hiring an executive recruiter

Is it just me, or have you been sensing a little pessimism creeping into the “talent wars” conversation lately? For some hiring managers, the goal seems to be shifting away from building organizational bench strength, toward something that might appear more achievable: just fill the empty seat, asap.

It's a tempting pivot, particularly within the engineering, accounting and finance, and IT fields, where hiring battles run especially hot right now. I get the argument. If you give up on your hiring goal and engage a “contract recruiter” instead, you stand a good chance of having a temporary professional in that seat within a few weeks or even days.

But is switching to a contract approach a good idea? Sometimes. Before going there, though, consider the differences between a permanent recruiting firm and a contract one. Then ask yourself the 3 key questions I outline below.

Permanent vs. Contract, what’s the difference?

Contract recruiting

When an organization is facing severe disruptions or other situations requiring that urgent tasks be completed on a short-term basis, a contract recruiting firm can help. Their recruiters will have a network of professionals who understand short-term contract work, prefer it, and are exceptionally well-suited to sprint-type, intense assignments. Competent contract recruiters work fast and get the seat filled swiftly. But make no mistake, this approach is about finding the best Band-Aid. The rest of your organization might perceive your temp professional as a visiting outsider, not as an invested team member.


Permanent Placement

Permanent placement recruiters, on the other hand, are all about long-term relationships. We’re match-makers at heart. Our own careers depend on our ability to embrace an organization’s goals and sift through thousands of candidates to find the few who are right for the client’s mission, environment, and team. We cultivate broad networks of talented professionals who understand what it takes to be in a leadership position, want to become part of the longer-term mission, and are relationship-oriented.


Consider these 3 questions:

1. why aren’t my current recruiting efforts working? 

Our top-tier candidates tell us what makes them reject some offers and accept others. Their reasons in 2022 are vastly different than they were just a few years ago. Instead of only comparing salaries and career ladders, more professionals now ask themselves, “how well will this job support the whole life I’m trying to create for myself and my family?” They want flexibility. They want to feel good about their work and their employer. They want benefits and leave policies that are more family-friendly. Once they onboard, they’re sensitive to whether the realities of the job match what they were told during the hiring process.

2. what is our leadership talent strategy?

What is your talent investment strategy? How do your open roles factor into the vision? Are they long-term, strategic investments or are they commodities? It’s ok to have both. But choose a recruiter who’s expert at bringing you what your company needs.


3. Ask the recruiter: does your firm do permanent placement searches or contract?

If they tell you they do both, proceed with caution. Here’s why:

At their core, these two types of recruiters pursue different goals and different outcomes, using radically different methods. Within any credible recruiting firm – permanent or contract – everyone is collaborating constantly. It’s an everyday conversation: “I’m looking for someone for XYZ Company, in their ABC role. They need someone who’s exceptional at these skills, ideally with experience in their industry. Who do you know who sounds like that?”  

But that’s where the conversations diverge. Contract recruiters move from validating resume skills to finding out how quickly the candidate can report for duty. Perm recruiters go deeper into candidate workstyles, career goals, and especially, leadership abilities. We winnow the field through multiple steps that start with validating the resume but don’t end until multiple interviews and other screenings have been completed and one candidate accepts an offer.

So, why can’t one firm do both? Inevitably, when a firm tries to take on both functions, their internal collaborations morph into unfortunate compromises: “I don’t know anyone who’s looking for a permanent role but I know three people who can do the tasks. They could start within a week. If we present them as a potential contract-to-perm, we both win.” 

Maybe. But here’s who doesn’t win: the employer. Ask any hiring manager who has ever been persuaded to consider a contract candidate as a “possible” contract-to-perm. They’ll tell you.  

If you’ve been struggling to hire and retain the right long-term talent for your organization, I hope you’ll reach out to us at SkyWater Search Partners. We would love to hear about your goals and talk with you about how we can help you achieve them.


(952) 767-9000



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Topics: For Employers, Recruitment, Executive search