by Mitch Oakley
Founder & Chairman at Charles Aris Inc.
Organizations justifiably take many criteria into account when considering an executive search firm. Which are most important?
Various studies have underscored the true cost of a bad hire (this Fast Company infographic is a good place to start). So it’s hardly surprising when any given company’s seemingly simple decision to hire the right talent for mission-critical roles influences and drives that organization’s ensuing success. And in the vast majority of searches conducted by retained search firms, both the quality and leadership of the firm significantly influence the quality of talent the client organization interviews and ultimately has the option to hire.
And yet it’s more complicated than that. While the best search firms have tested and proven recruitment systems and processes in place, the individual search professional who works directly with the client – and the ability of that professional to effectively utilize her firm's talent identification / selection / attraction systems and processes – will truly determine the success of each search.
So if I had the responsibility of selecting a search firm on behalf of an organization, I would first seek answers to the following questions:
- What are the search firm's recruitment systems and processes?
- Will I deal directly with an experienced search professional?
- Am I personally comfortable working with this search professional? Am I comfortable with this person’s knowledge and communication style? Is this a person whom I would look forward to speaking with frequently? Does the search professional create legitimacy and demonstrate competence and confidence in her ability to deliver? Can she effectively describe the search firm’s systems and processes?
- Does the search firm have a successful track record of working with organizations like mine?
- What sets it apart from other search firms? Ultimately, why should I retain this firm when there are so many other options?
Still there? And still interested in hiring a search firm to help? Answers to these additional questions will provide insight and may help mightily in your selection process.
- How long does the recruiting firm’s typical search take?
- How does the search firm find talent? What does its team actually do?
- How many candidates will I need to interview before I can make a hiring decision?
- Who will perform the heavy lifting on my search project? Will it be the search professional who secures the search or someone else who is then assigned to the project?
- How many similar searches has the search firm completed?
- If it hasn't done many, how will its team find talent in a marketplace where it has limited experience?
- At which levels does the search firm normally recruit?
- Does the search firm’s team have capacity for this search?
- Does the search firm interview candidates face to face? Or via application software? If neither, how does the search firm accurately assess candidates’ skill sets?
- What are the search firm’s fees? Where is the value?
- How does the search firm find talent in faraway locations?
- Does the search firm conduct reference checks? How do the firm’s team members get people to give them a reference when so many companies prohibit such calls?
Still with me? You just might be ready to kick off an executive search. Regardless of your recruiting partner of choice, do not hesitate to ask these sorts of questions to ensure that they are just as ready as you are!