How to Choose the Right Executive Search Firm

Posted on 01-19-2018
Executive Search Firm Selection

Various studies show that the failure rate of executives coming into new companies is anywhere from 30-40% after 18 months.  Making a hiring mistake is costly in terms of both direct and indirect costs to the organization.   In a tough hiring market like the one we’re currently experiencing, it can be even more challenging to make a successful hire.  Leveraging the right executive search partner is key to stacking the odds in your favor and reducing your hiring risk.

Why Choose a Boutique Executive Search Firm?

We’ve found that one of the most common misconceptions about executive search firms is that “bigger is better.”  When you have an important hire to make and need to quickly select an executive search partner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of selecting a well-known national firm.  However, there are some distinct disadvantages to this approach and we encourage you to do your homework and consider the following when selecting an executive search firm:

Searches led by senior partners generate higher caliber candidates

Large firms tend to have client relationships managed by their senior consultants, leaving most of the project execution and recruiting to junior level associates.  The disadvantage to you is that someone lacking in-depth information about your organization may be taking the lead on “selling” the opportunity to prospective candidates.  Who do you think will do a better job of attracting potential candidates to your organization? A senior recruiter who has visited your community and met with your team to learn firsthand what you need your new leader to achieve, or a junior-level team member that’s just heard the information recapped from someone else.  With this in mind,  Kirby Partners Vice Presidents take an active role on all searches and are involved during all stages of the project, from discovery through onboarding.

Large firms’ scaled down “off-limits policies” create a risk for their executive search clients

Executive search firms have policies in place that limit their ability to recruit from their clients. These “off-limits” policies are industry standard and were put in place because clients wanted assurance that firms would not use confidential information to recruit their personnel. As a result of their large size, many of our competitors have so many “off limits” candidates, it becomes challenging to deliver results. A firm doing business with half the major healthcare systems for example, is probably unable to recruit half of the qualified candidates in the industry.

As a result, we’re seeing large competitors start to scale back their “off-limits” policies—narrowing them to just include one department rather than the entire organization, which presents a major risk for their clients.

Because we have a smaller client list, Kirby Partners’ “off-limits” policies protect your interests, while still ensuring you have access to the best healthcare executives.  We maintain a year-long organization-wide off-limits policy against actively recruiting someone away from your organization following a candidate’s placement with you.  Occasionally a candidate will hear about an opportunity we’re representing through another channel and will contact us. In these cases, we may elect to represent the candidate if we feel they are a strong contender for the role because we recognize top healthcare IT talent is limited and you need access to as many top candidates as possible. We’ve found that this approach not only minimizes the risk for our clients but also helps protect their interests.

Specialization yields superior talent quality

The healthcare market is constantly evolving, and becoming increasingly complex.  This makes finding A-players with the expertise you need increasingly difficult unless you understand what’s happening in healthcare. Kirby Partners recruiters are healthcare industry experts and are frequently called upon to share their expertise at industry events including CHIME and HIMSS.  This deep healthcare knowledge helps ensure that we’re efficiently and effectively able to parse out the executives that have the skills and expertise necessary to deliver the results you need, from those who simply interview well.

Get a better result, with a leading boutique healthcare executive search firm

As you can see big isn’t always better, and selecting the right executive search partner is key to hiring success.  Here’s a recap of the benefits of working with Kirby Partners versus the big name recruiting firms:

Kirby Partners Differentiators:

  • High-touch client service
  • Deep healthcare and cybersecurity expertise
  • Searches led by senior partners
  • Maximum candidate access


Super-sized Search Firms:

  • Reliance on junior associates for search execution
  • Restricted candidate access or risky off-limits policies
  • Broad range of specialties and less industry expertise


We’d welcome the opportunity to tell you more about the ways we can add value for you and set you up for hiring success.  Contact us to get started.


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