The Difference Between Executive Search & Recruitment
13 May 2022 2 mins read By Andrea Amato

Nowadays, we are growing more accustomed to specialist recruitment. 


Although the terms executive search and recruitment are often used interchangeably, in reality these represent different meanings according to organisational needs. Organisations usually reach out to external aid when they lack their own HR or talent acquisition advisory (TAA) departments, or simply fail to find high-quality talent to suit present job openings. They may also need help for a series of permanent hires, which takes longer than seeking to employ one individual to fill an open position.  

Whatever the circumstances are, companies resort to external recruitment to help them seek out the best candidate to fulfil a job. However, depending on what job they’re looking to fill is what separates executive search from traditional recruitment practices. Although the kinds of jobs are endless (accounting, software development jobs, and so forth), not all recruitment organisations will supply talent in most areas. 


The Search for Junior & Senior Roles 


Recruiters are typically adept in filling junior to mid-level positions, including fresh graduates and individuals with little work experience adorned on their resumes. Employing candidates for these positions are typically easier than filling senior level roles, for these do not require hard-earned skill sets. In this way, recruiters often find themselves matching a large number of qualified candidates with appropriate job descriptions. 

On the other hand, executive search typically works with more managerial and senior job roles, that are usually riskier in terms of finding qualified talent compared to entry and mid-level roles. As the name suggests, executive searchers focus their expertise on highly skilled applications and match these to fulfil job positions ridden with responsibilities. They typically fill positions invaluable to organisations, including C-suite titles such as COOs and CIOs. Therefore, organisations looking for external help to support senior roles should consult with a company that specialises in executive search. 


Active & Passive Job Seekers 


Recruiters generally search for active jobseekers; those individuals readily prepared to take the leap for their next career. They find these on their well-established databases or through their social networks. However, it can be difficult to exclusively look for active jobseekers, as these typically make up a smaller percentage of the available talent pool. 

Other complications in pursuing active jobseekers include their potential involvement with other recruitment agencies, stunting a recruiter’s progress in running into competitors. In this way, a recruiter’s search can be limited in their methodology in looking for active talent sources. 

On the other hand, executive searchers look for passive jobseekers—individuals who are not actively searching to change their employment—including those casually browsing around their networks in view of novel job opportunities. Passive jobseekers widen the scope for potential candidates, making up a larger talent pool than do active jobseekers. 

Executive search doesn’t halt at passive jobseekers as they also look for actively seeking prospects as well. In this way, they focus on finding great talent irrespective of their current employment status. Although this less occurred in the past, executive search has evolved to mix up their methodology in looking for available talent. Nowadays, many firms also offer advisory services and offer their long-time expertise of the market for jobs in Malta and beyond


Approach in Filling Positions 


A more apparent difference between recruitment agencies and executive search is their approach toward fulfilling certain job roles. Recruiters from diverse agencies compete to fill available job openings, and whilst this can mean a quicker fill for organisations, there are further points to consider with this. 

One example is quicker fills with poorer delivery: especially for easier positions, in line with competition recruiters may seek to fill a job role in order to suit a business model that awards them on a commission basis. For difficult roles, these may be placed on the back burner for recruiters to be able to fill numerous easy positions, whilst the former receives lesser candidates. This does depend on the business model adopted by recruiters however, and does not represent recruitment agencies generally. 

Whilst recruiters typically receive their pay after a role is filled, executive searchers usually charge an upfront fee (somewhat like a deposit) and take their time to fill a job position. With this time, they learn and understand job markets and industry trends in order to culturally fit an individual to an organisation more effectively.  

Executive search also means the organisations own values and mission statements are matched with suitable candidate profiles. Lastly, should a job position fill unsuccessfully, reputable executive search firms typically offer a free shortlist to cover the search.  


Specialist Search 


Due to industry-specific needs, many recruitment agencies have resorted to specialising with a group of industries to bring them closer to customers and organisations. Whilst this is an improvement in terms of social capital, their methodology in seeking active jobseekers is a drawback for missing out on the more passive, quieter candidates. 

It is a commonality in that executive search firms specialise within industries as searchers become experts in the industry market. They typically serve one or a few industry verticals, curating a close network of business professionals. Because a specialist search is common to these executives, firms have dedicated specialist teams to work on particular job verticals. Their focus is targeted and committed, leading a firm that gains a good grasp on the market as a whole.  

Further, recruitment agencies usually serve local markets whereas executive search operate across the globe. Nowadays, with the working society shifting to a remote way of life, both recruiters and executive search are adapting present business models to suit novel workplace trends, including the support for remote jobs and clientele. 


Different Results for Different Needs 


Recruitment agencies are suitable to fill job roles that are entry-level to mid-level, that do not require an extensive skill set, and are generally more equipped to find candidates for quick employment. 

Executive search firms are worth consulting when an organisation is seeking a more senior position to fill, and usually work with roles that are necessary for companies to be successful. Searchers know how tricky it can be to persuade individuals in senior roles to consider novel opportunities, but are nonetheless successful in doing so. Candidates are screened and supported throughout the placement process, ensuring the right fit between jobseeker and client. 

Here at Castille, we specialise in tech, financial, and executive industries through our esteemed network of working professionals. We focus our firm in constructing long-standing relationships with our clients in a variety of talent verticals. If you’re interested in who we are and what we do, meet our team by sending us an email at

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