Five Things You Need to Know About Selecting a Search Partner

June 2013

Your organization has exhausted its own recruiting efforts, or perhaps for governance reasons a search firm needs to be retained to fill a key leadership role. There may be an internal candidate to be considered, but the hiring manager isn’t sure that is the best solution. How do you choose from all the firms that claim they will do a good job for you and your firm? Today we outline the Five Things You Need to Know to Select the Optimal Search Partner.

  1. Who do you know in the business? Who placed you? Who has contacted you before and what did you think of their approach? Eliminate the ones you’d rather avoid, and focus on those with whom you’ve had a good experience.
  2. Who are the specialists in your industry, or in the relevant functional area? If they’ve done extensive work in your sector, they will understand the key issues. A word of caution, however – if a search firm specializes in a certain area and has its finger on the pulse of that market, ensure you ask about off-limits. What companies is the firm precluded from targeting due to pre-existing client relationships?
  3. Which firms have your colleagues worked with successfully? Solicit referrals from others in your industry whose opinions you respect.
  4. Upon meeting the potential search partners, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Were they prepared for your meeting? Had they done their homework, read your annual report, and prepared thoughtful and intelligent questions?
    • Were the individuals confident that they could be successful in this endeavor? Did they have the beginnings of a search strategy developed that they could discuss with you? Did they offer to follow up with one?
    • Did they share lessons learned from similar searches that gave you comfort that the consultants know what they're doing and understand the challenge? Or did the firm just drop a lot of names?
    • Do they offer assessment tools and background checks? Do they personally conduct references or do they outsource this process?
    • Have they ever turned down a search, or have they referred clients to a competitor who might be a better fit?
    • Does the firm have the appropriate infrastructure to conduct the search? If your organization wants a global search undertaken, are there knowledgeable consultants in various geographies who will be focused on this need? Are you comfortable that the entire team of individuals is incented to work diligently on your search need?
    • Of the team presented, who is going to interview the candidates, conduct references and continue to liaise with the client and candidate throughout the process?
    • Are you comfortable with these individuals representing your organization in the market place? Are they professional, courteous, smart, and well-spoken, with an appropriate degree of energy and interest in your business?
    • Were they able to provide client (and candidate) references? (Our industry has a well-deserved poor reputation for not getting back in touch with those candidates who don’t move forward beyond the first or second meeting. What is the reputation of the firm you’re considering working with in this regard? Remember, your search partner becomes an extension of your company’s employment brand.)
  5. And finally - do you like the search team? Do you feel that they will work hard on your behalf? Will they be comfortable in counselling you when other alternatives need to be explored?

We'd like to thank our clients and candidates for making the first half of 2013 such an active and successful period for us. Here’s hoping it continues!