One of the longstanding misperceptions of the search industry is that you must engage an “industry expert” to conduct your executive search because they have the network and robust database to quickly source the desired talent. The problem with databases and networks is that unless you invest significant amounts of time and resources, they become outdated very quickly. The growth of electronic information (websites, professional organizations, social media, etc.) enables all firms to identify and source both active and passive candidates (those not currently looking for a new job).
At Kinsley|Sarn, we believe that our value add is our ability to assess fit versus client-specific critical requirements. The fact is 45% of placements fail within 18 months. This is because either the fit was wrong and/or the candidate misunderstood the client’s needs, expectations and/or culture; or the candidate was not what the client thought they were – either way it is a very expensive mistake.
Todd Imhoff, Alcoa’s Vice President of Global Commodity Management, was charged with identifying innovative ways to drive down the cost of aluminum production. A major production ingredient was green coke. Todd determined that bringing on-board a specialist with intimate market knowledge and commercial contacts in green coke would provide significant advantages and savings. The challenge was how to identify people with this specialized knowledge since green coke was a by-product of the conversion of crude oil into liquid fuels. As such, it was usually sold to traders who would then resell it to companies like Alcoa. Since a significant portion of the identified savings would come from by-passing the traders, Alcoa needed to keep the search confidential so they chose to partner with a retained search firm.
We were able to win the assignment because of our search process. Instead of talking about our database or network, we explained how we partner to identify and then create the detailed search profile used to identify candidates. Then we explained how we utilize proven assessment tools to determine fit. Moreover, we explained that our leaders owned the entire search process and were the only people that would interview and create the assessment on each candidate.
Despite the extremely small candidate pool for people with this experience, we were able to identify and present several candidates, including one that was based in Switzerland. Alcoa was so impressed with the candidates that they decided to hire a position for the Americas as well as the individual based in Switzerland to handle EMEA. When asked to describe his impressions of partnering with our firm, Imhoff said “Kinsley Sarn distinguished itself as a valued partner by successfully concluding multiple searches for critically important roles in a very short period of time. We could not have been more pleased.”