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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Best Practices in Retained Executive Search

17 Jan 2010 9:31 PM | Anonymous

By Wayne Mitchell

  • Clearly Communicate Client Organization’s Role and Responsibility. The most successful search projects require the client organization and the executive search firm to work closely together at all stages. As a result, the search consultant must establish certain expectations with the client at the outset of every search project. The client must:  Advise of those areas relevant to the search that must be kept confidential. Provide timely feedback regarding information contained in position specification. Respond quickly concerning assessment and interest level in candidates presented. Schedule candidate interviews promptly and report evaluations as soon as possible. Supply names of candidates identified from other sources or from within client organization who should be considered, thus allowing search consultant to evaluate them as part of the search. Provide information to candidates about the organization that will enable them to make an intelligent career decision.

  • Develop a Deep Understanding of Each Client Organization. Individual and group meetings with the hiring authority and other key client executives mark a crucial first step as the search consultant seeks agreement on the nature and challenges facing each unique recruitment assignment. These initial discussions focus on understanding the client organization’s structure and needs, the strengths of the staff members involved, and any other factors, both tangible and intangible, that will define the personal and professional requirements of the open position. These discussions also serve to strengthen the rapport between client and consultant, a key element required to deal with issues that may arise during a search project. The more knowledgeable the consultant is about the client and the current situation, the more persuasive the search professional can be in representing the organization in the marketplace.

  • Create Best-in-Class Position Profiles and Qualification Statements. Work closely with each client to define the position and qualifications of the executive best suited to meet each organization’s requirements. Use information gathered in initial executive meetings and in the client’s own job description as a starting point to draft a comprehensive position profile. The successful conduct of any search requires, as a blueprint, a carefully thought-out, mutually agreed-upon written description of the position, its objectives, and performance expectations. This document should also include specifications detailing the likely experience and personal qualities of the ideal candidate. The profile is then used to guide the search professional’s work and to provide pertinent information to prospective candidates.

  • Accurately Identify Target Organizations.  Work closely with the client to formulate a list of selected organizations where all agree that the search effort should be directed as these organizations employ many of the top candidates. This list should include relevant organizations that have sufficient size, records of accomplishment, industry leadership characteristics, and other qualities relevant to the search project.

  • Capture the Best Prospective Candidates. Every effective search involves an intensive screening and networking effort that often begins by contacting individuals identified through previous searches. Employing various research tools, the search professional discreetly identifies and qualifies those individuals in targeted organizations who hold positions that provide appropriate preparation for the target position in the client organization. At the same time, as other leads develop from qualified sources, the search consultant will extend the search into other target areas that may prove productive. To ensure that sourcing efforts are on track, the best search professionals will present one or two candidates as early in the process as possible. By so doing, the consultant gains the benefit of early client feedback regarding the prospective candidates’ experience base and can make adjustments to the search approach as necessary.

  • Conduct a Comprehensive Candidate Screening and Evaluation Process. After outstanding prospective candidates have been identified and qualified, the consultant personally evaluates and screens each one through in-depth interviews using the position profile as the primary guide. Preliminary reference checks, where possible, will also be conducted to validate the past performance and qualities of the candidate. Credentials and degrees are verified and an assessment completed of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to the specific search assignment.

  • Present Only the Most Outstanding Candidates to Your Clients. Partner with the client organization to narrow the panel of candidates further and only introduce those who are best qualified. As a preface to each introduction, a written candidate profile highlighting relevant experience and an assessment of the candidate’s fit with the position requirements should be presented to the client organization to further each person’s candidacy.

  • Carefully Prepare Candidates and Manage the Client Interview Process. Throughout the cycle of candidate interviews and meetings, the consultant should be actively involved in coordinating, scheduling, and communicating between all parties. Closely managing this part of the process maintains search momentum and assures the most timely and successful completion of the search engagement. The consultant should thoroughly brief each candidate on the mission, goals, and objectives of the client organization; backgrounds of those people whom he/she will meet; and the purpose and context for the target position. This briefing helps the candidate understand the environment and culture of the organization and promotes a more informed dialog during the client interview process.

  • Conduct “Deep” Reference Checks and Verifications. Conduct comprehensive reference checks on the finalist candidate(s). These checks should be tailored to address areas of particular interest as identified with the client during the interview process. The consultant must speak directly with individuals who are, or have been, in positions to personally evaluate the candidate’s performance on the job. To protect individual references, the consultant then prepares a report that consolidates all comments but does not attribute them to any individual reference. The report should then be carefully reviewed with the client organization.

  • Guide Negotiations of Final Offer and Terms. Work actively with each client and each final candidate to negotiate a compensation package and other terms that make sense to all parties. Identify and eliminate any issues or concerns well in advance of the actual negotiations in an effort to minimize any surprises at this point in the selection process and continue building the new client/candidate relationship. See negotiations through to final completion.

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