Five things to consider when selecting a Search Firm


First: Don't pay a search firm to do a LinkedIn keyword search!

You can do a LinkedIn in search yourself.  The best specialized search consultants do not rely on LinkedIn to source high quality passive candidates. They already know people to call.  When you need to reach beyond what you can do yourself, hire a firm with a well-established contact network. Ask how extensive your recruiter's contact network is and how long she / he has been networking in your industry.  

Second: Is the firm you are considering Job Family Specific or Industry Specific?

Job Family Specific:
Some job experience transfers easily between industries. If you require a candidate that is an expert in his/her field, but does not require specific agriculture industry knowledge; then hire a search firm that focuses on one job family and works across all industries. (e.g. Accounting) 

Industry Specific:
If you require a candidate that understands Agriculture; then retain an Executive Search Firm that specializes exclusively in the Agriculture industry, and offers an in-depth knowledge of Canadian Agriculture across all job families. Be wary of firms that claim to be well connected across a wide variety of industries and job families as well. 

Third: Is the Firm a Contingent firm or a Retainer Based firm?

​A contingency firm charges a fee only if they fill a position.  Therefore, they are not obligated to work on your search if the "going gets tough" or if they get another easier search to spend their time on. They do not promise to keep searching until the position is filled. Typically they do not require an exclusive search agreement. They post-and-pray, and entry level staff does keyword searches in LinkedIn.  Then they forward resumes with hopes that someone is "good enough".  


A retainer-based firm takes on a search knowing in advance that it may take hundreds of consultant hours to source your ideal candidate; therefore, they charge a portion of the fee, (a retainer), when the search begins. Retained Executive Search Consultants will stick with it, even when it's a difficult search, because they know they are getting paid for their time, their expertise, their extensive contact network, and ultimately a quality candidate. We partner with our clients and make a commitment to the search.  For a Retained Executive Search Consultant it's about quality, and leveraging the contact network to source above average candidates.

Fourth: Does the firm have the time and resources to dedicate to your search?

Be sure to ask who will be working on your search, and how many other searches that consultant is working on right now.  Ag Network search consultants usually work on no more than two or three search projects at one time.  Steve and Barb and will never take on more than four searches at the same time.  This ensures we can dedicate the time required to do a thorough search.  We do not "Farm Out" the work and we do not spread ourselves too thin.

Fifth: Is there a conflict of interest?

Some firms will take on a search even though they are already looking for the same kind of candidate for a different client. This means that if they identify a candidate, they decide which client gets to see the resume, or worse, they may put the candidate forward to both clients at the same time to create a sense of urgency. Ag Network will not start a search that will cause this kind of "one candidate for two clients" conflict of interest.


If you want a quick fill for a lower level, non-critical position, hiring a contingency firm may be the way to go.  However, if you require a high-quality candidate that might be hard to find, consider a retainer based Executive Search Consultant who will make a commitment and look out for your best interests.

  • Ask who will work on your project.
  • Ask how many other projects will they be working on at the same time.  
  • Ask about their AG contact Network. How many decades has your consultant been focused exclusively on Agricultural search? 
  • Ask how many successful Agricultural searches they have completed. 
  • Ask if there is there a conflict of interest with an existing client. Are they are searching for the same type of candidate for someone else already?