5 Ways to Set Up a C-Suite Search for Success

Finding the best senior talent requires proper preparation and a mindful search process, says a new report from Herbert Mines Associates. Among the key steps is a true partnership with one’s search partner. Let’s go inside the latest report.

September 23, 2019 – The obvious measure of a successful search is hiring an exceptional candidate who makes a meaningful contribution to a company’s performance, culture and its future.

“Having been involved in hundreds of C-level searches,” said Adelle Kirk in a new report from Herbert Mines Associates, “I have learned that how a company and its external search partners prepare and conduct a search is critical to landing that exceptional executive.”

Ms. Kirk works across the C-suite to find talent for publicly-traded, omni-channel retailers, consumer-driven brands in all stages of growth, and founder-led or private equity backed businesses undergoing transformation. She joined Herbert Mines this April after spending more than 10 years with Kirk Palmer Associates.

With more than 25 years of experience in the retail and consumer goods, Ms. Kirk offered five “best practices” common in successful searches:

1. Hiring for the Future

“A company’s organizational structure and talent objectives should reflect its long-range strategy,” Ms. Kirk said. “Companies need to look ahead when hiring, anticipate where the business is going and hire for the future. Both the company and search partner should be able to articulate what they are solving for and what the value-add will be in bringing in this new executive.”


Adelle Kirk has 25 years in retail and consumer goods. She has led C-level searches for both public and private companies including Sally Beauty Holdings, PetSmart, Batteries Plus Bulbs, Levi Strauss, Burlington Stores, The Container Store, Lilly Pulitzer, Johnny Was and many others. Her expertise extends across product categories/sectors including hardlines, fashion, home, fitness/athleisure, and consumables. 


Ms. Kirks said to ask these questions: Is the company looking for a specific skill-set or experience to complement the current management team? Is the company undergoing a transformation requiring new senior leadership competencies? “Defining future needs and identifying the desired outcomes from this role will help bring focus and clarity to the search,” she said.

2. Aligning on the Target Candidate Profile

“As part of a successful search, a company’s stakeholders and executive management team must be aligned around the competencies, background and attributes they are looking for in this new leader,” Ms. Kirk said. “It is critical to prioritize what competencies and qualities are ‘must-haves’ vs. ‘nice-to-haves’ (those with more flexibility). The most successful searches build and use a scorecard based on the aligned priorities that formalizes the evaluation of each candidate, mitigating purely objective candidate assessments.”

3. Investing in “the Process”

“Integral to any effective search is establishing up-front the key activities, milestones and expected time investment from both a company and its search partner,” Ms. Kirk said. “While the search firm should lead and drive the overall process, a successful search requires a committed partner.”

“The search should have a tight timeline with firm dates blocked out for candidate interviews,” she said. “A regular cadence of communication between the partners is also key for efficient and timely search management, feedback for and from candidates, and next steps.”

4. Building a True Partnership with Your Search Firm

“As an extension of your brand, a search partner must be a trusted part of your team,” said Ms. Kirk. “In order to get the most out of a search, a company needs to share everything about the state of its business, what the culture is like, opportunities as well as challenges.”


Here’s 3 Keys to Successful Executive Recruiting
Just about every business publication today, it seems, is talking about the impact of the growing talent shortage on both individual organizations and the overall economy. Research suggests that roughly 40 percent of employers are currently experiencing hiring difficulties. 


Recruiters are constantly speaking to potential candidates, setting expectations and advocating for your company. “They need to understand the big picture in order to be the best brand ambassadors when out in the marketplace,” said Ms. Kirk. “Both company and search partner should speak in one voice to candidates.”

5. Selling Every Candidate

A recruiter’s job is to identify and engage executives who most closely align with the priorities established for experience, competencies and attributes. “The reality is that most candidates are passive, meaning they aren’t actively looking for a new role and often quite happy where they are,” said Ms. Kirk. “A talented recruiter can give candidates enough reason to be ‘open to listen’ to your opportunity, but only the executives within a company can truly sell the candidate on why this role is compelling enough to make a change.”

“While every search is different and every client is unique, these five best practices will ensure a smooth and likely successful process,” Ms. Kirk said.

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