Qualifying Search Firms – Search Firm Workload

In our “Qualifying Search Firms” series, we’ve been sharing everything one should know to select a high-quality search firm. Today, we’ll cover questions around search firm capacity.

This series is focused on choosing a high-quality retained search firm. Please feel free to review our series on YouTube to learn the differences between retained and contingency search firms.

If your project isn’t urgent, near-term capacity might be a less important consideration for you. However, in most cases, when you hire a search firm, one of the most important aspects to consider is the search firm’s capacity.

In our experience, despite its importance, clients tend to ask about search firm capacity the least.

Capacity fluctuates over time and isn’t always easy to characterize. But a good general rule of thumb is that the number of projects any single search consultant in a firm takes on should rarely be more than a single digit number.

This guidance might vary based on the support architecture and the firm’s sourcing process, but straightforward math would indicate that if one were working on 5 projects, they would be able to support any given project about one day a week assuming no support from team members or other colleagues.

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers some excellent food for thought about internal recruitment resourcing, pegging the national median around 15-20 open requisitions per recruiter.

Their considerations include the overall unemployment rate, organizational turnover rates, the actual industry or profession, resources available to the firm, employer brand, and type of worker recruited.

In regard to the type of worker recruited, filling executive level positions as search firms most often do, “will reduce appropriate requisition loads as quality of hire is imperative and candidate pools are limited resulting in longer time-to-fill rates.

Unskilled labor, on the other hand, takes much less time to hire, therefore more open requisitions can be handled.”

The fact is, after understanding a firm’s general background and approach, a search firm’s capacity is one of the most important questions a client can inquire about.

Think about it this way. If your heating system breaks down during a cold winter and your HVAC company can’t get to you for several weeks, the immediate need for a heating solution can outweigh most other factors in your buying decision.

Similarly, if a search firm is low on capacity, its recruiters may be taking on numerous requisitions. This can result in a longer time-to-fill rate for your open role, and, possibly, a lower quality hire as the need for an accepted candidate grows.

If you’d like some help with this, or to understand how you can overcome some of these issues, please contact us.