Having worked with hundreds of organizations to help them find the perfect fit for their open executive-level positions, my partners and I have seen much and learned a lot along the way.
Some of the most important lessons relate to the things clients inadvertently do to derail the search process — thus getting in the way of the outcome that we both want, which is to find the perfect placement who will enjoy long term success in the role.
After selecting and engaging with an executive search firm, it is common for clients to feel a sense of relief, as though their job is done for a while. Not true. While you should absolutely expect the search firm to drive the process, you also have important responsibilities to help avoid pitfalls and lead you to a successful result.
Here are five guidelines clients can follow to make sure a search stays on track and achieves the desired outcome.
Buy into the process.
The process we lay out and the calendars we present aren’t just for show. They represent a sequence of steps that have proven over time to effectively reach our collective goals. So please don’t discard or disregard the process; review it, ask questions, understand it, and embrace it. The search will not be successful if you don’t have clear objectives and requirements, address changes in scope, project realistic timetables, and allocate resources properly. An undisciplined or inconsistent process often leads to a poor outcome for all involved.
Invest the right amount of time.
A great search firm will highlight the client’s role and expected time commitments in advance. Your role as the client is to devote the necessary time to each important step—from approving the ideal qualifications, providing substantive feedback on the position description, conducting candidate interviews and submitting in-depth candidate feedback in a timely manner. Although you are certainly busy and sometimes preoccupied with your day-to-day responsibilities, make time for the search process. Often, the long-term success of the new hire is a direct reflection of the amount of time and effort the client invested in the process.
Avoid easy fixes — which don’t usually end up being easy or fixes.
When a client thinks they’ve found an easy fix to an open executive position, we’ve found the driver is most often time pressure to fill the role. That is definitely not the right motivation and almost never works out. For example, offering the position to a board member who meets some of the required qualifications might seem ideal. After all, s/he knows the company and the players and has some industry experience. While this may be true, clients should never short circuit the evaluation and hiring process. Finding a great fit almost always requires investing in the right process, no matter how great the pressure is to fill the role.
Address red flags proactively, quickly and openly.
There are bound to be differences of opinion at various points throughout the search. Do not hesitate to surface concerns; raise your questions with the search firm and present your point of view — whether about goals, process, or candidates. This type of constructive feedback loop requires effort from the client, but will result in a more successful outcome.
To have an open dialogue about red flags, there must be a constructive relationship with open communication. Clients can contribute to this significantly by proactively communicating with the search firm. As a client, you should absolutely feel comfortable calling your search partner to ask a question or just check in. At Lochlin Partners, we encourage this dialogue.
Sell the candidate on your organization.
Your organization is offering a truly stellar opportunity to the right candidate. But it’s critical to remember that the evaluation process works both ways–-candidates are “buyers” too. The best candidates will spend as much time and energy evaluating their potential employers as you do them. Don’t assume you have the upper hand: be positive, show passion for the business, avoid complacency, and certainly avoid any hint of condescension during the interview process. To attract the best talent, you must exhibit the same level of professionalism and transparency that you expect from candidates.
Committing to these five guidelines in your executive search will make the process easier and will help ensure the best possible outcomes for your organization.