Executive search doesn’t have to be a minefield. For years, there has been wide-ranging opinions on its definition, purpose, validity and value. There are hundreds of firms presenting themselves in exactly the same way, giving an identical message.
Selecting an executive search firm is a leap of faith unless you have first-hand evidence or endorsement of their integrity or know exactly what questions to ask. However perceived, recruitment will remain one of the few ‘constants’ on every organisation’s agenda. As much as it may be a ‘necessary evil’, organisations have a straight choice when it comes to recruitment; to view it as a cost or as an investment. As a rule of thumb, those who see it as a cost are contingency recruitment backers, those who see it as an investment are retained search advocates.
It is important to note that ‘investment’ is not to be confused with ‘a last resort’. Executive search is not the magic bullet employers often think it is.
So what does executive search involve? Here are a few ways it differs radically from contingency recruitment;
- Executive search proactively researches and identifies the best leadership talent there is. Contingency recruitment finds the, best available, usually from a database or advert and at a lower discipline level.
- Search ensures absolute commitment. A contingency recruiter can’t afford to invest that much time in one assignment. Their focus is on quantity rather than quality minimising their risk. Not a reassuring start position.
- Executive search caters for confidentiality and exclusivity. More often than not any data you provide to a contingency recruiter can, and will be, freely distributed to the market to drum up interest.
- Executive search = regular feedback on market intelligence. Any search firm worth their salt will utilise their research activity not to just talent map but to gain rich marketplace data including compensation levels and employer brand insights, particularly if these are factors affecting the client’s ability to appoint the right candidate. See some of the added extra benefits of a thorough headhunting process here.
- Search considers technical and behavioural fit. A search firm should understand their client’s company and culture to the degree that they know not just ‘what’ the organisation requires but also ‘who’. Face-to-face interviewing, coupled with psychometric assessment, ensures that clients who invest in executive search are recommended candidates with true alignment to their ethos.
- Executive search takes time. If you are simply after a ‘bum on a seat’ don’t invest in search. Again a reputable search firm with a robust process should take at least four weeks to deliver a shortlist matching your requirements.
- The rigour and care required by retained search highlights that in order to do it proficiently it requires individuals who can marry diplomacy, sensitivity, creativity, tenacity, negotiation and objective judgment. Not something always found within contingency recruitment agency.
The above aims to demystify some preconception surrounding senior level recruitment so that you can ask the right questions of your future search partner. This will ensure you get the investment needed from your recruitment partner to make future appointments a success.
REader's of this blog also read