(Originally published in Entrepreneur Magazine)
Search partners are not just “recruiters” or “head hunters” but are credible ambassadors for their clients. The role of a search consultant has evolved beyond just finding the “right candidate”, “the right cultural fit” for a leadership role. It has taken on the avatar of “champion” or “chief advocate” personally communicating the client’s vision, values, growth potential and culture to a targeted community of senior industry/functional leaders on behalf of the client, thereby subtly, but most definitely, building/enhancing an organization’s employer-ability brand and its ability to attract the best leadership talent to its fore.
There has always been a very strong case advocating the use of a search partner whilst hiring leadership talent. With geographical boundaries becoming more fluid, technology shrinking our world and the war for talent becoming de rigueur, the case for working with the right talent advisor only becomes stronger.
Consider these four prime reasons to consider executive search as the only go-to option for leadership hiring:
Search brings passive candidates to the table
This reason is old hat. But it continues to be the most valid reason to consider executive search as the only way to hire leadership. Search as a process is designed to communicate the organization’s value proposition, USP, culture and so much more to a wide variety of candidates (often from different industries, geographies etc). The process allows for the best candidates, including passive candidates, from a given targeted set to come to the fore and consider the mandate. This is something that recruitment/advertisements or other traditional methods just cannot deliver.
Search Consultants are specialists
Search consultants bring a rich, wide variety of industry information and experience to the table. They have deep networks and strong relationships across their areas of expertise which allows them access to information, industry insights and the wisdom of senior leaders. The right search partner is probably as resourceful and well informed as an investigative journalist, and as well networked as your lawyer. The challenge for organizations lies in choosing a search partner who brings experience coupled with energy and resourcefulness along with the right amount of wisdom.
Internal Hiring CoEs vs The External Search Partner
Rationalizing costs where one can is a prudent policy. However, when organizations set up internal hiring CoEs, they must carefully consider leadership mandates that the COE will fulfill. Leadership talent in Asia and often across the world, feel that their long-term career goals and aspirations are better represented via a third party (search consultant) and hesitate to engage (often refuse to engage) directly with an organization. Thus, a strong case to engage with a search firm for critical mandates. Bringing in an objective third party to balance the interests of the candidate and the client leads to excellent hiring decisions.
Why the search process often trumps the “referral”
With extremely sophisticated evaluation methodologies available with leading search firms and their deep understanding of industry segments they work in, a search firm’s ability to objectively assess and match the best candidate to a mandate is a smarter way for companies to hire. This is especially true of independent/boutique search firms looking to build strong, long-term relationships with their clients. They understand the value of hiring for the client’s long-term success. Unfortunately, a referral from within, is usually monetized by the company, thereby, biasing the decision-making process. Referrals gathered on the fly from friends and well-wishers often don’t even make the initial cut, thereby wasting precious company time.
Search is an expensive and engaging process, where boards and company leadership need to commit both time and money. However, data over the past 30 years shows that the benefits of using executive search to hire leadership far outweigh the costs. It’s an objective, risk free, intense process run by specialists who have the client’s interest at the very core of the engagement. Search Firms are your brand ambassadors, corporate communication specialists, talent management experts, industry consultants all rolled into one.
When hiring something as critical as company leadership should you prefer recruitment over search? The closest parallel one can draw is when considering a critical procedure like open heart surgery, would you get your GP to perform the operation or would you go to a specialist? The answer is obvious!