I recently read an article about choosing the right executive search firm, and it got me thinking seriously about how one should properly evaluate one search firm over another. In other words, how to best search for the right search firm. Because let’s face it: there are so many of them out there from which to choose.
I’ve been in the executive search industry for almost 30 years and I’ve seen many firms come and go. But what I can say about the ones that endure is that they must at a minimum check all the boxes I’ve carefully compiled for you below.
They function as partners & consultants to their clients. Great executive search firms should not only be good at finding you the perfect fit for your talent needs, but also act as trusted ongoing advisors and consultants. At Torch Group, we were recently working with a new client, and through our conversations started to realize that they needed to restructure their team in order to successfully handle their growth mode. Not only did they need to fill one new position on their leadership team, but another two in order to have the right infrastructure to withstand their tremendous growth. We listened to what they had to say and offered suggestions on what would make the most sense for their continued success. Your search partner should enthusiastically take on this role and provide insight and best-practices advice to you on how to approach the market, how to structure your internal departments and how to generally make your organization a magnet for great talent.
They have great listening skills and the ability to ask the right questions. What you should want from your search firm is the ability to develop and ask in-depth, competency-based behavioral questions around cultural fit and soft skills such as leadership Once those targeted questions are posed, it’s important to listen closely between the lines. As we’ve noted earlier, there are three characteristics of a great recruiter, and one of these is great listening skills coupled with an instinct to ask the right questions. This combination allows a talent professional to get to the core of a client’s needs while also pulling back the layers of a candidate’s technical and soft skills. This helps to reveal the true person hidden beneath that candidate’s polished exterior and meticulous resume. That’s often the real secret behind finding candidates who will be great fits over the long haul.
They always operate in strictest confidentiality. Placing a new CEO in an organization is often an extremely confidential situation. When a CEO is looking to retire, one of the very best executive search firms is called in to lead a search for a replacement. During the initial call, clients talk about how confidential the search must be, and that is something executive recruiters must take very seriously. We have to remember that livelihoods are always at risk in these situations, so there can be no leakage of information. Private deliberations must remain strictly private.
They are well-established. It’s not only crucial that you work with a company that is well-established in your industry or has expertise in a functional area or two, it is critical that they have endured all the inevitable ups and downs of the job market and understands what it takes to drive a talent search in any economic condition. Just as you wouldn’t feel safe depending on a stockbroker who has only worked during a bull market–when stock prices are always going up–it’s dangerous to deal with search firms that have only known buyers’ markets for talent. Because eventually the business cycle will turn.
They have a proven search process. Does your search firm have a proven, repeatable search process with demonstrable success and documented fill rates? If not, you’re leaving essential elements to chance. No smart organization can really afford to do that with its talent pipeline. So don’t be shy about asking this question of a prospective search partner.
They have a key intangible: Grit. Your executive search firm needs to be able to never disappoint. It should routinely exceed your expectations and work for your company with determination and tenacity. They should have the gritty resolve of a Marine unit charged with taking a hill, but also the people skills of seasoned diplomats. They should be totally focused on your goals, with a can-do, results-oriented spirit.
It gives me great pride to represent a company that exhibits these qualities and stands out from the crowded sea of executive recruiters. But of course we can never rest on our laurels, either. Instead, we strive to improve our game every day, and look forward to another 30 years and beyond in this business!
If your search firm can’t check all these boxes, I invite you to give me a call at 440-519-1822 x101 and together we can explore how we might be of service for your mission-critical talent needs.
By Ron Torch
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- Posted by Stuart Glassman
- On September 18, 2019
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