6 Tips for Picking a Search Partner

May 28, 2013

Global Executive Search Firm,TRANSEARCH, recently conducted a survey of HR leaders from a range of different companies to garner more information on the rapidly changing Executive Search industry. With technology access chipping away at many of the constraints that previously gave search consultants a leg up, the industry is rapidly evolving and consultants have no choice but to evolve with it.

Surveyors wanted to know how HR leaders are finding use of third–party executive search in a progressively over-stimulated world. One of the questions posed to participants was “How do you separate the difference-makers from the value-fakers?”

Participants were candid in their answers and supplied a range of insightful tips to help you navigate your executive search partner.

A Differentiator must actually be different 

HR leaders want to hear why an executive search consultant is different (and better) than other search consultants available.  Search consultants need to be prepared to stay away from the typical responses when answering questions about differentiators and how they impact the talent cycle and overall business.

Get to know everyone who will impact your search

Although it’s common to develop a rapport with the lead consultant, it’s not as common for HR to work down the food chain and access those often doing most of the heavy lifting. Companies need to understand who is actually doing the work to ensure less experienced recruiters aren’t missing things.

Dissect how they profile compensation & relocation 

Sometimes referred to as a “recruiting tiger-trap”, the excitement that comes with finding the perfect candidate to only later discover the compensation package or relocation doesn’t suit is a pet peeve for many HR leaders. Avoid this by asking search consultants for current examples of what they report and ensure they’re including short-term/long-term incentives as well as lifestyle preferences.

Check (and double-check) off-limits restrictions

Some consultants have been guilty of withholding or providing insubstantial descriptions so checking Off-Limits is important for HR. When it comes to target companies, large global firms are often restricted and boutique firms may not offer the credibility needed at your level. The solution? Clarify your options prior to search by creating a “Wish List” and having your search consultant build upon it by specifying at least a dozen attractive target companies.

Ask for a case study of “outside the industry” hires

This raises the question of the executive-level significance of a candidate whose expertise is in industry versus knowing how to lead. Most executive search consultants lean towards the former but HR managers can pick out industry keywords on a resume so they want to know more about a candidate’s soft skills. Case studies provide specifics and examples that can give some insight on their strategy and perspective.

Check references- the good, the bad, and the ugly

As when interviewing a candidate, the story provided by search consultants is the best possible scenario. It’s in your best interest to delve in further by asking them about their toughest search and requesting client contacts as references. You can even switch it up and request references from recent placements or candidates instead.

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