Six Things to consider when selecting your Executive Search Partner

Someone from an unfamiliar Executive Search firm has left you multiple voicemails, sent you an introduction email, a follow up email and finally managed to get you on the phone at the right time – they ask for a meeting and reluctantly you agree.

A week later a well-dressed person in business attire walks through your office doors with a powerful burst of energy pouring in behind them, a compendium under their right arm, a contagious smile and ready to deliver a sales pitch to die for.

You like their tenacity, so you think – why not? I have a need for a new leader to join the business and I am struggling to find someone of quality. But is the person in front of you the one who will be delivering the assignment? Not sure? Well here six things to consider when choosing an Executive Search Partner.

ESP (aka. Executive Search Partner) Question 1. Who is working on my job?

They came to your office, they met with key stakeholders, they asked a comprehensive list of questions to understand the business and gain a sense of the environment and work culture. Everything seems to be going smoothly but next minute you find out some “Joe Blogs” is interviewing your candidates and the person you met with originally has disappeared – a very annoying situation, but also very common.

A Search Director will often have a team of people working with them to quicken your process. This often includes researchers, general administrators, system administrators and at times associates. What you need to clarify however, is that the person that peaked your interest and gained your trust is the one that will be your main point of contact, will remain accessible and will be responsible for project managing your assignments as a minimum.

ESP Question 2. Can I partner with more than one partner at a time?

To ensure exclusivity you are paying a retainer – a high one at that. The retainers are payments for the resources and time spent providing services leading up to the placement stage and also to deter hiring managers from partnering with multiple providers. ESPs do not work in competition with one another once an assignment is won. They also do not compete with internal recruitment teams. In fact, a common term of service will be that any candidate referred to the hiring company directly or through another third party will be assessed by the chosen ESP once they have been engaged. This not only ensures all candidates are provided an equal opportunity as they undergo the same process and assessment, but also ensures the client ultimately gets the best result regardless of the source.

ESP Question 3. What do the fees include?

All these exorbitant fees – what am I paying a retainer for? Put simply, you are paying for a service. It is a bit like getting a hair cut. You can go to that dodgy salon in the back street of a suburb no one has heard of or book in with a professional stylist with a great reputation, get a world-class service and walk out feeling like a million bucks!

Ultimately, you are paying someone to be your employer branding partner. This is someone you trust to represent your business, it’s brand and you. Any communications and actions will be on your behalf and will reflect as such. You essentially are paying for a professional to do just that – be professional.

You are paying for the experience, knowledge and process. An all-inclusive process of market-mapping, head-hunting, talent assessing, engaging and maintaining candidate’s interest. At the higher level this can be very difficult and time-consuming. After all, there is a reason why you are outsourcing. You are also paying for the dedicated team of resources working hard behind the scenes to ensure you get results.

ESP Question 4. How long will it take?

Your partner should be able to provide you with a project plan that is so detailed, they can almost guarantee a “date of offer.” It should cover all of the key milestone dates including assessment stages, the stakeholders involved, update calls and meetings. This should be signed off prior to the search commencement to ensure alignment and that everyone is happy with the timeline.

An average timeline for a proper search process can take between 6-8 weeks. However, depending on the specifics of the assignment and the difficulty of the role this may vary.

ESP Question 5. How transparent is your process?

Often we hear hiring managers complain about previous processes and partnerships where little to no transparency was provided. However, we believe that transparency and collaboration are two key things that will determine the success of a project and as a hiring manager you should expect the following:

  • A detailed description of your project team
  • A documented project plan
  • Regular weekly calls and updates on the project with data driven statistics
  • A description of Assessments
  • A long-list meeting and short-list meeting
  • A post-implementation contact plan

For a process to be successful, all stakeholders should be contactable, committed and aligned to the same objective. Otherwise your ESP has been set up to fail.

ESP Question 6. How do I know you will deliver?

ESPs will often be able to provide testimonials, case studies and references to any prospects to put their mind at ease prior to signing off a contract. In most instances, many will also have the capability to run system reports and show a dashboard of analytics to prove a successful track record.

In the end though, most ESPs will be priced at the higher end, claim to have good processes and seem to have a niche or specialisation. But what is their USP (unique selling proposition) ? What are their values? Who will be your Search Director? Do they resonate with you? Do they sound like they want the best outcome for you and your business? Do they understand you? Will they look after you like you are their number 1 client? Do you feel like you will get that world-class service?

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