Gaining an Advantage in the War for Talent

How To Know You Are Selecting The Right Search Partner

Selecting the right candidate for your organization is not just about finding a person to fill a role –– it is about finding someone whose contributions will tangibly enhance your bottom line. But how do you navigate this crucial process to ensure you're getting the perfect fit? 

The answer is to identify a search partner that focuses on being your partner rather than just fitting you into their process.

Let’s take a closer look at how the following six distinguishing factors can help ensure that you are identifying, interviewing, and selecting the right candidates to join your organization. 

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. 

The partner selling the search must be intimately involved in each step of the process because the candidate’s experience is critical when identifying the perfect candidate for your position. Leaving the most critical search process steps to associates and analysts limits the impression your company has on potential candidates and makes it difficult to engage the best talent for your critical opening. Furthermore, these individuals most likely have not been to your company, do not know you or your culture, and without being part of the discovery process critical in developing the search profile, they will have a more challenging time identifying the perfect candidate. 

Ask to meet who will be interviewing and assessing candidates according to your technical criteria, cultural fit, and leadership competencies. Unless the search partner has the requisite insights and experiences to know what top talent looks like for your company, it is unlikely you will be pleased with the candidates they choose to present for your consideration.

2. Going Deeper with The Critical Success Profile

Avoid the high failure rate of placed executives by partnering with a search firm that invests 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 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 candidate 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 up-front key stakeholder/key employee interviews and meetings on-site, total cash compensation benchmarking, psychometric assessments, 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 them. Selecting a firm that can adapt its process to better ensure a successful search without charging an extra administrative fee or other fees is vital.

To learn more about our proprietary process at Kinsley Sarn, click here

4. Industry Expertise

Any search partner must possess an intricate understanding of market trends, evolving challenges, and the nuances of different sectors. These firms possess a panoramic view that enables them to identify candidates with not just the right skills, but also the cultural alignment crucial for sustained success. This profound knowledge not only accelerates the search process but also ensures that each candidate's fit extends beyond the technical aspects, resulting in long-term value and growth for both the organization and the candidate. 

5. “Off-Limits” Restrictions

The simple fact is, that the larger the firm the more clients it needs. 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 in the search to fill 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: this should raise some red flags and this may mean that YOU could be their next “fishing pond”.

6. 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 is not 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.

Furthermore, a proficient search partner understands the value of internal exploration. A thorough assessment of your organization's existing talent can uncover individuals who may already be part of your team and possess the capabilities needed to excel in the desired role. A holistic approach, considering both external and internal talent, strengthens the chances of a successful search outcome, ensuring you have access to the most promising individuals who align seamlessly with your company's vision and culture.

Related: The Future of Hiring Lies in Internal Mobility

7. 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 a 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 do not 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 onboarding process internally or are open to external support, leveraging the best practices of a search firm can significantly improve your results. 

Learn More: Effective 'Stay Conversation' Strategies to Reduce Employee Turnover

Partner With Kinsley Sarn to Address Your Hiring Needs

At Kinsley Sarn, we offer more than just a service –– we provide a dynamic partnership driven by expertise and a profound understanding of your industry. After successful careers in HR, we opened our doors in 2005 and have continuously refined our approach to cater to your unique needs and challenges. 

To learn more about how our team can help your organization with your next hire, get in touch with us online.

This post was originally published in July 2020 and rewritten in September 2023.

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