Executive search and direct search – what is the difference between the two? The development of the job market and global changes is connected to the necessity of modification of approaches to human resources management. The perception of the employees as the most valuable resource of the organization has become a must.

What is an executive search? – table of contents:

  1. Executive search and direct search
  2. Executive search specificity
  3. Executive search step by step
  4. Summary

Executive search and direct search

The importance of the recruitment process is rising and is influenced by the growing need for optimal management of personnel potential. The development of new technologies has its reflection on the methods of recruitment.

The two leading methods of talent acquisition are direct search and executive search, frequently regarded as the same method. The difference between the two concerns the positions related to the process of recruitment. Usually, the executive search deals with the high managerial position, while direct search applies to the specialists of the lower level.

Direct search is the method of direct recruitment that searches for candidates actively on different social media. The initiative is on the side of the recruiter because the high-class specialists don’t usually search for jobs, the job frequently finds them.

This method of recruitment requires preparation and performance of the business environment analysis in the specific industry. Direct search is usually used to fill a singular professional position. It relies on the precise adjustment of the candidate to the expectations of the potential employer. The method works best on the narrow employee market when the candidates do not respond to traditional job advertisements.

Before starting the recruitment it is necessary to determine the area of the search and to make the analysis of the companies from the same branch. Then all the candidates’ profiles have to be analyzed in the context of their skills, experience, and personality.

The source of candidates’ profiles is social networking websites or industry platforms such as LinkedIn. Direct search involves making exploratory talks and sending invitations to the first stage of the intake. This type of recruitment is usually done in confidentiality, without giving the company name and discussing the salary.

Executive search specificity

The method of acting in the case of executive search is analogous to direct search and is based on the same techniques. The area of the search is the differentiating factor because the executive search is directed at the recruitment of specialists and managers of a higher rank. It is the search and reaching out to leaders, that possess the competencies that enable the realization of key business goals. To choose this type of recruitment one should have not only a broad knowledge of the market but should have highly developed communicative, analytic and interpersonal skills.

The specificity of this method can be linked with the huge responsibility that lies with the individuals that deal with the realization of the recruitment process. The whole recruitment has to be performed in confidence. Good relationships in the trade environment, and among the managerial staff, as well as an extensive network of contacts, and networking skills play the most important role here.

In the case of the search for specialists for high managerial positions, the traditional methods of direct search may not be sufficient. Those are the persons, who usually earn well and are pleased with their present position. The approach of those individuals to the recruitment process will be passive.

Hence why the recruiter should learn about the needs, style, and life stage of the potential candidate, before commencing the recruitment process. The recruiter has to know everything to be able to use the rights arguments and persuade the candidate to change the employer. Hence, the ability to build relationships and the expanded database of candidates are very important in this case.

Executive search step by step

To bring the expected results, the realization of the recruitment by the usage of the executive search method has to be performed with the inclusion of the following stages:

  • drafting the profile of the candidate’s competencies, the indication of the most important qualifications and characteristics
  • preparation of the search strategy by identification of industries and companies, where there is the biggest chance to find a candidate
  • identification of the interesting candidates accordingly to the search strategy with the inclusion of the candidates that were met before or recommended
  • introductory contact-making with the candidates, stimulation of the interest in a job offer, persuading the candidate to take part in the recruitment process, initial verification of the information obtained
  • conducting the structured competency-based interviews and gathering the information regarding hard and soft competencies, as well as the motivation and cultural adjustment
  • checking the references and opinions of the candidate
  • creation of the end report and presentation of recommendations

Considering that direct search requires high professionalism and knowledge it is worth taking into account the option of using an experienced recruitment company, that specializes in executive search. Such companies have a comprehensive contact base and can reach the target group fast and effectively through the use of new digital tools. Moreover, they guarantee the discretion and careful conducting of activities that do not put the organization at risk of loss of positive image.

executive search


Direct search and executive search are the two leading current methods of recruitment with a similar operation scheme, but with a different type of purpose, hence it is difficult to compare them. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages, but in the end, are beneficial and effective. Thanks to these innovative techniques organizations can employ the best specialists on the market and managers. The main condition is the proper preparation of the recruitment process and a professional approach to the candidate’s search.

Read also: Global leadership trends in business for 2022 and 2023

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Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.