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Tips For Business Leaders Partnering With Retained Executive Search Firms

According to Peter Felix, former president of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants, and recent statistics, the global executive search market continues toward a hopeful future.

As we explore the direct connection between business leaders and retained executive search consultants, we should know that retained search firms often prove a high-quality investment for employers.

Comparing Contingency And Retained Executive Search Firms

There are differences between a contingency recruiter and a retained recruiter. A contingency recruiter works to supply a greater number of candidates to a hiring company in order to enhance placement odds. While contingency search offers an appropriate option for immediate, shorter term and candidate-focused circumstances, retained executive search firms offer hiring companies a distinct set of necessities:

• Higher-end screening for clients who want only final candidates for selection

• Delicate negotiations required to persuade the candidate to shift to a new position

• C-level placement and commensurate compensation and benefits consideration

• The highest levels of confidentiality

• Extended third-party negotiations

Forbes - Partnering with Exec Search Firms_Shutterstock via Forbes_RESIZE_SMALL

Photo courtesy of Forbes Coaches Council via Shutterstock

C-Level Searches

When it comes to your C-level staff composition, there are two guiding principles to consider when partnering with a retained executive search firm:

• Patience. You’ve entered this agreement to make the right choice, not the fast one. The individual you choose should be with your company for years to come, so avoid rushing the process. Approach this venture as less of a transaction and more of a partnership. Executive search firms have vast connections and networks, often spanning global markets. Be open to sitting down for some qualitative discussions to help your firm find the best possible selection for your needs.

• Foresight. Take the time to develop the qualities you’re looking for to best suit not only the role and position but those that genuinely match the vision and character of your company. Determining whether a candidate will be a solid match three years down the road is quite different from the first impression of a handshake.

Accordingly, there are also specialized guidelines that can help hiring managers improve communication and reach a successful outcome with their chosen retained executive search consultant:

1. Create the right job description. This is the first and most important step in the process. Getting it “right” the first time increases efficiency, decreases misunderstandings and improves not just the search but the quality of the candidates and the sequencing and timing of events. This all contributes to a faster, more targeted search.

2. Inform your consultant immediately when a position becomes available. Quality candidates are in high demand, so when an important role becomes available in your organization, be sure to immediately notify your executive search consultant. The sooner you express your hiring needs, the sooner they can set out to find the right talent for your position.

3. Respond to correspondence from your consultant in a timely manner. Any messages you receive from your search consultant are likely important. Taking too long to respond could mean the difference between filling your available position with promising new talent or not at all. Ignoring important messages is not only wasting your consultant’s time but that of an eager candidate. So be sure to check your inbox on a regular basis.

4. Be ready to interview. Whether you are personally performing the interview or delegating to a team, make sure that the process is organized and ready to go. For instance, the individual(s) responsible for interviewing should be familiar with the candidate’s facts based on their resume and information provided by the search firm. The interviewer(s) should also be ready to deliberate with the rest of team following the completion of the interview.

5. Provide your consultant with the appropriate feedback. Once the interview has transpired and your team has discussed the pros and cons of the candidate as a potential employee, be sure to immediately communicate your findings to your retained executive search consultant. This will ensure that you do not miss the opportunity to hire a quality candidate. If your feedback is less than positive, it will precipitate the next step in finding a new prospective employee, while also allowing the former candidate to move on with his or her own job search.

6. Keep questions employment-focused. Remember that questions and topics of discussion during a job interview must remain centered around how the candidate’s skills and expertise relate to the position itself. To prevent legal quandaries, be sure to avoid any personal inquiries, especially those relating to religious, political, or ethnic backgrounds and/or inclinations.

7. Present the company in the best possible light. In the end, it is the employer who has the most influence over the candidate’s decision. While the search consultant can highlight the best parts of the position and the company, it is the hiring team who must do their part to “sell” the company as a positive and inviting work environment. Explain to the candidate, in positive terms, why they should want to work for you.

8. If they ask, help your consultant close the candidate. Since highly qualified candidates are in high demand, there may be some competition with which to contend. In many cases, the retained executive search consultant will be able to pre-close your chosen candidate. However, if the path toward an offer becomes more difficult than expected, please do your part to assist your consultant. If you’re requested to appear at a meeting, be sure to accept and work as a team with your search consultant to ensure the best results.

9. Let your consultant handle the offer process. Retained executive search consultants are trained on how to extend job offers to candidates. Allow them to exercise their know-how in the right way. While the figures may have already been settled upon, interjecting under the wrong circumstances can be disastrous, and even cost you the perfect candidate.

As a hiring manager, understanding the basic principles of retained executive search firms and following these simple guidelines will not only increase your chances of locating the best fit for your open position but also speed up the process at which it happens.

Fred Coon, CEO

Fred Coon is Chief Executive Officer of Stewart, Cooper & Coon, and the author of several best-selling career books. He is also an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, where this article was originally published


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