Loxo is new & improved — better data, better prices, and better AI. → Check it out!

7 Reasons Why Half of Executive Searches Fail

Hiring executives is no easy task. According to ESIX (Executive Search Information Exchange), more than 40 percent of executive searches fail. The costs associated with this failure are enormous. So, why do executive search processes fail despite availability of resources and large applicant pools? 

Finding the ideal candidate for a top executive position can take up to 4 months and cost thousands of dollars. With the high cost of a failed executive search, companies can no longer afford to fumble the hiring process. If the chosen candidate does not fit into the position, the hiring process has to start again, resulting in the loss of more funds and time.    

To break it down, a failed executive hire costs you: 

Why do executive search firms fail? 

There are several reasons why executive search firms don’t achieve their desired results. Once you understand the factors that hinder success, you can employ the right strategies to mitigate them. 

Read on to learn the top reasons why most firms fail to find the best hire for executive positions: 

Poor research

In-depth research is an integral part of executive hiring. However, some recruitment firms make the mistake of delegating research work, and end up picking candidates who are not a good fit for the position. The digital age makes it all the more difficult. While it’s now easy to find “executives” on platforms such as LinkedIn, most of them are either unqualified or uninterested in the job. 

Finding qualified executives for a top position comes down to working with people who are experienced in this kind of research. Equally important, firms should have a “point person” who oversees the recruiting process and takes responsibility for its success or failure. 

Lack of internal consensus before beginning search 

Another reason why firms fail is lack of agreement on top priorities in the search process. For example, some parties may consider candidate experience valuable, while others consider educational background more important. Lack of consensus among the top members of the organization can interfere with the hiring process.    

It is crucial for recruiters to read from the same script when hiring a top executive. Aligning needs can prevent conflicts and ensure that they present the best candidates to their clients.   

Last-minute executive hires

Hiring a candidate for an executive position requires adequate time and preparation. However, hiring firms sometimes wait until the last minute to start looking for a candidate, rushing the process. Because the hiring process requires 90-120 days, last-minute executive hires invariably fail to meet clients’ expectations. 

Executive search firms should allow sufficient time to find, engage, and interview potential candidates. Conducting the process in a rush will lead to a loss of money for clients and can tarnish the reputation of the hiring company. 

Having unrealistic expectations

Setting the bar high is important when looking for executive hire, but being unrealistic can make it challenging. To avoid frustration, recruiters should ensure their expectations are consistent with the realities in the market. For instance, don’t expect an executive with 15 years experience to accept a mid-level salary.  

Setting realistic expectations can ensure you find the right candidate within a shorter period of time and with fewer resources. Ultimately, it reduces the chances of failure in the quest for an executive hire. 

Failure to understand the position/client   

Whether it’s a lack of clear communication or the failure to perform adequate research, hiring firms fail due to a lack of understanding of what the client is looking for. 

For example, a client could be looking for an executive to run a management team and specify that they be married, enthusiastic about sports, and social. If the hiring team does not consider these seemingly trivial details when interviewing candidates, the hiring process can fail. 

Too much focus on candidates’ flaws  

While it’s important to note a candidate’s shortcomings, recruiters should understand that there is no perfect hire. Ideally, the hiring process should focus more on strengths and less on weaknesses. Also, seek to understand the candidate first so you are able to differentiate between flaws and ambitions. 

For example, frequent job-hopping can be considered a bad quality in a candidate. However, the candidate may have been headhunted frequently due to their unmatched skills and expertise. In other words, focusing too much on flaws can make you miss out on the best candidates. This could convey your hiring firm as incompetent. 

Shifting priorities mid-search 

Another common reason many executive firm searches fail is lack of a solid plan when beginning the search, which often forces firms to shift priorities in the middle of the hiring process. Consequently, time and money is lost. Even worse, firms end up settling for an average candidate to beat a client’s deadline. 

To address this issue, firms should work with recruiters who have the knowledge and experience to conduct the hiring process successfully. Experts can ensure that there are no gaps left that could compromise the hiring process. 


Executive hiring is an intricate process that requires proper attention and investment to guarantee success. Unfortunately, most executive search firms don’t employ the appropriate resources, which often causes them to fail. More importantly, organizations ought to remember that executive-level roles should only be handled by top talents, and this largely depends on how effective your hiring process is. Outsourcing the services of reputable and experienced hiring firms can save you a lot of time and money when hiring executives for your company.

Privacy Preference Center