Boutique Vs. Publicly Traded Search Firms

There is a war for top talent being waged between smaller boutique and larger publicly-traded or venture capital backed firms. The battle for finding top leadership comes down to quality and quantity. Recent intelligence reports from Hunt Scanlon Media examine the competition for finding talent between private equity and venture capital firms. Most importantly, the reports provide a variety of keys to competing in the search for top leadership.

Hunt Scanlon Media’s study surveyed more than 1,000 human resource professionals and executive search consultants. The report continues to investigate connections between talent and growth. In addition, it considers why success in the venture capital and private equity company community is linked inseparably to talent and finding leadership.

A common fallacy is that larger firms must have more resources and therefore a wider search net. In actuality, it’s the process and methodology used for the search that determines its success. Additionally, the recruiting consultant running the search, not the search firm, is ultimately accountable to the search results as well. Read below to explore four key distinctions between boutique versus publicly traded search firms.

  1. The Firm’s Process

First, how does each firm assess candidates for a position? A large firm may appear to have more contacts, but you will want to know how well a firm can match talent to your company’s needs. Some firms have a standardized way to match candidates while others do not. Ask your recruiter about their specific methodology to help you to determine if you are using the right agency.

  1. Finding a Firm that Fits Your Needs

Next, you have got to make the right match. The Hunt study says, “Specialization is a big part of the appeal of the boutique search provider. As big firms have expanded, with several now publicly traded, feeding the bottom line has naturally become a paramount business concern. The boutiques, meanwhile, have more leeway to concentrate on getting to know the ins and outs of any given sector, giving them perhaps a leg up on better understanding the culture of their client companies.” In other words, make sure the firm you choose (big or boutique), specializes in the field that connects most closely to your desired search.

  1. Firms Find the Right Fit for You

Then, the firms need to work FOR you. Large search firms have many tentacles reaching out. Establishing a greater quantity of connections can lead to more opportunities for a match. A tighter-knit staff mean just one or two people are handling your search at a boutique search firm. The search success may hinge upon those one or two people and their specific connections.

Fortunately, whether you go with a big or boutique firm, the result is all about finding the right fit. According to the Hunt study, “Fit, these recruiters say, has become the new mantra, with cultural sensitivity triumphing a candidate’s skill set. These search specialists say they are uniquely qualified to be more responsive to these new requirements.”

  1. Holding Yourself & The Firm Accountable

In addition, one must ensure that you know exactly who is handling your search. That way, there’s greater accountability when things don’t go as planned. This also serves as a motivating tool for the firm to deliver the best possible results. In a large firm, failing to complete matches is expected; you may have to check in more often. At a small firm, where you may be working one-on-one with an owner, you may only need to check in once a week. It often depends upon the individual with whom you work. Finally, you must help to motivate that person to get you the results you desire.


In conclusion, no executive search firms are created equal. Your search comes down to making the right match and finding the right fit. Diversifying your options by exploring a large firm and a boutique firm can help you decide which works best for your needs. Contact us at Quovis and take advantage of our ability to find the “fit”.  We listen to client needs, accurately assess a client’s situation, and determine an efficient and effective strategy for matching high-quality, well-suited candidates is critical in a recruiting partnership.