The can’t-miss steps to running a successful executive search

October 30, 2017

In our last piece, we explored the pitfalls in the executive search process, as well as the impact on clients and candidates when searches aren’t managed with client interests in mind. So, at this point, you may be asking yourself: now that I know all of this, how can I run a top-notch process? I offer a few thoughts below.

  • It’s all about managing expectations: Search partners must come to agreement with their client on the key considerations of their search. This includes everything from timing, title, location (or relocation) and compensation for the the specifics of the role, namely: management scope, reporting relationships, P&L responsibility and a host of other key attributes. And that’s not to mention the candidate's near-term priorities, the leadership competencies sought and the more intangible qualities desired. Once you’ve agreed on all of this with your search firm, as a client you should feel assured that candidates are clear on their requirements and that there are no surprises. As basic as this may seem, I can tell you that many of these elements are missed by search partners.
  • Agree on a “search strategy” and be sure to revisit it if the going gets tough: Once you’ve set out the industries, companies and entities where you collectively believe top talent resides, stick to it – it guides your approach to the market. But if it’s not working, search firms have an obligation to be upfront with you as their client to discuss a new strategy, especially if they’ve picked up key insights along the way (recent company layoffs, acquisition announcements, changes in industry, etc).
  • Stop sending your client reams of paper: Search consultants are fond of the sound of their own voice. And when you give them a written forum, look out – you, as a client, will be reading tomes reminiscent of Encyclopedia Britannica. Instead, clients should demand that their search consultants provide meaningful updates on candidate progress, insightful findings from their outreach and proof that the search partner has searched far, wide and intelligently for top candidates. Written reports are important and are essential to the evaluation of a candidate against the leadership competencies sought – as well as the executive’s potential – but the faster search firms realize that they should be spending their time on identifying and attracting candidates, the faster they’ll be able to close candidates for you.
  • Reference candidates early: In particular for candidates in transition, search firms owe it to their clients to reference candidates early and comprehensively. And for candidates who are employed, your advisor should do a better job of understanding why such candidates made moves in their careers and suss out what it is that drives them, especially if there are unexplained gaps in CVs.