Guiding the Search Process with a Timeline

October 28, 2022 – An executive search process timeline keeps your recruiting efforts on track and on schedule. It outlines the major milestones you need to hit when searching for someone to fill a senior leadership position. Crucially, it also outlines approximately how long each step should take.

“Following a timeline matters because the speed of the executive search process is important to get right,” said The Bowdoin Group’s Lauren Kendall, in a recent report. “Wait too long to hire someone, and your company could suffer because of an unfilled gap in the C-suite. Move too fast, however, and you may be overlooking strong candidates or rushing through due diligence. It’s important to be thorough yet efficient – which is where the executive search process timeline comes in.”

Top-tier executive search firms use timelines to guide the search process and to set clear expectations with clients. By keeping dates and milestones top of mind, this approach helps keep the search moving systematically through to success, said The Bowdoin Group. The result: locating the best executive available in the least time necessary.

Sample Executive Search Process Timeline

“Your timeline may vary depending on what role you’re looking to fill, but not by much,” said the report. “Resist the urge to expand the parameters or condense the requirements because either could turn the executive search process into a much longer and more taxing endeavor than it should be.”

The realities of the labor market also play an important role. “If there is more demand for talent and less supply, finding someone on the schedule prescribed by the timeline gets harder,” said The Bowdoin Group. “The best executive search firms have ways to overcome talent shortages. If there’s a missed deadline, it often means that there is misalignment between stakeholders within an organization. For example, the executive team cannot agree on the ideal candidate phenotype or there are more stakeholders than originally planned who want to have a say. A great executive search firm will keep the process on track and help you navigate through any unanticipated speed bumps.”

A Sample Timeline:

Day 1-10 – Define the Requirements

Start by defining what skills, experience, and traits the executive hire needs to have, said the report. Describe the ideal candidate, then outline the absolute minimum qualifications necessary. Enlist perspectives from multiple stakeholders at different levels of the company. “It’s not always obvious what the resume of the right candidate looks like, so don’t rush to judgments,” said The Bowdoin Group. “Executive search firms can help you profile what top talent looks like for the role you are hiring for.”

Day 11-30 – Map Out & Populate the Talent Pool

The next phase on the timeline is to map out the talent pool and begin screening candidates. Quality and quantity are both important at this phase. “The talent pool needs to be large enough to provide diverse options, which can be difficult when criteria for an executive is too rigid,” said The Bowdoin Group. “It’s during this phase that an executive search firm will tell you if your ideal candidate profile needs to be expanded upon. And, as always, a key target for any executive search is passive candidates (candidates who are not actively looking). Throughout this stage, analyze other metrics – like response rates – to evaluate whether the search strategy is on track or needs tweaking.”

6 Qualities That Make a Great Leader
Executive recruiters have all seen good leaders, some of whom even rise to the “great” level. What distinguishes an individual as a leader often is subjective; if you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different responses that reflect some combination of vision, character, and trust. One thing that’s certain, though: It’s not the title that makes the person. Being a leader is more than just a culmination of experience, opportunity, and time.

Day 31-45 – Single Out Top Candidates

By the midway point of the executive search process timeline, you will have three to five quality candidates to choose from. Choosing an executive from less than three candidates limits the ability to compare, contrast, and measure candidates against one another – which is essential for singling out the right one. As a reference point, 79 percent of candidates placed through Bowdoin’s executive search efforts are identified within the first 30 days of the search.

Day 46-65 – Conduct Interviews

Initial screening interviews between the candidate and the executive search firm typically happens in the previous phase, but interviews between the candidate and the company typically fall within the 45-65-day range. “Acting fast is important, not only because promptly scheduling interviews signals to candidates that you value their time, but also because competition for best-in-class executives is fierce,” said the report. “Interviewing within a relatively short window also helps to highlight differences between candidates as the previous interview is still fresh in your mind.”

Related: The Bowdoin Group Recruits CEO for Carevive Systems

Day 66-75 – Select a Final Candidate

By this point, you should have all the information you need to choose the best of the best. The insights of an executive recruiting firm can help you set aside bias and think objectively and comprehensively about who’s the best long-term fit and why. “Some helpful advice: Choose someone who can help your organization become the best version of itself five years from now vs. finding someone who fits perfectly in the ‘right now’ version of your organization,” said The Bowdoin Group.

Day 76-90 – Iron Out the Details

Having found someone who can bring energy and ideas into the executive ranks, it’s vital to get that person to accept the job offer. “By this point, the compensation package has already been discussed and vetted, so there should be no surprises, but often, there are unanticipated things that come up, like non-compete agreements, for example,” said the report

Founded in 1994, The Bowdoin Group specializes in leadership and strategic roles for a wide range of companies, from small firms building out their executive team to large firms sourcing talent for rapid market expansion as well as venture- and private equity-backed firms. With deep expertise in biopharma, digital health, fintech, and financial services, and software, the firm specializes in the Greater Boston area with the ability to source talent and service companies globally.

Related: Moving the DE&I Needle Beyond the Rooney Rule Checkbox 

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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