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Our expert in-house capability provides accurate, up-to-date and incisive research to deliver swift, precise outcomes. Targeted individuals are engaged with care and professionalism and the client opportunity presented in a clear and well-prepared format.

Our News

Our expert in-house capability provides accurate, up-to-date and incisive research to deliver swift, precise outcomes. Targeted individuals are engaged with care and professionalism and the client opportunity presented in a clear and well-prepared format.

Executive search: what’s the value?

Although the unacquainted person may assume that ‘executive search partner’ is just a sophisticated name for a recruiter, the term is certainly not made up for effect or to make us feel superior – what it involves is a wholly different process and one that often requires some initial explanation. This, together with the growing number of recruitment agencies and increased competition from contingents, often means executive search firms need to work hard to demonstrate their value to potential clients who haven’t used one before.

The numerous recruitment agencies available to candidates and businesses differ slightly in their approach and technique. They generally follow a universal business model, essentially acting as an intermediary between a candidate and a potential employer in the course of filling positions. To explain in the most basic sense, the agency receives a job description and then draws up a shortlist from a pool of CVs, does some profile matching, perhaps sets up some interviews and finally selects a suitable fit for the role.

So, how exactly does the search process set itself apart? Here, Noreen Curtin, Rebecca Hopkinson and Mandy Turpin explain the significant differences and how your business can benefit from working with an executive search partner.

Approach and implementation
“Given that our objective is to recruit the best possible candidate, we need to take a truly targeted approach to finding them,” explains Rebecca. “Executive search doesn’t just focus on the skills required to fulfil a role – we look at the market, the competitor environment and the culture of the client’s organisation, and then draw up a bespoke strategy for them.”

Noreen added: “It’s all about providing the best service possible in the partnership. We become a true extension of a client’s team so there’s full commitment from both sides. Executive search is consultative, even from the early briefing stages. We engage in constant dialogue with potential candidates and clients throughout the entire process and build long-standing relationships – we don’t just tick boxes and move on.”

Mandy expands on the sophistication of the search process: “We aim to identify and engage with hard-to-reach talent for senior executive roles. Organisations will partner with a search firm to define a brief for an appointment and shape the requirements, before they set about implementing a process that will ultimately find the right talent for the hiring company.”

How we find the best people
Rebecca explains how executive search consultants locate the best of the best: “Search has the ability to locate the best talent, even if they’re not active in the market. A client may know of someone from a competitor organisation that they’d like to contact, but are unable to gain access to. We have the contacts and means by which to get in touch with that person and begin to build professional connections with them.”

Mandy delves deeper into the process of selecting candidates: “We work closely with clients to identify the precise requirements of the appointment and prepare all the assignment collateral, before mapping out and identifying all the prospective talent in the client’s sector, complementary sectors and organisations with similar business models – so all bases are covered.

“We also utilise recommendations and the existing personal networks held by each search consultant to provide best-in-class recommendations, not just those who have come second place in a previous search.”

“We can then move onto approaching them to further assess their suitability,” explains Noreen. “We’ll conduct in-depth, face-to-face interviews until we are confident about their relevance for the hiring company. This process and custom talent mapping means shortlists are quality assured before we recommend them for the all-important client interview.”

Global reach
Noreen points to the international capabilities of firms like Howgate Sable as a significant benefit of executive search: “We’re not restricted by geography when it comes to finding a client’s next leader – we have a truly global reach and we have boots on the ground where we need them. Top-level executives don’t have the time or inclination to scour the internet for their next opportunity, plus most of our work is confidential so you won’t find it in the public domain.”

A continued relationship
“We don’t just fill a position and close the door,” adds Rebecca. “We assist with the entire on-boarding process, maintaining regular contact with the candidate throughout their notice period and once they have commenced employment. We also ensure longstanding relationships with our clients – once a search contract is fulfilled, it’s certainly not the end of the conversation.”

The key to success in executive search is spending considerable time getting to know the client, the culture of their business and the exact experience and personal attributes required from the candidate. Placing such great emphasis on this allows search consultants to know precisely what each party requires, so the best talent can be supplied.

Executive search is all about proactively targeting ideal talent from all companies, all sectors, anywhere in the world – so you can rest assured you are presented with the best shortlist who possess the credentials to drive your business forward.

Specialist firms usually work across specific sectors, so if you would like a partner for your next candidate search, make sure they have experience placing candidates in similar positions. Head over to our partner profiles for more information about them and their fields of expertise.

The EMI Practice at Howgate Sable really took the time to understand our situation and find exceptional candidates who could fulfil challenging international leadership assignments for a truly global company with a history that spans well over 200 years.

It was a first class experience and positive outcome on many levels.


Barry McDonnell – Director of Manufacturing at De La Rue International

I have worked with the Howgate Sable team on several occasions whilst hiring mission-critical executives. Partnership is the byword for this organisation – they act as an extension of my team and work hard to support me not only in the technical solution, but in the sense of a deep understanding of my specific requirements. Delivery is the key measure of our talent partners and Howgate Sable have always achieved what was asked of them.

Jesper Berg – SVP HR, ABB

Having worked with Howgate Sable as a client and as a candidate I can confidently say their ability to deliver on complex searches is second to none. They not only have a detailed knowledge of the marketplace but also understand the importance of cultural fit. 

Bridget Lea – O2

I was particularly impressed with Howgate Sable’s knowledge and network in the aviation sector, the quality of the candidates provided at shortlist and the availability of Nick and the team to provide us with advice and guidance on candidates when required. Nick was particularly effective in understanding our needs as a Company and being flexible in adapting requirements and plans.

Paul Hutchings – Thomas Cook Group Airlines

I have recently worked with Nick from Howgate Sable to recruit a new Head of Aircraft Operations for Thomson Airways. I was particularly impressed by the wide-reaching search undertaken and the quality of the candidates put forward. The skills match to the brief was excellent and I am delighted with the individual we selected.

Dawn Wilson – Thomson Airways

From their initial call to me the Aviation practice team at Howgate Sable demonstrated a significant difference. Straightforward and to the point, the extent of their network and deep insight into the industry was immediately evident. The added value I have received as a candidate is tangible. An almost instant rapport quickly developed into a focused business relationship which is open, honest, respectful and above all trustworthy.

Carl Gissing