Why Selecting a Search Firm is ‘Mission Critical’ During Challenging Times

With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge in multiple states, mixed numbers on the economy are released today showing some improvements but still a ways to go for a recovery. Talent expert Joe Gross of CIO Partners discusses what to ask when choosing your search firm during these challenging times.

July 23, 2020 – As COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the U.S., the Labor Department reported this morning that 1.4 million more Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the 18th week in a row that the figure has topped one million. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial claims to rise by 1.3 million. The latest numbers reflect the continued strain on the economy caused by a pandemic wreaking havoc around the world. Over 50 million people have now filed for unemployment benefits over the past 17 weeks, representing the biggest jobs loss in U.S. history.

A resurgence in the number of coronavirus infections, including a record rise in California, has led many authorities to scale back the reopening of some businesses and restaurants, pushing more Americans out of work.

After reaching a peak of 6.9 million first-time jobless claims in late March, the weekly number had continued to slope off, albeit very slowly, as fiscal stimulus and emergency action from the Federal Reserve have supported the economy. Last week’s data reverses that downward trend.

“This is clearly very disappointing news,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “The increase marks an end to the 15-week string of declining new claims. The persistence of elevated new unemployment claims shows the toll the virus continues to take on the economy.”

During the week, 48 states reported 13,179,880 individuals claiming pandemic unemployment assistance benefits and 45 states reported 940,113 individuals claiming pandemic emergency unemployment compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Puerto Rico (26.0), Nevada (21.3), Hawaii (20.7), Georgia (18.0), California (16.9), Louisiana (16.6), New York (16.1), Connecticut (15.4), the Virgin Islands (15.2), and Massachusetts (15.0). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Florida (+65,890), Georgia (+33,292), California (+20,123), Washington (+16,116), and Indiana (+6,258), while the largest decreases were in Maryland (-13,728), Texas (-11,583), New Jersey (-8,577), Michigan (-6,882), and Louisiana (-5,066).

Working With Search Firms During a Pandemic

For the past 20 years, Joe Gross has built and led high performing sales, recruiting and HR teams, attracting top industry talent along the way while focused on delivering a top-notch customer experience. As president of CIO Partners, Mr. Gross leads the practice development organization and the strategic implementation and execution of recruitment best practices for the firm’s client partners. Previously, he served as COO for the firm while managing, improving, and scaling all company operations.

The costs of hiring the wrong person is always high, but during a pandemic any wrong moves can be costly. That means every organization has had to refocus on how it selects search firms to help make critical hires. Mr. Gross sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media earlier this week to discuss what to ask a search firm when trying to find the right partner for your company to recruit its next senior executive.

            Joe Gross

Joe, what questions do you suggest clients ask when deciding on which headhunter to choose? 

At or near the top of the list of questions to ask when evaluating an executive search firm is how the firm aligns with the client’s particular need and industry. The firm should be able to cite relatable prior search experience regarding the function of the role as well as industry and geographic scope. In addition, a firm with a domain niche may be the best option. While some firms are generalists, our firm’s 100 percent focus and expertise in the technology and digital domains across all industries has served our client partners well in hiring their top technology leadership at the CxO, VP, and director levels.

How do you size up an executive search firm’s capabilities? 

Another important factor is the strategy that the firm will employ to find candidates for the opportunity. Especially when it comes to roles with high employer demand – such as technology leadership positions – it is crucial that the firm employs a passive talent strategy and directly recruit candidates where they sit. Our firm, for instance, has over the past 19 years established strong brand recognition among senior technology leaders and has cultivated networks of CIOs/CTOs. It’s from these relationships that we receive the majority of our passive candidate referrals at all levels are able to more quickly present our clients with candidates and complete searches.

“At or near the top of the list of questions to ask when evaluating an executive search firm is how the firm aligns with the client’s particular need and industry.”

How does a client ensure they are getting the best candidates?

The client should also ask what process the firm will utilize to ensure that the client is receiving the best executive candidates. A proven, purposeful vetting process that can be customized for the client’s specific opportunity is critical. Prior to the candidate speaking to the client, the firm should employ a process with a defined set of hurdles to assess both fit, skill and sincere interest in the role. That process should include multiple interviews, leadership assessments and work product provided by the candidate that demonstrates alignment with the opportunity.

How do you differentiate your firm when trying to gain new clients? 

An additional key factor in evaluating an executive search firm is whether and how the firm measures itself – and how can the client measure its experience with the firm? For instance, our firm utilizes Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure how we are doing with both our clients and our candidates. On the client side, we send out surveys halfway through the engagement, at search completion and six months down the road to ensure that we provided a great experience for our clients. We also want to make sure that our recruiters are developing the right relationships with candidates and are following up appropriately, so we ask candidates for a score when they complete our intensive, high-hurdle rate process.

Related: 10 Tips for Networking with Executive Recruiters During COVID-19

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

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