How to choose the right executive search partner
Companies looking to hire executives for their organisation are faced with a challenging task in determining which recruiting firm to engage, as executive search is basically non-existing in Romania. It is a fact that hiring a wrong executive is a costly affair, estimated to be between 3 to 5 times of the executive’s salary. And the damage caused by employing a wrong person for a strategic position goes far beyond financial figures. So how can a buyer, with no prior experience of working with executive search firms determine the difference between the various providers on the Romanian market and thereby obtain true value for money?
A guest post by Ulrik Rasmussen, Partner with Pedersen & Partners Executive Search
Not only is it difficult to uncover the actual service performed by the various recruitment firms, besides the promise to place an individual, but the matter of the fact is: the majority of the executive search firms are not providing a different service than most recruitment, selection and other HR type of agencies.
To make it even more complicated, in Romania, the term ‘executive search’ is mistakenly tied only to the seniority of the recruited position. But executive search requires in-depth industry expertise combined with proven recruitment procedures and tools used for guiding and supporting the clients throughout the recruitment process. The recruitment processes applied for executive search remain the same, regardless of the seniority of the position.
Let’s first try to understand what executive search stands for and why should companies use such services.
An executive search firm is a business partner who adds value far beyond the mere placement of an individual; it is only a small part of the executive search process. In fact, finding candidates is the easy part. Helping the client in identifying the ideal candidate matching the company’s business, strategic and cultural need at a specific point in time, that is the difficult part.
Executive search is not an over-night exercise followed by a random distribution of ‘first come-first served’ CV’s. Since each client is different, a proper search requires weeks of information gathering and consolidation (from both the candidates and clients) and an ongoing fine-tuning of the job description fitting the client’s need at a specific point in time and achieving best value for money.
Changing the career of an executive, who is otherwise happy with his/her existing role, is a delicate matter. Not only family and friends are impacted by the move, but also past and future co-workers and firms, as they might face devastating consequences by a wrong change in employment.
Besides providing information on the vacancy, company structure and culture, the clients must be willing to share sensitive information (problems, strategy, etc.) so that the executive search firms get a full picture of the task or even be able to challenge the client’s business approach in order to add value.
Constant contact and outside-the-box discussions with decision makers are often a necessity in order to obtain and assess first-hand market insight, which should lead to a fine-tuning of the profile.
Clients do not always have the expertise or available information to determine their actual needs, or the ability to thoroughly assess the skill-set and fit of the presented candidates. Executive search professionals interview senior executives every day, therefore they have the latest market information and strong interviewing skills to guide the client through each step of the recruitment process.
Keep in mind that an executive search firm becomes your representative and your image ambassador, therefore the quality of the candidates it will attract will be related to the market perceptions about the quality, experience and qualifications of the firm you mandate the search.
Then, what values must an executive search firm, and thereby the executive search consultants involved in the project, deliver before and during the search process?
From the very beginning the executive search firm will work closely with you to create a detailed candidate’s profile that will include all relevant company information, job outline and objectives, candidate experience and other information crucial for conducting an effective search assignment.
Ask them for a proven industry track-record of completed searches. Not all firms disclose their client base or hired professionals for obvious confidentiality reasons, but they will provide you with references relevant for your industry and for the position you are looking to hire.
Clarify with the recruitment firm the search process applied by them to find a successful candidate for you. Make sure you understand every step of the process described by a consultant, there should be no vagueness. The consultant must tell you what will be accomplished during each stage and who in the team will be handling various steps of the project. Many international and local firms pass the assignment on to junior staff who do not have proper industry experience and expertise. Find out who will be the lead in your search and make sure you meet the person before you commit to the assignment.
The recruitment firms participating in the selection process should also provide you with a list of team members who will be involved in the search, their experience and track record, and role within your project. Ask them about their specific experience with a similar search to demonstrate they understand your business and specifics of the function they will be looking for. This will also give you an idea why other firms within your industry chose to work with these recruitment firms.
Determine what will be presented in the final assessment (report) of the candidates and how it will help you to determine the fit. You might even want to see a template example.
Make sure to determine the search guarantee applied in case of a failed placement, and get a clear definition of the payment terms and potential payments applied for a canceled search.
Also, ask for regular updates on the search progress, problems and questions from the market. You need to be worried in case the executive search firm does not address problems and questions.
Beware of the firms that accept your assignment without asking questions or finding out details about the project or who cannot provide in-depth market understanding from day one. First encounter should lead to some fine-tuning and various solutions to the client need. Lastly, don’t forget to ask about the interviewing style that the recruitment firms perform on the candidates they present to you.
Ulrik Rasmussen is a partner with Pedersen & Partners and he is responsible for the firm’s real estate practice. Located in Romania, Ulrik Rasmussen is also the head of South East Europe responsible for Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Cyprus. He joined Pedersen & Partners in 2003. Ulrik Rasmussen holds a Master’s Degree from the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven Belgium. In addition to his native Danish, he speaks fluent English and conversational Dutch.