Select the Right Search Partner to Win the War for Talent

How To Know You're Selecting The Right Search Partner

The right candidate will have a measurable impact on your bottom line. So how can you ensure that you are identifying, interviewing and selecting the right candidates? The answer is to identify a search partner that focuses on being your search partner rather than just fitting you into their process. The next time you consider putting a search on retainer, evaluate potential partners on the following six distinguishing factors:

  1. Ownership
  2. Going Deep
  3. Tailored Services
  4. Restrictions
  5. Access
  6. Assimilation

1. Owner / Senior Partner involvement

Too often there is a type of “bait and switch” that occurs with executive search firms. The senior partner comes in to sell you on their capabilities and accomplishments but once the deal is signed, they move on to the next opportunity. Unless you are a high revenue client, you most likely will not see them again until the final candidate is hired. It is critical that the partner selling the search be intimately involved in each step of the process because the experience is critical when identifying the perfect candidate for your position.When the most critical search process steps are left to be handled by associates and analysts, finding the right talent and filling your critical opening suffers. These individuals most likely have not been to your company, do not know you or your culture, and without being involved in developing the search profile, will have a tougher time identifying the perfect candidate. Ask to meet who will be doing the search work – interviewing and assessing candidates, conducting reference checks, evaluating psychometric testing results, etc. Unless the search partner has the requisite experience to know what top-talent looks like, it’s unlikely you’ll be pleased with the candidates they choose to present for your consideration.

2. Going Deep - The Critical Success Profile

Avoid the high failure rate of placed executives by partnering with a search firm who makes an investment in your company. You want to hire a firm that makes it their priority to ask you about your company’s values, culture and goals, interview key stakeholders and high potential/high performing employees and takes the time to identify the critical success factors and key deliverables. Other key factors may include key inter-relationships, resource limitations, budget issues, and strategic goals. By going beyond the list of job responsibilities for the open position to gain an understanding of the critical success factors that determine a potential new hire’s success or failure, the search firm will be able to present fully qualified candidates. Ask prospective search firms to share samples of recent search profiles, how much time was invested in developing the profile and who had input. The answers to these questions can be very revealing.

3. Tailored services versus a one-size-fits-all approach

Larger search firms tend to chase volume and follow a specific process to get the assignment closed as quickly as possible so they can move to the next search. Because of this one-size-fits-all approach, they do not have the flexibility to give the client exactly what they want and need without an additional charge. This includes items such as total cash compensation reporting, psychometric assessments, up-front key stakeholder/key employee interviews and meetings on-site, etc. This is a critical differentiating factor because most organizations and most positions where a retained search is appropriate are unique or at least have unique aspects to the search. Selecting a firm that can adapt its process to better ensure a successful search without charging an extra administrative fee or other charges is vital.

4. “Off-limits” restrictions

The simple fact is, the larger the firm the more clients they need and therefore more passive candidates are “off-limits” as reputable retained search firms will not recruit from their client’s employee base. Before you engage a firm on your critical position, take the time to understand who their other clients are and write down some of the key competitors/targets for your next employee to see where there may be a conflict. Too many conflicts will limit their ability to get you access to the very best talent. If they claim to not have any client restrictions– BEWARE… they are likely unethical in which case YOU could be their next “fishing pond”.

5. Access to active and passive candidates

In addition to making sure your partner is not overly restricted in identifying key talent, you also need to ensure your prospective firm isn’t just shuffling the resumes they have on file to get a quick fit with your needs. Evaluating active as well as passive candidates is critical to a successful search. Often the best candidates are not active in the market. Knowing what the ideal candidate is likely doing today, who they may be working for, and how to gain access is the work of a good search partner.

6. Ensuring success after the hire

With executive failure rates bumping along at about 40% over the last eight years, more needs to be done to help ensure the new hire makes a successful transition from candidate to a fully integrated member of his/her team and the company. A more supportive, proactive approach by a search partner can dramatically increase the probability of a successful transition. It also strengthens the relationship between the company and the search firm, and it maximizes the ROI for both parties. Suggestions include providing assimilation and transition support to the successful candidate. The best search firms don’t see the end of the engagement as offer acceptance, but instead when the new hire is fully assimilated and performing at a high rate. Whether you prefer to manage the on-boarding process internally or are open to external support, leveraging the best practices of a search firm with a proven track record of successful placements and transitions is another critically important factor in selecting the right search firm.

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