How to get the best from an executive search firm
Mon, 15 Oct 2012 | Carol O'Driscoll, director, Archer Search
When engaging an executive search firm, there are several steps you can take to ensure that you get the best out of the process and hopefully build an on-going relationship to meet your senior recruitment needs.
Prior to engaging the search firm make sure you have established your need internally. Ensure you have buy in from all internal stakeholders, agree the role, compensation, reporting lines, potential career progression so that you can brief the search firm accordingly.
Check which relationships your company has with search firms, how they have performed and decide which would be most appropriate for your needs. Consider niche boutique firms who offer in depth coverage of your sector as well as international big players.
Invite a number of firms to pitch. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with, that really understands your company, market and culture and you feel can provide you with the best slate of candidates.
A good briefing is critical to a good search. The search firm should want to come and meet you and really understand the brief, how the role fits in your organisation, responsibilities and opportunities for development. They should want to understand your firm's strategy and plans for the future. Brief the search firm as fully as possible and engage them as a business partner. They should come back to you with their understanding of the brief to ensure you are all on focused on the same goal.
A smart search strategy leads to the best candidates and enables a fast start.
The search firm should manage your expectations on how challenging the search is likely to be from the outset. They should outline a thorough process, proposing the target market and companies and “concept ”candidates (including likely compensation) to ensure that the search is as focused as possible.
An agreed search strategy can help both you and the search firm keep on track, have a record of what was agreed and a 'map' should there be a need to change direction.
Discuss any diversity requirements upfront so that the search firm can ensure you are supplied with the broadest choice of candidates. Also make clear if the search is confidential.
Be prepared to agree time lines on when they should deliver long list (where appropriate) and short list. Bear in mind international searches can take longer to research. You should be prepared to discuss your 'off limits' and understand theirs.
The search firm should meet all candidates face to face, interview them against your specification and gain third party views on them. They should then provide you with a detailed report and CV highlighting the candidate profile v the specification. This should also include compensation.
The search firm should perform due diligence and reference all finalist candidates and share their findings with you. Highlight any issues you have around potential style/culture fit before you get to offer stage.
Be available to discuss progress from the beginning of the search. A good search firm will want to check in with you at early stage to discuss market feedback and the progress of the search.
Be prepared to make time for weekly update calls to ensure everyone is on the same page and to navigate around any challenges.
Be clear on your feedback on candidates and their fit with your need to ensure you make the best hire.
Remember to work in partnership with the search firm to access the best talent and build an on-going relationship. Give feedback at the close of the search to ensure the relationship continues to grow.