Who are the best recruiters and headhunters for marketing or non-profit roles in the SF Bay Area?

By Kelly Battles 


I have worked with lots of recruiters over time but I don’t have a lot of experience with recruiters who focus on marketing. I do have experience in the not for profit sector and I think one of the absolute best for not-for-profit executives is Kathleen Yazbak of Viewcrest Advisors.

I have had the pleasure of working with Kathleen and found her to be an amazing team player who knows her domain, is very good at her job and not afraid to make decisions that are best for her clients even if they aren’t necessarily best for her and her business. To me, that is an important hallmark of a true professional, especially in a sales role.

More generally, here are a few things that I have learned when working with search firms.

1 – The smaller the firm, the more attention you will get and the more focused they will be on your role. The risk might be that a small firm has less access to top candidates, but in today’s age of extreme social connectivity, I don’t think this is a big risk for most roles.

2 – Go for a specialty firm (e.g., by function and/or level) if you can. This specialization allows these firms to build out a very focused network of applicable candidates so they are more likely to know the optimal candidate. While I don’t know many firms focused on marketing per the above, I could easily list the best CFO search firms as that is my function and level.

3 – Even if you are working with a big firm, insist on a partner leading the search and spending time with the candidates. A lot of bigger firms expect their partners to be leading a large number of searches at any one time which forces the partner to delegate much of their work to other more junior colleagues.

4 – Insist on seeing all of the collateral the firms is using to describe your company and the role, even the introductory emails they are sending out broadly to candidates. I have had an email come back to me through a random connection that was bad and had typos in it. Even if your company doesn’t send these communications out to candidates, it still reflects badly on your company and search if the quality is not good.

5 – The hiring manager should ALWAYS check references – period. This is true in general as the hiring manager most likely will just get better, more relevant and helpful information, not only on the hiring decision, but also on what to expect over the near term as you manage this person assuming he/she is hired. This is ESPECIALLY true when using an external search firm, as their interest to close the deal quickly and move on to the next search/fee, is in direct conflict with your interest in taking the time you need to find the optimal candidate. I have been directly involved with a situation where a group of colleagues gave honest but very negative feedback on a candidate to a recruiter, and that candidate was hired anyway. This person made it less than 9 months in the position before he/she was let go. This is very bad in my opinion.