Is there any advantage to choosing a large firm over a smaller one?
There are two issues to be considered here.
First is that large executive recruiting firms have a clear place in the industry. However, the so-called "strength" of a large recruiting agency is often in their international network. This can be an advantage when the search exercise requires that candidates be sourced from a number of different countries. However, the great bulk of search assignments are confined within one national market. Even when the search is for a regional position spanning many countries (common in Asia), appropriate candidates can often be found locally. However, the large practices need to cover their international overhead even when the projects are local, and the higher fees they often charge reflect this reality.
The second issue is that executive search is a professional service, ultimately delivered by individuals. This is the same model that is used by other professional service providers, such as accountants and lawyers. In a smaller practice, the client can receive more personalized service, very often by the managing partner or managing director of the practice. In many such practices, the founding partners have been in the industry for many years, often with one of the large executive recruiting companies. They go on their own to enjoy more control over their work as well as closer interaction with the client. In comparison, the partner in a large recruiting practice who "sells" a project to a client may not be the person executing the work. Often the staff executing this work is junior to the partners. Thus the quality of the work depends not only on who is doing it, but also how well they are being supervised.
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