March 15, 2021 – When it comes to data management, search firms are unique. Every business, in any sector, stores data on people such as customers, potential business contacts and on their own employees. Unlike most businesses, however, recruiters also store large number of candidate records. And unlike most of the recruitment sector, executive search firms’ data on candidates interchanges with their data on customers, because as we all know, executive candidates may be business contacts and vis-a-versa.
Twenty years ago, a search firm’s data was one of their most prized assets. A bigger database suggested that the firm was well connected and therefore the larger the firm and the larger the database, the more value the search firm brought to their clients. However, in recent years, this axiom is being called into question. “The Great Recession 13 years ago set the stage for the proliferation of LinkedIn, as search firms pulled back on manning expensive databases,” said Scott A. Scanlon, CEO and co-founder of Hunt Scanlon Media. “That abrogation allowed LinkedIn to step in and fill the void,” he said. “The real winners coming out of that powershift were small and mid-sized boutiques,” he noted. “The once-prized asset underpinning the largest recruitment providers had been swiftly democratized,” he added, and now contains nearly 700 million candidates in its professional network.
“LinkedIn changed the data landscape, but in my opinion it’s not in size of the database, but quality,” said Joseph Blass, founder and CEO of Ezekia. “To get quality, one needs tools like BoardEx – whose two million records are a lot more targeted than LinkedIn’s 700 million. A good database also needs maintaining, and with a bad CRM, even the best of databases will quickly deteriorate.”
Over the past decade seismic changes have occurred that should influence search firms’ attitude towards data. First, with the advent of readily available public data on the internet and specifically with those 700 million professionals on LinkedIn, finding people became supposedly easier. Secondly, privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA made holding data a potential legal liability.
A very pertinent question over the past few years has been the ownership of the data. “With the executive search world becoming more fragmented, it is easier for partnerships to break up or for consultants to leave their firms and set up shop on their own. If the ‘ownership’ of the data is not clear, a firm may be building up its database, only to find that a few years down the line, this information will be available to former partners who now might be viewed as a competitor,” said Mr. Blass.
Search firms face other questions in relation to data. For example, how to capture and store data relating to the diversity of candidates, or what is the best way to present data to their clients.
In an upcoming webinar on March 17, Kimberly Bishop of August Leadership, Felicity Hassan of Audeliss, Cameron Ireland of Boardex, and Joseph Blass of Ezekia will join a discussion surrounding data management in executive search and how search firms can take a new approach to the management of data.
“With the abundance of available data, search firms need to differentiate themselves not by the size of their database, but by the quality of it,” said Mr. Blass. “Finding the balance of which data to store and how to maintain it is not always obvious.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media