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Is there a difference between a recruitment firm and an executive search company?

When the need for a top-level executive search arises, a trusted recruitment partner is often sought for the executive search project. It is often during the search phase of an executive search and selection project that the question often arises as to whether to choose a recruitment firm or an executive search company. There are differences, but there are more similarities. This is why the decision is not an easy one for an employer.

Differences between recruitment and executive search firms:

  1. An executive search company only carries out executive search projects, whereas a recruitment company usually carries out both specialist and executive search projects.
  2. Executive search firms tend to be smaller than recruitment firms because of their narrower specialisation in executive search.
  3. An executive search firm tends to have fewer searches and is only able to meet the demand for executive searches, so if you choose an executive search firm, you need to have a separate recruitment partner for specialist recruitment projects. In this case, the advantage of a single partner cannot be exploited, where all the information comes from the same source and can be shared both more easily and more quickly.

Similarities between recruitment and executive search firms:

  1. Both an executive search firm conducting top-level executive search projects and a recruitment firm often have a separate department or a dedicated team of specialists specialising in executive search projects. Thus, a recruitment company may have a kind of in-house executive search firm, which makes it very similar to the typical structure of an executive search firm.
  2. When measuring specifically the executive search experience, it is necessary to compare the number of searches for executive level positions carried out over the last few years. In this case, it is possible to have a situation where recruitment and executive search firms have the same amount of executive searches.
  3. Both the recruitment company and the executive search company may manage databases of the same quality level of executives, so that the availability of candidates in executive search projects may be identical.


The visibility of the recruitment company among candidates due to the high number of selections may be the same as that of the executive search company, so visibility may play the same role in attracting the right candidates in both cases.


The pricing of recruitment and executive search firms is often similar, as an executive search project requires the same resources. Typically, the amount of human and technical resources managed by a recruitment firm that also develops executive search projects is similar to the amount of resources managed by an executive search firm in an executive search project.

Assessing the similarities and differences between a specialised executive search firm and a recruitment company for executive search projects does not make it difficult to choose the right partner. If a recruitment company has a dedicated executive search team that works exclusively on executive search projects, then it can be confidently added to the list of potential executive search partners. In this case, it is only necessary to compare the experience, pricing, guarantees, timeframes and reputation of the executive search team with that of a dedicated executive search firm.

Insight by

Karolis Blaževičius

Managing Partner of Indigroup

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