25 years ago the concept of Executive Search was considered the holy grail of the recruitment industry. It was considered the only way a company would recruit a senior executive and the fee charged reflected that. Today this has changed in that it is far easier to source the candidate. However, this has opened up a whole new set of issues in that people claiming to have the expertise for Executive Search are often far better suited to recruiting Bookkeepers.
We need to go back to the fundamentals of Executive Search to gain an understanding of what it is all about. 25 years ago, a brief was given, a large experienced team of researchers spent a month mapping all available talent, a shortlist was drawn up, suitable candidates contacted, and the process proceeded with those interested in the opportunity. Today this has been turned on its head by the availability of information. The size of the research team is reduced dramatically, suitable companies are easily sourced and candidates within those candidates are easily identified. In many instances the researcher can simply rely on platforms such as LinkedIn to accumulate suitable candidates. In so doing, anyone can say they operate in Executive Search.
This is where the process is fraught with danger. Any executive who has hired another senior executive will tell you the recruitment process involves far more that what can be learned from a CV. Every company has its own culture and bringing in a recruit at a senior level who is not a culture fit can have catastrophic repercussions. It is the Executive Search team’s responsibility to get that right. It is distinct skill. As with everything in life only so much can be taught. The rest has to be learned from previous similar experiences. Nothing replaces experience. Gary player was quoted as saying “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
This point can be expanded further. Firstly, in the past Executive Search was across all disciplines. Today this has been refined in that Executive Search is divided into various niches. If you are looking for a CFO, the chances of success are far greater if you have been operating in the financial sector for the last 25 years. Not only do you have a network that can add immense value to the process, but you have watched candidates grow and mature, having moved from role to role. You understand their history which is critical in determining a correct fit for the present. Secondly, there is an old adage that the best results are obtained in recruitment from 10 years older or 10 years younger. It is as difficult for a 30-year-old consultant to recruit a person with 30 years’ experience as it is for an older recruiter to really understand someone who has recently graduated. For the best results, the mindsets of the recruiter and the recruit must be aligned.
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