The center of the executive search business is still relationships. That may never change. But recruitment technology is changing forever how firms manage and leverage those relationships.

Collaboration is expected. Your database should give your executive recruiting team a head start on research before they even turn to LinkedIn. There are no more excuses for stale data and outdated systems.

In an industry that relies on engaging passive candidates from increasingly diverse backgrounds and in endless niches and specialties, it’s imperative that executive search firms use technology to their greatest advantage. Modern solutions help firms better manage their data, which helps them, in turn, better identify and interact with executive-level candidates.

And their clients expect it. 67% of hiring managers say it is very or extremely important that firms use up-to-date recruitment technology. Voices in the industry say that “technological change has made it possible for recruiters to make themselves more critical to organizations than ever before.” 

Nevertheless, many executive search firms continue to rely on outdated solutions that lead to errors and a slower than necessary pace of operations.

Outdated and generic recruitment technology still prevails, bringing a host of problems

Despite the advances in recruitment technology tailored to the executive search industry and expectations, most firms still use one of four suboptimal types of systems to capture and use candidate data. None of them provide today’s executive search firm with exactly the right tools. 


The executive search business has been around for a long time, and there have been software solutions available for decades. Some firms still operate on the same outdated software they purchased long ago. These systems have their roots in on-premises software, designed originally before cloud computing.

While this software was useful to executive search firms 15 years ago, recruiters work very differently now, and technology has evolved a lot since then (YouTube didn’t even exist 15 years ago!). Recognizing these changes, some legacy software providers have added cloud accessibility and other modern features such as collaboration. The trouble is, as more and more features are bolted on, these systems become convoluted for the end user.

Legacy software loses out on the ease of use and intuitiveness of the newer executive recruiting systems designed completely around modern tech.

After all, new features are only beneficial if they are usable, and getting your people to use the system is the biggest hurdle you face. Recruiters and sourcing staff often find a way to work around legacy systems, avoiding the user-unfriendly database. Firms may have accumulated a lot of once-valuable, historical data. But unfortunately most of that data is out of date and inaccurate because of lack of usage, making it much less valuable than it could be. 


Many smaller executive search firms still patch together a makeshift system using emails, LinkedIn, and spreadsheets. This might be fine for your earliest days. Spreadsheets can even support collaboration, if you use Google Sheets, for example.

But spreadsheets become cumbersome to use after a time. Someone must copy and paste information from emails, LinkedIn, resumes, and conversations, consistently. They can become unwieldy as more fields, tabs, and sheets are added.

And as your firm grows, the effects of errors become more pronounced. In fact, a recent ICAEW study found that about 90% of spreadsheets contain mistakes. Fragmentation also occurs easily. Firms may create separate spreadsheets to share with clients, leading to multiple versions of the same information. Each recruiter sets up their spreadsheets differently, and eventually, you wind up with missing, outdated, and duplicated details about candidates.

These errors hurt your team when they reach out to candidates uninformed.


For a time, it seemed that customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce might offer the modern recruitment technology that executive search firms needed. After all, much of your business comes down to managing relationships. It removes some of the headaches of other solutions with its cloud-based access and always-up-to-date functionality. Plugins even let your firm cobble together a customized version that includes capabilities like detailed candidate records.

The trouble is, at its heart, your CRM is still just a generic solution.

Generic CRM databases lack specialized features that suit how executive recruiters work, such as reporting capabilities that show clients your search progress and collaboration on key points like evaluating candidates.

The same can be said of applicant tracking systems (ATS). While today’s options offer modern capabilities, they are built for managing your general recruiting needs. The typical ATS does not support the white-glove operations of an executive search.

To remedy this, firms find themselves patching together solutions. After a time, they end up with a Frankenstein system that still only somewhat supports their search operations. Shally Steckerl, author of The Talent Sourcing & Recruitment Handbook: Source Better, Smarter, Faster and Cheaper than the Competitionnotes that many organizations layer “a CRM on top of their ATS” only to wind up not using either optimally.


Firms that recognize the importance of technology in managing their talent network sometimes create their own software. This is referred to as a “homegrown” solution. The software can be incredibly tailored to the needs of the firm. 

This tailoring, however, can also be its Achilles’ heel. 

Homegrown software usually lacks flexibility and scalability because it’s created for the firm’s needs at a certain stage of growth. The system becomes out of date quickly, and maintenance is expensive.

A recent Phocas Software article noted, “Although homegrown software may work well for a while, maintaining it could be time-consuming and expensive as you build patches, updates and workarounds that at best may preserve your solution for a little while longer.”

It requires a lot of resources to keep up these solutions on par with the modern recruitment technology that your staff, clients, and candidates expect, placing a drain on your team.

What modern recruitment technology looks like in executive search management

Today’s modern, tech-driven solution is tailor-made for the executive search process, supporting how recruiters naturally work. 

This new class of software makes it easier to start and maintain relationships with passive candidates. It removes many of the everyday headaches that come with outdated or generic software.

Modern executive recruiting software automates a recruiter’s most time-consuming and error-prone functions. It captures and updates data automatically with every search. Candidate records fill out over time, capturing emails, interview details, client notes, reference checks, offers, and compensation. Recruiters can schedule an interview directly from the candidate’s profile. It will automatically log the email with the candidate’s profile and also show in the recruiter’s sent mail. They can drag and drop candidate details from resumes and professional networks and profiles— no manual entry! The system will automatically check for duplicates to keep your database clean.

As your database builds up this valuable collection of people, companies, and search information, your recruiters can use it to find and reach out to the right candidates. This puts your recruiters ahead of the game before they even begin researching elsewhere. 

With the rich information available in your modern executive search database, powerful search capabilities make it easy to find links between candidates, companies, and previous searches.

Your recruiters can jump in and see similar projects your firm has completed and group people by skills. Notes in the system can show if the candidate will at least take a call or if they are off-limits because they’re a high priority in another search or have already been placed by your firm. Granular data like this helps your recruiters avoid appearing uninformed and turning off a candidate.

Recruiters can also collaborate with clients and colleagues directly in the system, sending reports instantaneously and collecting feedback and notes on candidates.

For anyone who has had to update records in an aging database, a modern interface is a breath of fresh air. And just as you would expect, recruiters and clients can access the modern platform anytime, from anywhere. Modern, tailored recruitment technology also removes the requirement of your firm to maintain software, which was never meant to be a competency of executive search firms anyway.

Start building more value today

With so many advancements in modern executive recruiting software, it’s hard to believe that firms continue to use outdated or generic solutions. 

It’s understandable that a firm may be nervous about migrating its accumulated contacts into a new system. After all, a firm’s network of connections is its biggest asset. But that also begs the question: Why not do everything you can to preserve and increase that value? With modern recruitment technology, every search is a new opportunity to build a rich resource that streamlines your process, energizes your recruiters, and builds your business.

With software that supports how your recruiters work naturally, you’re setting your firm up to do what it does best: help clients land the right executive as quickly as possible.

Learn more about streamlining your executive search process. Access our definitive guide: How Effective Search Management Delivers the Right Candidate Faster