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SA Executive Search firms partner, not competitor, to In-House Recruitment – Signium Africa

Like their global counterparts, South African Executive Search firms are complementary to their clients’ in-house recruitment function, not in competition with it. This is according to Annelize van Rensburg, Executive Search Director at Signium Africa, the African arm of the global Signium executive search and leadership consulting group.

“Each function offers its own specialised service that contributes richly to an organisation’s overall corporate talent strategy,” she says.

Van Rensburg is commenting on a recent Signium global report, The added value of Executive Search versus In-House Recruitment. The publication summarises the findings of a survey of over 650 business leaders from across the globe, including South African respondents, on their approach to hiring senior executives.

It reveals that 93% of them say they would prefer to use Executive Search over their in-house function for senior positions by 2025. This is supported by participating HR directors, of whom only 30% are confident their internal team could source the best possible candidate for a senior role.

Research by the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consulting (AESC), cited in the report, highlights that Executive Search firms are preferred for four reasons.

First, professionalism. Search firms are isolated from their client’s internal politics and can therefore propose candidates impartially based on strategic analysis of the organisation.

Second, access to difficult-to-reach candidates. Search firms that are part of a global group typically have access to mature, worldwide networks and talent pools through which unique and rare skill sets can be acquired.

Third, confidentiality. In many cases, like mergers and restructuring, eventual executive structures or contract negotiations may be kept top secret. Search firms offer strict confidentiality agreements and seldom have direct contact with employees.

Fourth, diverse candidates. Organisations now recognise the value of a diverse management team in establishing their global footprint, enabling growth and driving employee engagement. With their wide reach and industry exposure, search firms can bring together the right mix of leadership talent.

In-house recruitment works best for junior to middle management placements. Executive Search firms generally charge a retained fee and a high rate based on the effort required to locate, vet, engage and transition a senior executive on behalf of their client. “For lower positions, in-house teams offer a cost saving and can quickly filter out the right candidate from a large number of applicants,” says van Rensburg.

The Signium report concludes that Executive Search is the most effective way to source the best candidates for senior roles.

“The wrong hire can cost a South African company several million Rands in wasted effort and unrealised business growth,” reports van Rensburg. “Although a search consultant seems more expensive, they are well positioned to identify the ideal candidate the first time, so they actually save their client money and provide a greater return on investment.”

Search firms are often bound by performance guarantees, replacing underperforming executives free of charge. However, says van Rensburg, it really comes down to reputation: “This is not our job but our livelihood, and our ability to deliver on our promise promotes repeat business. So we are very motivated to get it right the first time, every time.”

Annelize van Rensburg is Director: Executive Search of Signium Africa, a leading executive search and talent management company that assists organisations across sub-Saharan Africa.

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