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Executive Search

Find senior level leaders to fill current needs, and meet future challenges.

What is executive search?

Executive search is the process of defining, identifying, attracting, assessing and hiring candidates for senior-level leadership positions at an organization. At this level, employees must have not only the skills, knowledge and experience required for the job, they must also share the vision for a company’s future and be able to execute strategies to reach company goals.

Dive right into the details - download our Executive Search Deck. 

Skills required for executive search

The skills required to be exceptional at executive search, or retained search, are similar to those of strong recruiters anywhere: good communication and listening skills, multitasking and organizational skills, and more.

However, for executive search, a recruiter can’t just be good in these areas: they must be outstanding. The expectations of a candidate for a senior-level position are likely to be much higher than candidates for more junior roles. A recruiter that meets these expectations – in communications, in understanding of the position and the industry, etc. – will make a better impression on candidates and enable them to build rapport with people, and ultimately to advise them about their suitability, evaluate the company “fit” and help shepard them through the interview and consideration process.  

Executive searches must also begin with a process of diligence and assessment, including gathering input from stakeholders, ensuring alignment, determining the “must-have” qualities or experiences, and advising a client company about candidate talent pools and profiles.  This helps to avoid weeks of time spent pursuing unqualified or over-qualified candidates, and focuses the search on identifying the best fits for the Company and the immediate team.  This is part of the reason why search recruiters are paid on a retainer basis, as the value of their work starts with defining the role and advising the client, not just with producing resumes. 


Executive Search at Startups

Filling a senior-level position at a startup is even more complicated. Small startups are often competing for top talent with larger, more established companies whose employer brand is known, whose business seems more secure, and often, who can offer a heftier compensation and benefits package. To compete, a startup needs an executive search professional that has all of the recruitment skills previously mentioned, but is also able to help candidates see past any short-term disadvantages of a career change, and help people see the long term potential in a role, or a company. 

An executive search professional with experience in the startup ecosystem can be extraordinarily valuable as well. It’s a small world, and the candidates with the technical knowledge, people skills, and startup mindset can be few and far between. Finding an executive search partner with connections at startups, and a talent pipeline with startup executives can provide a great advantage to a company with open senior-level jobs.


Executive Search at Gray Scalable 

At Gray Scalable, our executive search practice lives in the space between an internal executive recruiter and a traditional retained search firm. With us, you have access to our start-up network and technical domain expertise, the process of executive search, and the collaboration, transparency and dedication you get from an internal recruiting partner.

We bring unique experience, partnerships and our reputation to the table. The Gray Scalable executive search team has extensive and diverse experience hiring leadership for the world's most disruptive and innovative technology companies, including Buzzfeed, Datadog, Intersection, Opensky, SevenRooms, Olo and more. We take a similar embedded approach to executive search that we do to recruiting: acting as internal partners experienced in the team dynamics of growth companies, we are able to define and attract the right talent for the long term. Our standing in the startup marketplace, combined with our commitment to building long-term relationships, allows us to connect with and attract the very best talent for our clients.

Challenges of Executive Search

No executive search is without its challenges.


There are a limited number of top candidates for executive positions out there – and you will be in competition with all the other companies that want them. To successfully attract top talent you need a winning strategy – one that combines advertising, messaging, communications, interview process, assessment and offer, and through all of these stages provides the necessary information and suitable incentives to the right candidates.


Diversity and Inclusion

McKinsey research uncovered a clear correlation between gender and diversity among senior leadership: but still, women and minorities are underrepresented among leadership. 

Read: Three Jefferies for Every Woman: Women in Senior Leadership Roles

Many companies are creating diversity and inclusion policies to remedy this situation. Finding an executive search partner with experience and a talent pipeline that prioritizes diversity and inclusion can be a good first step. The vast majority – 72% - of companies that use an executive search partner require that the short list of final candidates be diverse. 

Check out our Guide to Building an Inclusive Hiring Model 


Passive Candidates

According to recent estimates, 79% of global working professionals are passive candidates: those that are currently employed, and not actively searching for a new position. These candidates are difficult to reach through traditional means, like advertising on job boards, because they aren’t out there looking.

Hiring an executive search firm that has an active network, experience with similar candidate pipelines, and credibility with top talent, as well as experience attracting senior level candidates can make all the difference in executive search.


Developing a Multi-channel Search Strategy

To reach executive candidates and to make a good impression on them, it is important to reach out to them on different channels. This may include networking, outreach by email or social – or some combination of contact. In this case, it is extraordinarily helpful to have a prior connection with the candidate to help determine the most effective method of outreach.


Candidate Experience

The process that candidates must go through – from first contact, through interviews and communications, to offer and hire – has a huge effect on how they view your company.

It also impacts whether or not your offer will ultimately be accepted. There is nothing more disheartening than finding a great candidate and going through the whole hiring process, only to have your offer declined at the final step. However, a recent study found that 63% of candidates are more likely to decline an offer after a bad candidate experience.

Read: Simplifying the Candidate Experience


Finding the Right Search Partner

There are many executive search firms out there – each offering a different level of service, industry expertise, process, skills, and knowledge. Finding the right partner can be difficult if you are uncertain about your process or priorities. 


Benefits of the right Executive Search Partner

An executive search partner can help companies overcome executive search challenges and build a strong leadership team for their business. An executive search partner can offer:

  • Support for diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Access to top candidates
  • Comprehensive, proven methodology
  • Full-cycle support
  • Confidentiality

But most of all, the right executive search partner saves you the time, money, and effort that need to be devoted to executive search – so that you can focus on your core business.


Gray Scalable offers executive search services, with the experience and knowledge of the startup ecosystem that guarantee results. If you’d like to learn more about Gray Scalable Executive Search, contact us today!