executive recruiting for dummies


By David E. Perry

In addition to composing a detailed executive recruitment project plan, outlining each step of the hiring process, you also need a service-level agreement (SLA). The SLA spells out your expectations, as well as those of your client. It also defines success for the project.

Lots of businesses rely on SLAs with their suppliers in order to run smoothly. But SLAs are common in people’s personal lives as well — even yours. You likely have an SLA with your local power company to define your expectations (that your lights will turn on with the simple flick of a switch, and that the company will respond quickly in the event of a power outage) and theirs (that you’ll pay your bill, preferably on time).


So what expectations should an SLA for an executive recruiting project define? To answer that, start with what expectations it shouldn’t define:

  • It shouldn’t define an expectation that you’ll complete a project in a certain amount of time.
  • It shouldn’t define an expectation that you’ll interview x number of candidates before making an offer.

Both these expectations are just too difficult to guarantee.

The SLA should, however, define expectations that pertain to events and transactions that are within your control. In other words, it’s fair to say that if you do x, the client will do y within z time frame. For example:

  • If you present a candidate’s résumé for feedback, you can expect an answer the same day.
  • If you call to schedule an interview, you can expect a call back within 24 hours.
  • If you require debriefing time after an interview, you’ll get it the same day.

Most important, you need to explain what will happen if the client fails to follow the agreed-upon terms — namely, that it affects the schedule and may reduce your likelihood of success.

A simple SLA — even one that includes just these three points — will help to speed your project along without needlessly disrupting people’s lives or stressing out your client or candidates. That being said, you can make your SLA as thorough as you like.

For an SLA template, which you can easily modify, visit Executive Recruiting For Dummies’ Downloads page.


An SLA doesn’t need to be fancy, especially when it’s being used internally. Use what follows as a guide to develop your own SLA. After both parties sign the SLA, attach it to the project plan.

How We Are Responsible to You

Complete transparency is the key to our working together efficiently and cost-effectively. Constant communication is the foundation of success. Timely and consistent dialogue throughout the search prevents any surprises. You will have all of my contact numbers to use whenever the need arises. I also suggest establishing a fixed schedule for weekly reporting to your search chair.

We will ensure that only those candidates who meet the stated requirements of the position in terms of competency, skills, and fit are referred. We will then conduct a comprehensive search as specified, until the role is filled to your satisfaction.

In exchange for the above consideration, we request you agree to the following principles:

  • When you are presented with a candidate’s résumé for feedback, you will provide an answer the same day.
  • If we call to schedule an interview, you will ensure a return call within 24 hours.
  • After each interview, you will provide feedback the same day.

Please review the attached project plan, sign it, and return it to us when you’re ready to begin the project.


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