Get The Most From Executive Search

How do you extract the most value from an executive search partner? 

legal executive search

The cost of a retained search service adds up; typically coming in at 1/3 of hired candidates total first year compensation paid over three installments.  Given this fact it is essential hiring managers maximize their search providers utility to deliver the hire they want at the appropriate time and on budget.

Having worked in both the recruitment and executive search space over the past 14 years for leading providers I understand the challenges clients face in getting the best ROI. Outlined below is an insider’s view on some of the best proactive actions for you to take and common mistakes to be avoided to maximize value from the search service.

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Things you can do:

1.Clearly define the parameters of position – this is critical, if a brief is not fully understood precious time will be wasted by all parties looking for the wrong type of candidate. Roles that go to search are less uniform than “regular” recruitment briefs and as such having an in-depth understanding of what is required is paramount. Failure to do so can have the knock-on effect of damaging the credibility of the hire to potentially strong future candidates, an effect that is particularly apparent in niche vertical markets.

2.Agree a timeline and methodology for the hire – A sign of a good search professional is that they manage their client’s expectations effectively. It is vital that when working with a search partner all involved are clear on the milestones needed to get the desired candidate on board. Some clients require rolling submissions as the hire is time critical, others want to see a shortlist with varying candidate types on a certain date, miscommunication can serve to not only dishearten all involved but it can kill a deal and needlessly damage a relationship.

3.Communicate after you have a signed contract – the most common complaint clients levy on search firms is that they speak with an enthusiastic team of head-hunter’s who tell them all the wonderful things they will do, once a contract is signed and a retainer paid, they disappear. Communication is a two-way street, be proactive, establish a routine of weekly catch up calls or meetings to make sure everyone understands what progress is being made, this is also useful to address any problems or questions that may arise during candidate sourcing and make sure everyone is clear as to the status of the hire.

4.Become a true partner to your service provider –  A good search professional seeks to develop more than just a transactional relationship (making a fee and running). The most successful relationships allow a trust to develop where your head-hunter will be truly consultative, advising holistically on candidates (not just selling them to you to secure an interview or offer), nurture and foster this approach for the best results.

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Common mistakes:

1.Exaggerated expectations- search is more expensive that traditional recruitment, this in itself creates higher expectations on the part of the service provider to deliver. This doesn’t however, mean that your search consultant can turn water into wine.  First rate candidates will expect to be paid a premium and the pool of prospects will not expand as a result of going to search.  A strong service provider will work with you to define the candidate “search universe” and do their utmost to access the strongest candidates within that for you. Making sure expectations stay rooted in reality is crucial throughout the engagement process.

2.Believing candidates should have a reason for leaving – this is one of the biggest differences between search and recruitment. Headhunted candidates are generally passive but open to hearing about opportunities, most will have put a CV together for your role specifically because it looks interesting and they were compelled from discussions with your search provider not necessarily because they have push factors where they are presently employed.

3.Switching off communication- people get busy, priorities change, companies are like organisms in a state of constant development. Often when change is afoot communication suffers. By cutting off communication you will directly reduce the effort and focus put into finding the best hire for you. Worse than that many search contracts will have a provision that in the event of no meaningful communication being made to advance the search (usually within 4 weeks) the full fee or a good chunk of it is immediately payable.

4.Delegating down- hiring manager and senior HR engagement is key to a successful search process. If the stakeholders are too busy to engage properly with the hiring process, delay commencement until they have adequate time to devote to it. Passing on the day to day management or complete execution of a search to a junior HR consultant can lead to conflict in understanding, delay and result in missing out on strong candidates for invalid reasons. Make time to speak with your consultant to help all parties maintain high engagement levels and partner together for success.

In 2019 there is still a mystique around executive search. When thinking of the industry one might be forgiven for imagining older men in smart suits conducting handshake deals in smoke-filled rooms; for the most part this is far from the modern reality. This article aims to shed light on what is still the recruitment industries opaque relative. If there are any particular areas of the search world readers are keen to learn more about get in touch so that we might explore more fully in future articles.


Author: Ken Collins is a legal and compliance search partner with Greenway Collins covering the EMEA region.

This post was written in collaboration with Recruiting Brainfood


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