Eight ways that your executive search can go off the rails

October 23, 2017

It is an amazing thing – and a privileged position – to be an advisor on a search. You’re helping to build a company’s team and shape its future. But along the way, both clients and advisors are invariably going to face a huge number of obstacles during a search.

The list of landmines is long and distinguished, but here are eight that we heard go off in a single year:

  1. An eager candidate excited about his new role – but who wasn’t properly managed by the search firm – booked her own flights for unconfirmed client meetings. She then showed up at the client company’s office without warning…causing untold embarrassment for everyone involved.
  2. After a lengthy and badly managed search process – and underwhelming offer – a candidate used his new offer (still a slight improvement to her current compensation) as leverage to land a more senior position at his current company. The candidate withdrew from the search firm’s process and the client had to re-launch the search.
  3. Search partners failed to persuade a client on a candidate’s concerns over compensation, flexible work arrangements and special family considerations…only to see their top candidate reject their offer, disengage from the process altogether and force the search to re-launch.
  4. Global search firms failed to manage client expectations around time-frames, despite the burning platform of the client company. The search partner under-delivered for his client, whose sense of urgency was not heeded. And then fired their search firm.
  5. Clients operated a “shadow search committee” whereby the actual decision-makers on a key executive hire called the shots in the background. This caused confusion and contradictions, slowing down the search process and leading to disillusioned candidates who felt they weren’t getting straight answers from either the company or search firm.
  6. Search partners agreed to take on mandates outside of their areas of expertise or geography, only to disappoint clients and candidates alike for their lack of market insight or efficiency, dragging processes on for more than a year.
  7. Search partners failed to recognize the warning signs of client disillusionment with the array of candidates provided, only to discover the hiring manager opted for an internal candidate. Fallout from this landmine included wasted resources and harm to the client company’s reputation.
  8. Search partners failed to appreciate the location of roles, relying on the incorrect assumption that the role in question would be located in a company’s HQ, only to find out that it was elsewhere. Upon discovery of this important fact, several candidates walked away, and clients were incredulous as to the mismanagement by the search firm.

And this is just a sample of what can go wrong during a search. In all cases, these sorts of events lead to re-launches of searches, setting clients back months and months. And all due to poor management of expectations, timing and resources – all of which could have been avoided by retaining an experienced and truly client-focused search partner in the first place.