The Essential Interview Questions Selection Committees, CEOs, and Heads of Talent Should Be Asking An Executive Search Firm


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The challenge to attract and retain top talent is consistently identified as the number one pain point of CEOs. The right talent in the right positions that live your corporate culture will have a profound impact on your business. Accomplishing this often starts with retaining an appropriate executive search firm and Consultant.

People often ask for my perspective on how CEOs and Heads of Talent can retain the right executive search firm.

As simple as this may sound, many companies do not do enough due diligence in making their decision to hire an executive search firm. It starts with interviewing your potential executive search Consultant. You should be using a rigorous interview process for competitive analysis, and the result from this analysis will be a strategic and straightforward comparison between Consultants and firms to determine with whom you should be working.

Realizing that there may be multiple firms in the competition to win your business, I thought it would be helpful to share the questions that we think you should be asking before making your final decision on which Consultant and firm to work with.


Questions About Competition:

  • What relevant experience do you have in our industry and what type of roles do you generally work with?
  • How do you differentiate from your competition?
  • How many similar searches are you or your firm working on nationally?
  • What services do you offer in talent management?
  • What is your “Off Limits” policy?
  • What is your completion rate on searches?
  • Do you have the bandwidth to take on multiple assignments simultaneously?


Questions About Partnership:

  • How many people will you assign to the project?
  • Are these people on staff or are you using a virtual team?
  • What role will the executive search partner have on this work?
  • How will you reach consensus on this search from our hiring team?
  • How will you work with the hiring team executives during the shortlist interviews?
  • Do you help us stack rank the shortlist?
  • Do you have in-house research capabilities or do you use an external resource?
  • How do you manage reference checks?
  • What do we need to do on our end to assist in the process?
  • What do we need to do to perform as an ideal partner for you in this program?


Questions About Process:

  • How do you mitigate risk for clients and candidates on a search?
  • How will you assist us in the integration of the newly hired executive?
  • Do you use any psychometric testing?
  • What other types of testing do you use?
  • Can you provide at least three client references?
  • How do you charge your fees and what is your guarantee?


Questions About Deliverables:

  • What are your weekly deliverables to us?
  • What information will you be sharing with our team throughout the search process?
  • What is your timeline for delivering us a short list?


Questions About Measurement:

  • How will you measure leadership?
  • How will you measure culture fit?
  • How will you measure team fit?
  • What metrics do you use for measuring the quality of your work with clients and with candidates?


These interview questions are prepared for your selection committee to let your potential Consultant talk; they are open, they invite a response that will inform you of their experience and challenges faced in the past and the solutions they’ve implemented to excel in executive search.

Our advice is to look for a high-performance firm that offers a Partner assigned to your project and a supportive team behind them. You want to look for a meticulous integration plan for your newly hired executive and ideally, this covers 12-month coaching and consulting program for your new executive hire.

When you find an experienced Consultant and a firm with an offering that combines a data-driven process and global reach, you’ll know you have discovered the right firm.

Bedford has been able to attain a 96% completion rate on searches by using a methodology that includes a four-person team assigned to every search combined with our focus on role-specific leadership competencies aligned to required business outcomes and culture fit. Each of our 60 global offices uses the same methods to provide a consistent experience for our clients.