Starting an executive search? Consider these six elements

by Joe Metts
Marketing Coordinator at Charles Aris Inc.

The decision to partner with an executive search firm is a major commitment for an organization.

If you’re an organizational decision-maker who has been tasked with spearheading a search process for an A-player, it’s imperative that you nail down the wish list of key traits and attributes you’re seeking. Deciding on the core elements will help you pinpoint your efforts and ensure you’re in lockstep with your recruiting partners as they represent you in the marketplace. Such details are key in an early conversation that Charles Aris Inc. calls the Assignment Specification, a discussion between our search team and any client organization.

Whether you’re actively seeking an executive recruiting partner or simply looking for guidance as you kick off an internal search, we advise you to set six elements in stone:

1. Position / reporting structure: Perhaps no information is more pertinent than that of the role itself. Beyond the position’s title and location, it’s important to have a clearly defined structure to ensure potential candidates know to whom they will report. As you work to find and land seamless cultural fits, it’s imperative to understand and share the background and leadership style of the individual to whom potential candidates will report. Key details such as the size of the team a candidate will oversee, the roles and responsibilities of the greater team, and the recent history of this position should also be clearly and concisely communicated.

2. Position description: No A-player will be comfortable walking into an unknown situation. As you work to attract the best talent, you’ll need to lay out a clear description of the role, its responsibilities and the expectations associated with it. Inform candidates of what should be accomplished 30, 60 and 90 days from their start date and what 12 to 18 months of success should look like. What’s a typical day in the life of an individual in this role? How will performance be measured?

3. Compensation: In an increasing number of locations in the United States, employers and recruiters alike are prevented from seeking compensation history of candidates. Instead, organizations should have a set compensation structure in place when addressing a position of need. Recruiters and employers are allowed to inquire about compensation expectations, so ensure that your final offers and compensation structure are competitive with the expectations of top candidates. This will help save a great deal of time in the recruiting process.

4. Opportunities for growth: Be prepared to discuss the organizational ladder as you speak to leading candidates, as few are complacent. Top executives want to know what might come next as reward for a job well done. What would trigger a move up the ladder? How quickly can an individual be considered for a promotion? How do performance reviews impact compensation? Answer these questions before vetting candidates.

5. Core competencies: A well-defined executive search strategy is comprised of three elements: general, technical and cultural competencies.

  • General competencies: What does the peer group associated with the position look like (average tenure, background, education level, etc.)? What is the ideal professional history of the individual in this role? Will you employ candidates on an H-1B Visa or similar immigration status?
  • Technical competencies: Roughly 60 percent of the evaluation process should revolve around technical fit. What skills and certifications must a candidate possess? Are there disqualifying factors? What level and quality of education is required and / or preferred?
  • Cultural competencies: The remaining 40 percent of evaluation should be spent assessing the fit an individual would have with your organization’s culture. Are personality factors important in the role? What’s your office layout? Daily attire? Be prepared to discuss the environment a candidate will enter, and be willing to describe it honestly and candidly.

6. Targets: An executive search can take many forms, so entering the conversation with a general direction can be beneficial for all parties. Are there specific organizations which likely house the talent you’re seeking? Are there particular individuals you want to target? Are there organizations you’d like to label “hands off”? Considering and answering these questions will strengthen your search for top talent.

Is there any decision more important for organizational leaders than assessing and addressing human capital needs, particularly at the executive level? By thinking through and outlining the structure of these six elements of the executive search process, you’re well on your way to a job well done.