Partnering with a Search Firm

The single most important factor that will determine the ultimate success or failure of any organization is the energy and direction provided by its leadership. Hiring the right candidate is more critical than ever, and with the intense focus on honest, prudent and responsible leadership, the stakes are even higher. Because of this, employers in need of candidates with proven ability to make a real difference have turned to professional recruiting organizations for help when traditional recruiting methods fail to produce the best candidate for a specific job.

Traditional recruiting methods, such as relying on networks, running ads or posting positions on the Internet, are reactive methods at best. They often fail to uncover the high-caliber talent not actively seeking new opportunities.

Using a professional recruiter is an effective way to seek out and attract star-talent within competing organizations and from other industries as well. The search industry has more than tripled since 1993 and, while the tools of the trade have changed, the time-tested methods of the true search professional remain constant.

Important Qualities to Look For

When looking for the right search consultant, keep in mind following:

Presentation skills and communication style – This person will be representing you in the marketplace. They should be polished and articulate.

Persuasiveness – This person should have the ability to tell a compelling story about your company and the opportunity.

Knowledge – Do they have sufficient industry and functional knowledge to make sound recommendations and help you stay on track?

Integrity – Do they represent themselves and their firm as operating in with the highest in ethical and honest standards?

Perception – They must have the ability to assess and see past a candidate’s experiences into their true leadership style and competency. Good recruiters are students of human psychology and utilize sophisticated methods to interview potential hires.

Questions to Ask

Before you retain a firm to fill a position of high-importance you should ask several key questions:

What is their completion rate? – Some of the largest and best-known firms have completion rates at or below 70 percent.

Who will be doing the work? – Make sure you know the team who will be doing the search. In larger firms, the partner you meet with may have little if any involvement once the search is underway. Make sure the consultant you build a relationship with is the one representing you to the marketplace.

What are their methods for interviewing and referencing potential candidates? – Not all firms are the same. There are preferred methods available to assess leaders, and double-check their credentials and work history. Make sure you fully understand your firm’s strategies.

How long will the firm continue to work on a search once the fee has been paid? – Some firms limit the time they will continue to work on a very difficult search. Better firms have built their reputations getting searches done quickly or committing to continuing the work until the search is done, period.

What is the duration and nature of their guarantee after the work is done? – Be wary of firms who offer either no guarantee or guarantees of less than 90 days.

How will the firm bill the client company for expenses? – How, and for what, you are billed is critically important and must be transparent. Many firms charge expenses over and above the normal and attributable costs of doing a search. Make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for.

During the Search

Make sure your consultant has the ability to reach you whenever possible and maintain a high level of communication throughout the process. This will help you and your consultant head off any issues that may come up and address time-sensitive information regarding the search. It is also a good idea to “calibrate” their efforts against your expectations to ensure the best result.

Closing the Deal

One of the most valuable and important services a firm can provide you is their involvement in the negotiations and offer stage of a search. The firm should provide you with complete and detailed information as to the candidate’s current compensation. They should then take the time to help you put together a new compensation package that makes sense. Good recruiters will know from a broad-market perspective what executives in your industry should earn for specific positions. This knowledge is an invaluable resource given the fact most talented candidates receive lucrative counter-offers and incentives to remain with their current affiliation.

The amount of attention and follow-up a consultant pays to a placed candidate will vary from firm to firm. Be sure the firm works with you to transition the new employee into your culture and helps with the inevitable hurdles along the way.