11 May 2021 | by Louise Archer

SHREK is an acronym for the big search firms: Spencer Stewart, Heidrick & Struggles, Russell Reynolds, Egon Zehnder and Korn Ferry.

They are the biggest search firms in the world, but by no means perfect. I want to show you how to pitch against these executive search firms.

What I have discovered about them:

  • Their completion rates are surprisingly low and many don’t result in an appointment
  • They often have a black book of contacts and move the same candidates around
  • The researchers who carry the project out, do not always have the same level of experience as the ‘Partner’ or sales person who has pitched for the project
  • They have a rigid process – to receive a shortlist takes 8 – 12 weeks
  • Although they provide reports and status updates, their work is not always fully transparent and a client can be presented with a shortlist that they are not happy with after several months, with no opportunity to re-steer
  • Their fees are comparatively high and rigid – fixed at one third of first year’s compensation
  • They invoice on time, not completion of milestones: On commencement, at 30 days, and then again at 60 days
  • There is no commitment to deliver, and the client is billed the full fee regardless
  • They focus on fees upwards of £500,000

Carry out a thorough, exhaustive executive search for every project

Your searches shouldn’t be preordained, and you should cast your net wider than candidates you’re already aware of.

Ensure experience levels

It’s understandable that the person delivering the search may not be the same person the client initially agreed the Retained assignment with. However, make sure that your searches are carried out by experienced consultants, not researchers.

Be faster!

As a shortlist from a SHREK firm takes 8-12 weeks you should aim to deliver your shortlist in 4-6 weeks. You may also look at including a fast-track option which allows the client to interview candidates as and when they are QIA (Qualified, Interested and Assessed)

Have a transparent process

We recommend that your whole process is visible and to share all progress with the client on a weekly basis. Not only will they see the shortlist build but you’ll be able to work together to re-steer the search if necessary.

Only bill once the client is satisfied

Ensure your client is happy with how the search is progressing throughout the project and only bill on satisfactory completion of milestones

Be agile with your commercials

At times it may be beneficial to be flexible with commercials to reach a commercial arrangement that suits both parties

Be enthusiastic

Show that you WANT the business and that every client is important to you, regardless of size

Be committed

Don’t fail – say to your client, “Our commitment is to work with you until we reach a result.”

N.B. ‘A result’ for clarity, might be either that we make a hire, or that the client is satisfied that the market has been thoroughly searched, and market intelligence been gathered so they therefore have the evidence and information needed to make an alternative decision about how to proceed.

If you are coming up against a SHREK firm, or expect to in the future, consider adapting your pitch to position yourself as DIFFERENT from them.

For more insights on pitching a Retained Solution check out our 10 Top Tips for a Terrific Pitch.

Louise Archer

Louise Archer

Louise has worked on the front-line of recruitment for twenty years. Having been a contingent recruiter before transitioning to retained she understands the struggles that consultants and companies face, operating on a contingent basis. Louise started training Retained Search four years ago, and since then has taught hundreds of recruiters to move to Retained.

Let’s work together

Book a one to one to find out more about Retained Search.

Talk To Us