5 Must Do’s When Working With Search Firms

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As a human capital firm, at Ivy Exec,we spend a lot of time thinking about what works and what doesn’t work in the executive search model. If you are thinking about using a search firm to fill some of your key open positions, here are some “must do’s” that will help you generate a positive return and that will lead to better hires:

  1. Clearly communicate your hiring needs to your search professional. Provide sufficient context about your company — products and services, geographic reach, the senior management team, strategic objectives — and how the targeted hire fits into the mix. Also provide as much information as possible about your target candidate: desired strengths, behaviors and experience that are the critical success factors for the position. If you haven’t yet defined who you are looking for, do this together with your search professional. This is one of the biggest benefits of working with a search firm, leverage their knowledge in the process. You can even ask the firm to provide you 2-3 benchmarking resumes, these are resumes that you will use as samples of what you want in a candidate and what you don’t want in a candidate; they are intended to get you and the search professional on the same page.  Important tip: make sure to fully define the target profile before any work begins.
  2. FULLY leverage the entire range of capabilities your search firm brings. Think of your search professional as an advocate working in your firm’s best interest to develop, attract, shepherd and close talent offers, up to and including assisting with finalist negotiations. Your search professional can also buffer you from the more difficult personalities and internal politics in your company, when needed. If you are not sure if your search firm can handle something “special”, just ask!
  3. Quickly communicate any changes related to your search. Given the fast paced world we live in, change is a given. If your needs shift mid-search – you’ve hired a new person, tweaked your organizational structure, identified other needs for the position, etc. — you need to quickly communicate these changes to your search professional so the team can adjust the search parameters. The sooner changes are communicated, the sooner your search professional can deliver “best fit” candidates.
  4. Be RESPONSIVE. Sometimes, if candidates aren’t given feedback or updates on the hiring process quickly and/or regularly, they lose interest in the position/process and move on – either accepting offers from other firms or deciding to remain at their current position. You need to provide feedback on candidates to the search professional in a timely and consistent manner.
  5. Never lose sight of your big picture. Don’t be so rigid about compensation that you allow a few dollars to come between you and a successful hire. Let current market conditions guide the low, mid and high-end range of your offer. You need to weigh the differential between what the targeted hire brings to your company and the actual “cost” of a higher than planned salary and a prolonged search. If the targeted hire is the strongest of many researched and interviewed candidates, but is too “expensive,” there are innovative compensation structures that can be crafted (e.g., performance bonuses) that might close the gap and close the deal.

If you keep these guidelines top of mind when working with a search firm, your hiring process will be more successful and your search timelines will be shorter. Happy hiring!

About the Author

Elena Bajic is the founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, a selective online career network for top performers.