7 times when it may make sense to use an executive search firm

Executive search engagements often come about after a company has become frustrated when attempting to conduct the search on their own.

Either they find they cannot attract the right candidates for the role, culture, and growth aspirations, or they have hired and the new employee is failing. I understand the exasperation that is so common in my first conversations with these organizations. Hiring leaders is an expensive endeavor fraught with risks, and when a hire fails, related expenses can double and cause long-term, collateral damage throughout the company.

An executive search firm can help simplify this process, making the selection of a new leader easier on the company and more likely to be a successful fit.

Consider the following instances when it may make sense to hire an executive search firm:

The position to be filled requires specialized expertise

In today’s market, the war for talent is intense . Executive search firms know the competitive landscape across industries and geographies. Executive search consultants bring strategic reach and dedication of resources. This adds value by infusing a fresh perspective and deep experience with identifying, recruiting, and retaining leaders. A trusted consultant can collaborate with your team to professionalize the hiring process.

Whether your company is publicly held or not, it may not be strategically optimal to advertise an open C-level or vice president role

Client confidentiality is of the utmost importance, so search firms do not advertise open positions. Executive search consultants know how to appropriately provide information to potential candidates to motivate interest. However, that information is provided to candidates gradually as the search firm evaluates skills, accomplishments, track record, and cultural fit.

An underperforming leader may need to be replaced and a confidential search is required so business is not disrupted

An executive search firm can conduct a search in a completely confidential manner to safeguard all stakeholders’ privacy. This service protects you during a time of transition and can reduce business disruption.

Not-for-profit or academic organizations may plan to engage a search committee as part of the hiring process

An experienced search consultant knows how to work appropriately with the search committee leader to keep communications succinct. S/he also knows how to facilitate committee discussions concerning potential candidates’ fit and qualifications, post-interview feedback, professional assessment feedback, and reference checking. The search consultant can achieve this while respecting the busy schedules of the committee members.

The search is part of a significant evolution for the organization

Have profits lagged, necessitating a new vision and strategy for the company? Is the family-owned company ready for its first non-family CEO? Is the search for a leadership role that is new to the organization? Has the company outgrown a current leader? After an ownership transaction, is it time to professionalize leadership? Does the role incorporate a rare mix of skills and experience?

These are examples of significant business evolutions that may drive the need for a new leader. Executive search consultants know where to begin and can bring useful information from other companies’ experiences with these challenges. Consultants can appropriately structure a job description so that it drives traction and interest in the market. We can interview and vet for readiness for these types of momentous opportunities and challenges.

The organization’s resources to undertake an executive search are constrained

If you’ve tapped out your personal and company networks for candidate referrals, or realized the amount of time the search will take without 100 percent dedicated resources, it may be beneficial to use an executive search firm. The search consultant will devote the time needed to the search while you take care of your business.

The organization lacks internal bench strength for leadership succession planning

An executive search firm can help you build a succession bench that you can rely on if one of your executives leaves your organization. Search consultants will collaborate with you to determine appropriate talent that already exists in your organization and where these individuals may need development. The consultant can also spot talent gaps and assist with planning for how to address them.

In any organization, 20 percent of the employees are responsible for 80 percent of results. With the possible exception of top salespeople, these are the executive leaders. When filling these positions, getting it right with hiring is essential. Using executive search allows you to leverage sophisticated assessment, search, and due diligence that mitigates the well-known frustrations that can come with hiring leaders for your organization, thereby reducing risk and optimizing the benefits of a new hire.

Laura Fries
The Business Journals
Contributing Writer
laura.fries@bakertilly.com

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