What’s important when selecting an executive search firm?

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We’ve had a really positive response to last month’s executive recruitment survey. 

We decided to keep the link live for another month to allow more people to take a few minutes and complete it.

After all, the bigger the sample, the better the data.

If you’ve not completed it, you’ll find it here.

However, I wanted to take a closer look at one of the questions in more detail. 

We asked what’s most important when selecting an executive recruitment/search firm? 

You were then able to then choose from the following options, selecting all you felt were important:

  • Rates/Terms
  • Previous Experience with Firm/Consultant
  • Business Terms
  • Sector Experience
  • References
  • Candidate Database Access
  • Current Roles
  • Candidate Experience
  • Consultant Personality/Credibility
  • Agency Approach/Process
  • Branding/Market Position of Agency
  • Social Media/Online Presence

Now the reason I was particularly drawn to this question is that I thought or was that hoped I knew what the popular choices would be. 

After all, they form much of the Barron Williams approach to senior executive recruitment. But I suppose you should never assume…

Fortunately, our survey backs up my understanding of what is important to both clients and candidates. 

Clearly coming out on top as the popular choices is Previous Experience, Agency Approach/Process, Consultant Personality/Credibility and Candidate Experience… 

An executive search firm must work for you

One of the most important questions a potential new client, and candidate for that matter, needs to ask when looking to partner with a new executive search firm is, will they be a good ambassador for you/your organisation?

For us, will Barron Williams be a good fit with you, your company, your people and your ‘brand’?

For that you need to know that our principals, professionalism and approach align with your own. 

If you don’t know us, read our Testimonials, Case Studies or Contact Us and we can put you in touch with current clients to discuss their experience of working with us. 

The majority of our clients have worked with us for a number of years on multiple briefs. 

Many of our candidates have become clients.

They tell us they appreciate our diligent, professional approach, our ability to find the right talent at the right time, our extensive network of senior execs and ability to leverage it.

End of the day, we stand or fall by what they say! 

I suppose the fact that most of our clients are repeat customers is the most telling point.

When it comes to selecting a new exec search firm the stakes are high

Senior teams need a blend of the best people. But the best people are not always ‘looking for a new role’. They need to be found and courted.

This is why utilising a senior executive search firms who has access to those not on the market is key.

In their The Search For Executive Talent report, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) identified that: 

“The most significant reason for a lack of success in the talent search is that the executives in charge of searches tend to follow ad-hoc procedures – often relying on instinct rather than taking advantage of a wealth of information available to navigate the process”.

Your process needs to be tailored to the needs of the specific role.

The benefits of partnering with the right executive search firm:

  • Extensive networks: Easily accessed and developed for specific roles.
  • Quality of candidates generated: Find the best not just the most visible.
  • In-depth market knowledge: The market for talent. Know how to approach  people.
  • Tailor search brief to the role: Each is individual. Take your time to understand the brief.
  • Advertise roles in the right places: Unless you need confidentiality, let people find the role.
  • Agility: Build the ‘spiders web’ of contacts, prospects and candidates.
  • Quality of communication: Contact people professionally, they’ll respond, professionally.
  • Reduced time to hire: Done well, you can move at pace too.
  • Brand partnership: Regardless of when the clients brand is introduced into the process, it should be protected by your professionalism as a search firm.

Previous Experience with Firm/Consultant

We fully understand why this is coming out on top in our survey. 

It is at the core of our business. We worry if we are not complimented on our approach!

The success of Barron Williams is built on positive client/candidate experiences.

By it’s very nature, executive search is relationship-driven. 

Your selected search partner should work closely with you as a client to fully understand your requirements, in order to best advise on the most effective strategy for delivering the right talent.

Function like a partner, a strategic advisor, an extension of your HR function. 

This is only achieved through a relationship that is built, fostered and invested in over time.

The better search firms will strive to gain a deeper understanding of your business, your culture, the gaps you are looking to fill.

The right partner will deliver recruitment solutions not just CV’s, and good relationship management is the glue that holds everything together.

Agency Approach/Process

The complex nature of senior executive appointments, combined with the difficulty of defining and assessing good leadership means that our approach and process is critical to success. 

We must help you first define the role brief to ensure we make the right hire.

Of course there is no substitute for understanding your own company as a prerequisite for the hiring of successful exec talent. 

The CIPD stated in their 2017 Resourcing and Talent Planing Survey that:

“The main factor that influences organisations choice of recruitment partners is understanding their business”. 

This is followed by cost, specialist knowledge and access to highly skilled candidates among their sample base.

An agile and progressive search firm will devote the necessary time needed to understand your organisation and the wider industry landscape.

Are processes designed to find that right fit? To find the right individual?

Will they carefully define your requirements and establish the best approach and assessment tools to help see “the wood from the trees”?

Will they do the extensive ground work needed to best analyse the marketplace and benchmark for skills and salaries, etc?

Do they have the knowledge of, and access to, directors, C-suite and senior execs in relevant sectors and functions to offer an extensive network of talent?

Will they research into the type of candidate you might want for an executive role?

It sounds simple but it is incredibly complex. 

Success is determined by fully understanding your organisation, your environment, the role and the profile of people who would be successful in it.

You also need someone who will challenge, who is able to take a more objective look at what is required, and who’s not afraid to ask the difficult questions.

Consultant Personality/Credibility

The formula for a good recruitment firm is simple, good candidates + good clients + good practice + good process = win/win.

However, getting it right every time requires hard work.

We fully understand why the personality/credibility of a consultant is a key factor in selecting an executive search firm.

There is often a negative perception of recruitment consultants/agencies.

Clients are placing a vast amount of trust (not to mention cost) in their provider to deliver. 

ROI is critical, failure is costly. 

You need to place the right people in the role to ensure you achieve your objectives. 

The true measure of success is longevity. 

But how we get there is also important…

For candidates, looking for a new role can be a daunting and demanding proposition. It also requires a significant investment of time and effort. 

You want to work with somebody who’ll support and encourage, somebody you look forward to speaking to. A critical friend, perhaps?

There’s a myriad of different traits that make up a good consultant, and like any good recipe, you need the right balance.

Flexible, disciplined, confident, organised, persistent, astute, sociable and creative could all be used to describe what I feel is important, however, it goes a little deeper than that.

Personality plays a big part. The ‘stuff’ you simply can’t teach. 

There is much we can still learn to be better consultants:

  • Understand.
  • Listen.
  • Understand the brief: Fully!
  • Build trust: Earn it.
  • Know the market: Ours and yours.
  • Leave our egos at the door: It is not about us.
  • Always look to add value: Do something the client can’t do for themselves.
  • Always looking to grow and develop: You’re never too old.
  • Regular, open and honest comms: Keep the client informed, good and bad.
  • Be open to change, adaptable, think on our feet: Things change.
  • Don’t be afraid of the hard work: If you want the best results.

Recruitment is often perceived as very ‘sales’, and whilst there is an element of truth in that, it’s much more than that of course. 

We are a brand ambassador for our hiring organisation, and that in turn reflects on our own brand, which means we only work with organisations that share similar values.

Client and candidate experience is critical too, and credibility is built on both success, placing the right candidates in the right roles, but crucially, it’s how we go about doing that.

Ensuring it is a smooth and positive experience for all is vital even when you’re dealing with a lot of people. No one gets left behind.

As we said in our recent When is a candidate a client? article, we treat both clients and candidates with the professional courtesy that should be a given in our industry.

We endeavour to build relationships with our network of senior executive talent so that they become a brand advocate, and ultimately, hopefully, a future client.

Does your current partner strive to meet similar standards? If not…

If you’re looking for a senior executive for your organisation, please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

If you’re looking for your next role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation. 

Barron Williams

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