Recruiting the Recruiter

Things to know before choosing an executive search firm

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Small business owners often find themselves wearing many different hats. But when it comes time to hire executive and managerial talent, human resources experts say owners should seek professional help.

“It makes good sense for small businesses to hire an executive search firm to work with especially if they are in a growth mode,” says Eral Burks, president and CEO of Minority Executive Search, a human resources recruitment firm in business since 1985. “It takes human capital to build a business and you want the best individuals in those positions to help you grow.”

Executive search firms, also known as headhunters, are paid a percentage of the new hire’s salary, and standard industry fees range from 25% to 33.5%. “While you will spend a little bit more using a headhunter, you will get quality candidates and quality hires that will add to your bottom line,” says Adrienne Graham, CEO and owner of Hues Consulting and Management Inc., an executive search firm.

Recruiters are usually contracted by larger businesses, universities, and non-profit organizations to hire employees for positions that are management level or above. For small businesses, these search firms can reduce the HR workload so that owners can pay more attention to running the day-to day aspect of their businesses.

Oftentimes, small business owners don’t have the time to put in the necessary work to find suitable employees, says Graham, author of her self-published book, “Go Ahead Talk to Strangers: The Modern Girls Guide To Fearless Networking (Empower Me! Corp.; $19.99). They look in the wrong places and search on generalist job boards like or because they are unfamiliar with niche job boards. “Those are good for what they provide, but job boards period are not something business owners need to [solely] rely on,” Graham says. A headhunter can do what the small business owner doesn’t have time to do–network over the phone and face to face by cultivating relationships at trade association events.

One main advantage of hiring a recruiter is the anonymity that they provide, Graham says. Anonymity protects the recruiting company from being inundated with inquiries from unqualified applicants. A professional recruiter won’t tell the candidate what company they are recruiting for until the day of the interview. Also, a headhunter can search for candidates within a competitor’s company for talent, something that the business owner himself cannot do.

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  • Nice article regarding specialization. Executive Search Firms are a dime a dozen and its necessary to differentiate what you could provide to your clients that other firms can’t.

    I specialized in recruiting for nephrology nurses that provide the direct care of patients suffering from chronic kidney disease which requires dialysis treatments three days a week. Diabetes and Hypertension are the two main causes of kidney failure and both are on the rise, particularly among African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders. It’s no small wonder that the risk for kidney disease is also much higher in these populations. African Americans, for example, are four times more likely to develop ESRD than Caucasians. The need for nurses of color have the opportunity to make significant contributions to the care, education and well being of minority patients with kidney disease.

    I do not have any demographic information about the percentage of racial and ethnic minority nurses currently in the nephrology nurses workforce however as I network in the industry nurses do agree that the representation is low.

    I strongly believe, as a former dialysis patient and person of color, having first hand knowledge of a minority kidney patients culture has been extremely helpful. When patients respond to nephrology nurses with facial expressions or hand movements that are unique to a certain culture, minority nurses pick up on those cues more easily because understand them. And they can help non minority nurses understand the background, experiences and responses to illness that are grounded in minority patients cultures.


    Gerald P. White