CNA International Executive Search Blog

So What IS the difference between Search and Recruitment?

[fa icon="calendar"] 28-Jul-2016 10:57:12 / by Nicola Morris

Nicola Morris


As an in-house recruiter I have covered both approaches without really considering that one was ‘Search’ – which is considered as a proactive, headhunting approach and the other ‘recruitment’ – is considered a reactive, CV screening process.

People often get hung up about using the correct terminology, but at the end of the day both approaches fall under the broader umbrella of Recruitment, Talent Acquisition, Talent Attraction, Resourcing or whatever fancy title is fashionable at the time. As an aside, can you believe there are 138 titles used for in-house recruiters…? If you don’t believe me read this blog

I have recruited internally at two ends of a spectrum. A public sector organisation which required an open competition, transparent approach – therefore mainly relying on adverts to draw in actively looking candidates, and then screening and shortlisting against strict criteria. I have also worked in a very candidate lead sector whereby a head hunting approach was essential. I didn’t think “I know I am now going to adopt a ‘search’ process”, I just did what was required for that particular role. I still considered my role as Recruitment, but using a more proactive approach.

The Business Directory defines Recruitment as:

The process of finding and hiring the best-qualified candidate (from within or outside of an organisation) for a job opening, in a timely and cost effective manner. The recruitment process includes analysing the requirements of a job, attracting employees to that job, screening and selecting applicants, hiring, and integrating the new employee to the organisation.

The Business Directory defines Search (or Executive Search) as:

An industry engaged in the identifying, assessing and recruiting of corporate officers, executives and other senior level management positions. A firm engaged in an executive search may be paid either on a retainer basis or a contingency basis.

So in terms of activities both of these definitions contain terminology that suggests proactivity in its process with the use of ‘finding’, ‘identifying’, ‘attracting’.

In the Recruitment / Search industry the key differentiator for us consultants is whether they have been engaged via a retainer (an upfront fee) or on a contingency basis (no win, no fee). Proactive activity will take up more time and resource therefore the commitment by the client in the form of an engagement fee allows the consultants to commit fully to the assignment and therefore guarantee a fuller service.

So, depending on who you are talking to Search and Recruitment will mean different things to them – the important thing to remember is that a good Search / Recruitment specialist will adopt the best approach depending on the role and the market, but they will also give their clients their full commitment if the client gives them theirs….

If you’d like to talk to an experienced Search Consultant, Recruitment Consultant,Talent Acquisition Expert, Resourcer… (you get the picture) please get in touch.

Phone:07769 209607



Nicola Morris

Written by Nicola Morris

HR Talent Search Consultant - connecting Interim and Perm HR, Change Management & OD professionals with a range of clients.

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