Executive search software versus staffing software. What are the differences?

Executive search software versus staffing software

When it comes to reflecting on executive search processes, speaking to software providers hardly seems like the first place you’d go for answers! That said, I’m in a pretty lucky position.



I have the benefit of speaking to executive recruiters from dozens of different firms, operating in hundreds of different verticals, conducting thousands of searches – every day. I hear about their wants and needs. I know which kind of workflows will work for them, and which features will simply fall in the “bells and whistles” category.


That’s why I’ve found it particularly interesting, of late, that I’m speaking with executive recruiters who are angling for both the traditional executive search markets (e.g. retained firms for, generally speaking, C-suite and senior management appointments) as well as the recruitment markets (e.g. contingency-based agencies filling open vacancies).


It’s easy to see the reasons executive recruiters are making this choice. The landscape of executive search is ever-evolving technologically, strategically, and commercially. The methodology, however, remains much the same. That’s why it’s easy for me to tell the difference between providing a dedicated executive recruitment system like FileFinder or our sister product Talentis, suggesting a high-street contingency-based Applicant Tracking System (ATS) such as Infinity.


If you’re wondering which path your business should be heading down, read on…


It’s a relationship business


The executive search process by nature isn’t reliant on advertising. You need an effective way of mapping who knows who, how they know them and what they think of them. When you need the best hire possible, you should be leveraging an executive search database. Executive search systems such as Talentis allow you to find and engage with candidates on sites like LinkedIn and convert these “passive candidates” into active candidates as you take them through an executive search process. This makes matching them to the brief easy. An ATS (applicant tracking system) revolves around an expectation that you will advertise for the role, and select suitable candidates based on their application. Very different.


Relationships between people and search firms can last years so there’s a critical demand for being able to easily view and track the history of a person. Executive search systems store logs all in one place so you can see evolving conversations with people as they move through a candidate, client and/or referral relationship with you. A contingency-based ATS will seek to divide people into candidates and contacts which detracts from the benefit of being able to have the whole picture in one place.


Client testimonials for FileFinder Executive Recruiting Software


Network across your vertical markets


Market mapping is the key to remaining on top of industry knowledge. Executive search is an artform all about “who you know”. A good market map can be the difference between a successful pitch for business, and, in some cases, a successful placement. Executive search systems provide specific tools dedicated to help with just that.


To stay on top of “who’s who” you will be doing lots of headhunting and networking. This requires extensive searching for passive candidates on LinkedIn, GatedTalent and similar platforms. FileFinder’s “Research Zone” makes sourcing, and importing candidates a breeze – Talentis goes even further and allows you to source from within Google or LinkedIn. As a result, your executive search database should be a goldmine of data you can mobilise to pitch for business, and make valuable industry placements.


Executive search systems can be configured to consistently produce appointment/resignation data. Another method for remaining on top of a successful market map. Appointment/resignation data can help drive pro-active business development enhancing your ability to stake your claim for future business as well as remain on top of any market movements. Executive search is agile – a candidate one day could be a client the next.


Your clients expect excellent reporting and transparency


The nature of your relationships with the senior management at your clients are very different compared to the requirements of contingency recruitment. I’ve been told by many recruiters that producing longlists can sometimes take days or even weeks of effort. Save yourself valuable time and resources by automating this reporting function. Executive search systems will have reports configured to focus on longlisting, that allow you to deliver on that expectation.


For a more collaborative approach, you can incorporate tools like a “Client Portal” so your clients can see the search progress and team up with you in real time by giving feedback on candidates. Depending on the sensitivity of the search involved you will always have the power to restrict access to specific candidates and data helping you to remain compliant with data protection regulations.


Meet your clients in person and show them your progress


Partners and consultants are typically out of the office meeting candidates and clients so their engagement of the system will vary significantly based on device and location. Executive search systems have a unique advantage, in this aspect, over a contingency-based ATS, because they provide relevant mobile functions (e.g. longlists, reports, up to date web research about target candidates or companies) that partners and consultants will need to access on the run. A contingency-based system may not provide mobile components with the same level of suitability.


The classic office-centric workplace is becoming less and less common these days with the rise of more flexible working conditions including a work from home aspect. Contingency-based ATS’ are often used by agencies who operate in a single city or area. Executive search is spread around the globe. There is no guarantee your perfect placement will be in the same country as your firm!


For this reason, executive search systems are more geared toward collaborative remote use. Your candidate resourcer in Singapore may find a candidate based in Brazil who will need flights booked by your network affiliate in Argentina for a face-to-face interview in Dubai. There are lots of time-zones there, and many people operating in different locations. Modern cloud supports support global executive search.


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The decision is clear


The old argument about round holes and square pegs comes to mind! If I were planning on focusing my business on executive search, with executive search workflows, I would be aiming for an executive search system.


The risks around not meeting client expectations by using a contingency-based ATS would be as risky as suggesting an unqualified candidate to your client. While the damage to your business’ reputation may not be there, the time and money lost switching to a more appropriate system could be argued as equally harmful.


We’d love to talk to you about Talentis, FileFinder or any of our other executive search and recruitment technology platforms. Contact us to learn more!


AUTHOR: Paul Thompson is the Sales and Marketing Director for Ikiru People

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