November 25, 2019 – The sourcing stage is the most important part of the executive search lifecycle. This is where you gather the initial pool of candidates, which you will whittle down to find superstars and rare gems for your client.
“Starting with a strong pool is critical to a positive result,” said J. Reed Flesher, founder and president of Philadelphia-based Thrive, which develops software for recruiters and talent executives. “It’s easy to see how the people, processes and tools that make up this stage have a great impact on the final outcome of a search. Yet most of the work is delegated to a junior member of the team who doesn’t fully grasp the industries they are sourcing candidates for.”
Sourcing staffs are often poorly equipped, with tools that are outdated and a database that is clunky to use. “The effect downstream of this operational inefficiency is significant,” Mr. Flesher said. “Your staff puts more time into everything than they need to, the data your firm accumulates over time is low quality, and ultimately you fail to build long-term value for your firm.”
Thrive identified seven inefficiencies that most executive search firms experience during the sourcing stage of a search. “With these in mind, a few tweaks in how your firm approaches sourcing could change this whole dynamic and set your firm ahead,” Mr. Flesher said. “Each of these inefficiencies contributes to wasted staff time, low-quality data in your system, and a failure to build long-term value for the firm.”
- Manual data entry
Sourcing staff and administrators have to manually enter candidate and company information into your database. “This is a cumbersome task on top of their other work,” said Mr. Flesher. “The value of adding the data is not immediately applicable to their job, so they either don’t do this part, or they don’t do it well. This results in missing or low-quality data in your database. As a consequence, your database fails to gain value as an asset for your firm.”
- Information silos
When your company database is difficult to use, people develop their own ways of saving information from searches. They use Google Docs and different apps or just collect it in emails. “This is inefficient for the person doing the research, because they don’t have a guiding process or structure to lean on,” said Mr. Flesher. “It’s also inefficient for the whole firm in the long run, because the other team members can’t build on their teammates’ previous research.”
Reed Flesher is the founder and president of Thrive, which provides powerful executive recruiting and talent relationship management (TRM) software solutions. The company works with search firms, in-house corporate recruitment teams, and venture capital/private equity firms to help them manage passive candidate networks and hire top talent.
- Repeated work
“Because your staff must start research from scratch every time, they end up repeating a lot of the same work,” Mr. Flesher said. “This means they take longer to get to the activities that can add greater value. If your staff always has to invest most of its time in ground-level research, it’s unlikely your firm will reach the point where you consistently find the rare gems that you want to be known for.”
- Slow ramp-up
It can take sourcing staff a long time to reach competency, because they lack access to past searches that could help them learn their industries. “Then, most people cycle out of the sourcing role just as they become competent, either moving into a new role at your firm or leaving,” said Mr. Flesher. “To make matters worse, you may lose people who otherwise could turn out to be recruiting superstars because of boring work like manual data entry and many low-level activities for every search.”
- Senior recruiters’ constant input
Mr. Flesher said that most firms lack a standardized process for training across the company, so your best recruiters must constantly train and guide new sourcing staff. “This means recruiters have to divert their attention from high-value activities, such as wooing candidates,” he said. “And the different processes and techniques that experienced recruiters introduce to junior staff contribute to fragmentation across your team. When your teams use different processes and tools, you’ll find it impossible to scale your firm’s operations effectively.”
- Time-consuming reporting
“Reports provide an important opportunity to impress your clients, but your reports either offer little value or take too long to put together,” Mr. Flesher said. “Your admins must gather details from various locations manually, and this can be tedious and frustrating. As a result, the reports your firm sends clients often contain superficial information, failing to impress.”
- Unused systems and tools
Most firms have an applicant tracking system and a customer relationship management system. But these tools are usually outdated and unwieldy to use. They don’t fit with how your staff goes about its sourcing activities. According to Shally Steckerl, founder of The Sourcing Institute, they are “really misused, not used at all or are overlapping.” The end result is that most firms end up with two tools to do one job — and the job remains poorly done.
How Can Executive Search Firms Avoid These Costs?
Some firms have figured it out, said Mr. Flesher. WilsonHCG, who has just been named a leading RPO, discovered how to solve searches faster. They recently finished a project for one of the largest law firms in the world, closing three executive searches in under 60 days. True Search (now True Platform), one of the fastest-growing search firms in the country, says it can assign its admins nearly double the number of searches that most firms can assign its admins.
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Your System Must Support How Your People Work
“Firms that manage to sidestep the typical inefficiencies do it by standardizing their sourcing process across their firm,” said Mr. Flesher. “For this to succeed, the work itself must take place in a firm-wide system rather than requiring additional steps to capture information. Your system must fit with how your people work instead of changing or adding to what they do.”
“This makes it easier — and more likely — that sourcing staff will enter complete, accurate data,” he said. “Then, the data captured in the system can fuel sourcing for subsequent searches, building value in your system with every search completed.”
As a result, the sourcing staff has more information available at the start of a search, so they can get past surface-level data faster, said Mr. Flesher. “Access to past searches helps them learn and reach competency faster, so they can begin adding value sooner,” he said. “The right system removes the need for time-consuming, boring activities, which can increase staff morale. And since the team can focus on the right candidates earlier, they can enrich and add data to the candidates’ profiles within the system. The more they get to know top candidates, the easier it is for them to capture high-value data in your database, and the more likely you will be to find hidden gems.”
“As you build your database of high-quality search data, you are building an asset that not only lowers costs but helps your people produce great results,” Mr. Flesher said.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media