The Difference between Executive Search in Africa and Contingency Recruiting

Published: Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Business Labour

While these two terms have often been used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing. The difference is critical in terms of methodology, value and quality.

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    Contingent Recruitment’ is carried out by recruitment companies working many different briefs for many different clients. These agencies work as fast as possible to make the placement, given they are in competition with other agencies. This occurs because a client has handed the same job specification out to more than one agency, in the hope of having more ‘luck’ at finding the right person. This recruitment makes use of online databases almost exclusively and may try to headhunt the odd person, but generally their focus is in getting the client as many CVs as possible, as quickly as possible, in the hope one of them will suit. This means passing on CVs of people who are actively in the market looking for a role. They work unretained at fees between 10% – 20%. The agencies have a place in sourcing at the lower to mid-level. Some may call themselves senior executive recruiters, but they are not, because all bona fide Headhunting firms globally, work in a retained and structured fashion.

    The second option is ‘Executive Search. Like BossJansen, these companies are Headhunting firms who work in a standardised and highly structured way. Markets are exhaustively mapped and candidates are actively headhunted from similar businesses or industries. These potential candidates possess the pedigree, skills and relevant track record that match to the client job specification. Culture fit is also key to ensuring a successful placement. In fact, it is the number one reason most senior executives leave an organisation, so the headhunting firm must know their clients culture extremely well to assess candidate fit as best they can. Headhunters are ultimately in the business of selling new career opportunities to prospective candidates. These individuals are top performers and are happily employed, they need to be carefully coaxed out of their current roles. Executive Search companies are employed to source for critical key skill sets and generally source at the most senior level. They work in a retained fashion (generally in three tranches) with fees ranging between 20% – 40%, dependent on sector, role scope, location, seniority and difficulty. They generally deliver a short list of 4-6 candidates in around  4 – 8 weeks. They are professional head hunters and not your standard recruitment (contingent) agency. This is a global industry standard.

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    What else does headhunting entail?

    Headhunting entails an extremely high level of confidentiality and sensitivity, given that the vast majority of executives targeted as part of a headhunting exercise, are senior leaders, who are top performers within their current companies. They are highly valued employees and are typically not active in the market seeking out new career opportunities. Approaching such candidates requires an exceptional amount of tact and ability to entice a potential candidate into a negotiation around their career, to the point where face to face engagement can lead to a positive disposition toward a job opportunity on offer.

    Headhunting is underpinned by a high levels of trust and integrity. Relationships are being built and nurtured with both candidates and clients during any given search assignment. The Headhunter is constantly cognisant of the fact that, at the senior level, time is money and executives who are approached, are engaged in such a way that they see the value in the approach and that it is worth their time. The engagement or discussion with a Headhunter needs to be pleasant and pertinent, so that whatever the outcome, a positive encounter is had and the seeds for future engagement are sown. A good Headhunter is a very good communicator, wins trust quickly, is empathetic, a strong listener, is able to be objective and rational, challenging and convincing. High levels are EQ are necessary to ‘oil’ the process of matching a client and candidate and ensuring both parties have achieved the best result they anticipated.


    About BossJansen

    BossJansen is one of the best recruitment firms on the African continent. We partner with our clients to assist them in building strong leadership teams to ensure the continued success of their businesses. As brand ambassadors for our clients, we skillfully procure the best talent in the market with the utmost of integrity and diligence.