Designing Fast, Efficient Searches to Meet Demand for DEI Talent

Extremely high demand for diverse talent has never been greater, becoming acutely competitive in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Since May of 2020, we have observed a marked increase in diverse board appointments as well as mandates for searches that deliver not only a diverse candidate pool but also a diverse candidate placement outcome. Our clients are doubling down on this trend because they are motivated and driven to re-establish trust within the communities they serve by placing executive leadership that is representative of its demographics.

These trends have contributed to a particularly strong market for diverse leader candidates. In fact, many diverse leaders are weighing two to four offers at one time, even before we call them about one of our retained searches. With this increased demand, there is considerably more pressure on search firms to deliver the desired diverse talent and to do so in a more efficient and timely manner.

Scrutinize the Approach

Many organizations have a tendency to rely on job postings to acquire new talent, however this is not a great investment of time. In most instances, this mechanism neither delivers top candidates nor attracts diverse talent. When you rely on postings, you are only able to glean the best available candidates who respond to postings, not the best available candidates in the marketplace. In reality, the best candidates are passive and thus not actively looking. Moreover, they are discerning and disciplined about the types of roles they will consider to advance their careers.

Pre-pandemic, most of our searches were conducted in a 60-75 day window, with a candidate placed by 90 days, or 120 at the latest. While this still applies for CEO and Executive Director roles, searches below CEO have taken on a different form, requiring swiffer action. For CEO and ED searches, while we might have the luxury of navigating our clients through three interview rounds, below this level, we have reverted to two-round processes.

Increase the Pace

Currently, we are delivering clients a pool of four-to-six candidates from which they can approve for first round interviews. Market conditions being what they are however, there are many instances where we cannot afford to wait. Therefore, we’ve started conducting first interviews on a rolling basis, bringing in one to two candidates as soon as clients indicate and signify their interest. Knowing they are currently involved in additional searches, this ensures the candidates are duly and timely engaged. By accelerating the first round interview and client-to-candidate engagement processes, we position our clients for success and hiring decisions in a decidedly earlier, four-to-six week timeframe.

Historically, we conducted formal and informal referencing as well as social media and brand management screens for all candidates in the latter stages of a search. Recently, we have bumped the referencing and social media processes to occur between the first and second rounds. In so doing, we don’t have these offer-related contingencies holding up the process when our clients find a suitable candidate. Therefore, the only item pending at the time of an offer is a background check.

Stay Competitive

In a candidate’s market, clients must be keenly aware of the supply and demand dynamics. Currently, candidates can demand more money because they are offered more money by clients who are aggressive and proactive in seeking top talent. As an advisor to our clients, we must ensure at the outset of every search, that we give a clear picture of what it will take to obtain the candidate of their choice. If we sense gaps or unwillingness to observe and take heed of this trend, we may have to decline the opportunity to work with that client as it’s not likely a search that is set up for success. Quite simply, in this market, candidates don’t have to and absolutely will not accept the lowball offers, so clients on the lower end of the compensation scale will lose. Accordingly, they must do their very best to remain market competitive.

When you retain an executive search firm and have a desire for a diverse pool and outcome, it’s important to identify a firm that has diversity, equity and inclusion built into its brand, vision and engagement processes, as well as a track record for finding and placing top talent with a high retention/stick rate. These candidates stay three-to-seven years and go on to deliver transformative results for our clients. That is how we define success and deliver a true return on investment for those with whom we partner. By being willing to adjust your approach, increase your pace and remain competitive, your organization can attract and retain top DEI talent even in a candidate’s market.

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