Look Before You Leap: How to Evaluate an Executive Search Firm
Choosing the right executive search partner can feel like a daunting task when you have multiple firms vying for your attention. You cannot afford to make the wrong choice when it comes to filling your leadership and other business-critical roles.
The most productive executive search firm partnerships are based on trust, open communication and commitment from both parties. You need an expert partner who can develop search strategies based on your unique corporate culture, nuances and the dynamics of your organization.
Factors to Consider
Your company will get out of your efforts to find a search firm what you put in. Take time to research and thoughtfully evaluate firms before you make a decision. Consider a firm’s:
- Industry knowledge: You need a partner with a deep knowledge of your industry who also recognizes that every organization has a unique culture. The best consultants will have thoroughly explored your priorities, business goals and challenges before they come to the table.
- Track record: It goes without saying you need to look at a consultant’s body of work before you consider hiring them. Be sure to understand not only how a search firm completed its previous projects, but also how the selected candidates ultimately performed in their roles.
- Understanding of the process: The best consultants understand that executive recruitment is about much more than just having a good Rolodex. It’s about finding the right fit. Be sure your recruiter understands how to translate an interview into a comprehensive assessment of how a candidate will perform within the dynamics of your company. They also must understand that the process will vary for every employer. Your business must be sold to talent in a way that matches your culture, brand and vision.
- Speed of delivery: Get a sense of how long a consultant typically takes to complete a successful engagement. Finding the right talent takes time, but by the same token you do not want to be paralyzed by indecision.
- Reputation: While all credible firms have references to share, chances are you can network your way to someone who has worked with a consultant in the past and can provide an unbiased view of their effectiveness and relationship-building prowess.
As noted by Joseph Daniel McCool, author of Deciding Who Leads, you need to “orchestrate a process through which your organization will identify potential partner firms, assess their credentials for recruiting the kind of executive you want to lure, and ultimately settle on a consultant who can help amplify the opportunity and reduce the risks inherent in senior management recruiting.
Questions to Ask
As you assess search firms to ensure that their objectives align with yours, it is important to glean as much information as possible. Here are some key questions to ask:
- What experience do you have recruiting within our industry sector – and at the required executive level?
- Can you clearly identify the role and key candidate characteristics?
- What do you know about our unique market environment and its challenges?
- Who will lead the search process? Who makes candidate sourcing calls and who is responsible and accountable for outcomes?
- How many searches does your firm work on at once? Will ours get the attention it needs?
- Which companies in the target market are off limits? Will this impact your ability to do your job?
- What is your search completion percentage?
- Describe a typical search process.
- How often will we get updates and what will you do to keep communication timely and flowing?
Ask detailed questions until you are comfortable and excited about working with a search consultant. Remember, this will be an ongoing relationship, not just a one-time transaction.
As you shop executive search consultants, consider a partnership with BrainWorks. Our proprietary Talent Acquisition Profile and Talent Evaluation Process will help ensure you see only exceptional candidates who are an ideal match for your organization. Contact us today to set up a consultation.