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This article may not make me particularly popular in the industry, but I’ve thought for some time that Executive Search needs disrupting. Consistently, I see the same feedback from clients:
- It’s too expensive, and there are hidden fees
- It’s inflexible
- It takes too long
- “They just take their retainer and hide” (actual quote from a client!)
- The same candidates are recycled again and again
- Search firms don’t always understand what their clients do
Now, I’ll defend the profession a little at this point. I’m a staunch believer in the value of a good Executive Search partner. Running an effective search for an executive role, in any industry, is EXTREMELY time consuming. Finding not just the right profile, but the right fit, takes extensive identification and interviewing. There’s a small talent pool for senior roles, so seeing some of the same candidates is inevitable. With the amount of work that’s involved, a retained model is essential to share risk.
However, the above comments come up so often that I feel something needs to be done. So, for the launch of Meet Executive, I thought I’d share our ideas about how we can do things better.
Specialisation. Too many firms try to do too much, spanning industries and disciplines and stretching themselves very thin. We are Life Sciences specialists, and this allows us to understand the technologies, market drivers, investment cycles and pressures of the sector in real depth. We’re also embedded in networks of industry-specific candidates, and can access those networks rapidly.
Transparency. There’s a real mystique to Executive Search, created in part by those who practice it. The prevailing wisdom is that clients should only be shown what they need to know, and that the inner workings of a search are for internal eyes only. We disagree. Each of our clients has access to shared folders which allow them to view all activity taking place around their assignments in real time, so they can be as involved as they want to be.
Service. We believe that hiring a new executive should be exciting, and that an in-depth search should be an enjoyable experience for all those involved. Our consultants’ commission payments and incentives are all tied to how they score in regard to customer experience, not just with the client and the hired candidate, but ALL candidates who were shortlisted. Just because someone didn’t get the job doesn’t mean that their opinion won’t count.
Delivery. A thorough methodology should mean that the overwhelming majority of searches can be delivered successfully and on time. As a firm, we target a delivery rate of 100% and consistently review performance against this. Additionally, rather than the traditional fee split of one third on retainer, one third on shortlist and one third on placement, we weight our fees heavily toward delivery, with a 20% - 30% - 50% structure. We’re happy to take our fair share of accountability for filling the roles we take on.
There are some excellent Search firms out there, and some very high-calibre Consultants. This isn’t intended as a blanket criticism, although I’m sure some will take it that way. I’m under no illusions that there is only one right way to operate, and that this is it. The four points above are just the things that we feel are important, and have formed the basis of our business.
Please feel free to comment, get in touch and share – I’m very interested to hear other opinions on this topic!