top of page

Executive Search Vs Recruiters 


Typically, Recruiters focus on sourcing positions up-to and including lower-level management.  

Executive search firms focus on attracting highly skilled and experienced senior managers and executives to fill strategically important roles within an organisation.  



Recruiters traditionally target active job seekers – candidates who are either unemployed or are actively searching for a new role.  Active job seekers account for approximately 30% of any industry “talent pool”. 

Executive search firms, in contrast, employ a proactive search methodology targeting both passive talent – candidates who are either employed or not seeking a role change – as well as those who may be active in the job market. 

Business Models 

Recruiters by and large operate a contingent business model whereby they only receive a fee on the successful placement of a candidate.  

Executive search firms, on the other hand, operate on a retained business model. This means they charge an upfront fee which typically equates to 33% of the fee total. This initial investment reflects the rigour of the search process and the resources required to deliver it.   


Recruiters rely heavily upon candidates who are active in the job market and because they use a “contingency based” business model their success rate is typically between 15% -20%.  

Executive search firms, in comparison, aren’t reliant upon conventional channels – job boards, online ads and social media. It’s their established industry networks that are their indispensable asset combined with robust search methodologies they can expect a success rate in excess of 90%.  


Recruiters work across multiple roles simultaneously to be sure of achieving a placement. This means they are juggling multiple searches at any one time.  

Executive search firms trade on their reputation. Because they deal with a comparatively small volume of roles, they spend time getting to know candidates; their personalities, working style and drivers.  


Recruiters are the backbone of the staffing industry. They do a fantastic job of finding and placing thousands of candidates in a variety of roles every year. Recruiters are best placed for filling: 

  • Entry-level to mid-management level roles. 

  • Positions that don’t require specialised skills. 

  • Multiple hires that meet the above criteria. 

In comparison, executive search firms are specialist who find, engage and place thousands of senior to executive level; business-critical hires the world over. They are best placed at filling: 

  • Senior management and executive roles. 

  • Difficult to fill roles. 

  • Confidential roles. 

  • Niche or specialist hires. 

bottom of page