Is executive search the same as recruitment companies?

  • Reading time:4 mins read

I am often asked who our competitors are. You have no idea how I reply and you will for sure be surprised to read my answer. Unless you know me well.

  • How do you define executive search?

  • Who are the executive search firms in Thailand?

  • But what are the recruitment companies doing?

So let me first tell you what I answer when asked who Grant Thornton’s competitors are.

I say:      “I don’t know, I should ask you!.”

My point is that it does not really matter what I think. It is a lot more important to me who you see as our competitors and who you would be calling as an alternative to Grant Thornton. Unfortunately executive search firms have not been very clever in educating the market why they are so different and why their fees are so much higher than recruitment companies and database agencies.

Now that I have made the point why it is not at all important who I see as my competitors, let me share how we in the recruitment industry see the difference between the many players and their services. I will give you a very easy way to quickly distinguish who is who. And some names of those real executive search firms in Thailand.1152_bus_yellow

The recruitment industry is very regulated in as much as we must obtain an operating license from Ministry of Labour and report our activities to the ministry. At my last count there were 172 companies who have this license that allow them to place Thais in jobs in Thailand. Placing Thais in jobs overseas requires another type of license with a deposit of five million Baht to the Ministry of Labour.1207_taxi_orange

Right now there are less than 10 licensed companies that we inside the industry define as executive search. All provide a recruitment process outsourcing with a strong emphasis on preparing the assignment through a thorough interview process of the client’s needs. They use the best interview technique around (behaviour based), and they have a list of value added services that help with the assessment. They work with top executives such as CEO, COO and COO plus with positions reporting into the top. They generally search in the market and do little  file search. The targets are not to be found in a database but are approached through cold calling.

The easy and quick way to see who you are dealing with, a real executive search firm or a recruitment company? If the fee structure is above 30% based on the annual income of the successful candidate and there are three invoices involved (at engagement, when you start interviewing, when you sign the employment letter with your successful candidate)… you are indeed talking to the real people.

In Thailand you will find top professional headhunters in these executive search firms, some with international reach and some with a business model focusing purely on Thailand (in alphabetic order). You will never regret choosing any of these firms:

  1. Amrop
  2. Boyden
  3. Grant Thornton
  4. Heidrick & Struggles
  5. Opus
  6. Transearch

So next time you hear someone calling themselves executive search, check this list above. Or ask if their fee is over or below 30%. And don’t worry, there is of course a huge difference in the efforts and the services you receive from the two different groups of recruiters.

You know what they say, show me your friends and I will tell you what type of person you are. In recruitment, we say:

Show me your choice of recruitment or executive search supplier – and I will tell you what type of company you work for.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.