How to Choose Your Executive Search Partner

March 21, 2023 – The hard truth about talent, especially leadership talent, is that if you’ve got the wrong talent in place, it can quickly become your company’s Achilles heel. Alternatively, great leadership can serve as a business multiplier, and retaining top talent ranks as the top priority for CEOs and other C-suite executives globally. Quite simply, securing the right leadership talent is critical for business success, according to a new report from Toronto-based Caldwell. The most effective way to secure talent depends on the type of role to be filled.

Recruitment Categories
The Caldwell report notes that there are a few basic search categories. “Job board services can work well for entry-level to middle management roles, especially when there is an abundance of qualified candidates,” the study said. “The availability of talent is important, as job boards only capture those actively seeking a new job.”

In-house recruitment also functions best when filling roles up to middle management, according to the Caldwell report. For senior executive roles, confidentiality becomes a significant concern. “Candidates may hesitate to speak openly about a potential new role when connecting directly with representatives of a competing company,” the report said. “This is just one situation in which the third-party role offered by an executive search consultant provides value. It is also worth noting that each year, about two-thirds of jobs are filled by passive candidates — individuals recruited into the role by a personal outreach.”

Technology-enabled research and sourcing firms help expand the reach of in-house recruiters. The on-demand model, with hourly billing, is designed to augment the work of in-house recruiters in broadly identifying potential candidates, using its database of more than 300 million global professionals. IQTalent also offers candidate assessment systems.

Contingent recruiters present specific candidates to a hiring company, from within the recruiter’s network of candidates. “The same candidate may be presented to multiple companies simultaneously,” the Caldwell report said. “The hiring company conducts the evaluation of the candidates. The recruiter is paid only when a placement is made, aligning them with any placement, not necessarily the best one.”

Retained executive search differs fundamentally from the other methods. Clients hire the search firm to conduct an exclusive search that is tailor-made to specific client requirements. Consultants leverage their established networks, research capabilities, and industry knowledge to present clients with a selection of high-quality candidates. “This greater access to passive candidates and a guaranteed placement offers clear advantages when filling senior roles,” the Caldwell report said. “In their third-party capacity, retained executive search consultants ensure the required confidentiality while smoothing negotiations and buffering both the client and candidate from any contentious issues.”

The Search Process, Briefly
In the launch phase of a retained executive search, the consultants get to know the client company and its needs and goals. The Caldwell report explains that this includes understanding overarching business goals, from strategic plans to organizational objectives such as increasing diversity. “The two parties will agree on the assignment deliverables and timelines, define the search strategy, and develop a carefully calibrated candidate profile,” Caldwell said. “Building a working mutual partnership tends to deliver the best outcomes. In the research phase, search consultants work within their networks of industry experts and relatable roles to identify potential candidates. Consultant outreach gauges candidate interest, and a longer list of prospective candidates is created.”

During the review phase, as recruiting continues, assessment tools are used, additional research is conducted on potential candidates, and both clients and consultants interview prospective candidates. A short list of candidates is created.

The Caldwell report explains that in the selection phase, references are checked for all finalists, key stakeholders participate in candidate interviews, compensation is negotiated, and the hiring decision is finalized. During the transition phase, the search consultant stays in touch with the new hire and supports the integration process, including by assisting in defining initial goals and objectives.

Psychometric testing, such as from Caldwell Analytics, contributes to the search and onboarding processes by leveraging scientifically proven, results-driven assessments that support selection of the best talent, in concert with the goals of building high-performing teams. The firm’s suite of diagnostics can reveal engagement levels and context that provide better understanding of talent as it relates to the company, team, individual, strategy, and culture.

What Makes Retained Executive Search Worth the Investment?
Many features and benefits are unique to a retained executive search engagement. According the Caldwell report, the best access to pas- sive candidates is the calling card of retained executive search. Senior level and C-suite executives overwhelmingly are passive candidates, and executive search consultants put in the effort to establish and foster networks of these leaders in their target industries.

“High-performing executives who are not actively looking for a new role will take the call from a well-connected executive search consultant,” the report said. “Executive search consultants are also innovative when thinking about new roles, often bringing an unconventional candidate to consideration, with the right skills coming from an unexpected location and/or background, ensuring candidates of diversity of background and thought.”

The report also notes that a third party between candidates and the hiring company can be useful in many circumstances, protecting the time and privacy of both sides, while at times absorbing some of the heat. “A third party is valuable when recruiting from a target company with which your company has good relations, replacing an underperforming executive that is still in the role, seeking an executive with skills not found in your network, or simply conducting negotiations,” the Caldwell report said.

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