Consider This When Choosing Your Next Executive Search Firm  

Finding the right executive search firm calls for careful consideration. To determine what firm is best, businesses must ask what value or innovation your would-be partner bring, said Juan Gaitan of Talento Human Capital Management. Here are some key factors to consider in making your all-important choice.

May 12, 2021 – Despite continued record unemployment, candidate pools are larger than ever. This has led organizations to turn more often to executive search firms to find coveted talent. Finding the right executive search firm is an investment of time and resources, which means that it requires careful consideration. What can talent leaders do to ensure they are finding the right recruiting partner?

Don’t buy the sales pitch, said Juan Gaitan, founder and chief experience officer at Talento Human Capital Management, providers of talent and organizational solutions. “The traditional marketplace has focused on specialization in an industry, function or market where deep networks to candidates was a major decision-making factor. Finding people is no longer a value proposition. Matching them is.” Prescribing to a traditional approach has yielded results for organizations that in many cases were less than favorable, he said. “Just like your hire needs to be a fit, so does your search partner. What value or innovation is your partner bringing to the table? You need to answer that.”

Mr. Gaitan said the best thing to do is to screen the talent that’s finding your talent. “With this generation of talent, the quality of the team executing your search has, in your industry, your market, or your function should be less important than their ability to show you or provide references of how they have really driven capabilities that enabled customers to perform at new levels,” he said. “The search firm needs to have smart business people who can really absorb the context of a business and translate that into the right execution. Value competence over specialization. The right partner will guide you to the right decision.”

Mr. Gaitan pointed out that there are two types of HR leaders – some think about specialization, “whereas others think, ‘I need the best recruiters to make this happen.’” Take specialization into account but don’t let that be your guiding decision point, he said. “Smarter, more competent people and a more proven track record perform over long traditional history. Look at it objectively; you need a squad that can go to battle, and a lot of these search firms are coasting; they make the customer do the work, vs. guiding them into the right decisions based on what they know they are trying to accomplish.”

Mr. Gaitan is an expert at optimizing organizational performance through human capital. He has built talent and organizational solutions with a track record in program and change management. He has a diverse knowledge of industries, regions and functions with perspective on all stages of the business life cycle.

Mr. Gaitan recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss what companies need to consider when retaining an executive search firm. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

        Juan Gaitan

Juan, tell us about the importance of selecting a search firm with a commitment to diversity and inclusion.  

It’s extremely important, and depending on your organization’s current diversity maturity, this is mission critical if you are lagging way behind and the business is feeling side effects. A search firm with business acumen and solid human capital management capability is well equipped to understand where the organization currently is on the diversity maturity scale, where they are trying to go and how to practically move through the steps with candidates that bring the right blend of skills, talent, experience and culture fit.

How important is it to gauge how long positions take to be filled by the search firm?  

It’s a good data point in your decision-making process. It varies on the complexity and specificity of any search. Elements such as revenue scale, number of employees, geographical footprint, marketplace you transact business in and generate revenue are one set of factors. The second set is the type of skills, experience, leadership and general team fit – these are all also key. Generally, three to six months is the target when the search is focused and very well defined. It isn’t uncommon for less precise searches to take nine, 10, or even 12 months. It really all depends on the complexity of the role, the industry, the function, etc.

“Sometimes you may find a person who has such talent and fit that a leader is compelled to shape a custom role. Some of the best organizations go to market with a concept and then make final decisions based on talent at hand.”

What are some of the issues that arise with those assignments?

In some cases, the customer will feel as if a timeline is extended due to those complexities of the search when in reality its process-level factors such as lengthy or delayed interview processes with many interviewers or multiple profile types that can fit a particular role. These factors steer lack of precision sourcing and outreach. In other cases, the customer is ingesting what the marketplace has through the process and redefining requirements with that information at hand. Interviewing, learning other organizations structures, initiatives, wins, failures, etc. can be very helpful for a team that has time to make it through the exercise. Lastly, sometimes you may find a person who has such talent and fit that a leader is compelled to shape a custom role. Some of the best organizations go to market with a concept and then make final decisions based on talent at hand.

How has the global pandemic impacted how you conduct searches?  

At the end of the day, the process, the baseline approach, the type of team that we need has not materially changed. What’s really changed is the marketplace for the candidates due to the shift in where someone can be employed. This new era of remote work and access to such a wide array of industries, markets and functions outside of where you live has created scarcity in so many types of roles. The candidate market is roaring with so many options at their disposal. From the companies’ perspective, this marketplace shift can be a huge benefit. Depending on your common overall needs or a more tailored approach depending on department or business unit, it can really shape the supply chain you have access too. If you are in an office and require relocation, naturally your supply is much more limited. For those who see a remote work model as a more than temporary approach for talent in the future, the supply is more plentiful. Ultimately each business has its own needs and corresponding policies that make sense for their organizations. Depending on your organization’s work location policies and approach, how you develop adequate recruitment messaging to communicate an employer’s brand is critical. This drives interest and flow necessary to compel and engage in a marketplace where so many jobs are abundant. The right firm will work closely with the customer to share facts and trends to provide meaningful inputs to ground the right work location approach.

Related: 12 Reasons Why Companies Hire Executive Search Firms

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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