How to Identify, Qualify and Work with Executive Search Firms
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How to Identify, Qualify and Work with Executive Search Firms



Having been performing executive search within our core sectors for more than 20 years, we have found that there are drastic variances in what organizations expect from using a search firm. We ...

Having been performing executive search within our core sectors for more than 20 years, we have found that there are drastic variances in what organizations expect from using a search firm. We developed our eBook to act as a resource for hiring executives in understanding how to identify specialized search firms, qualify them, and work with them throughout the various stages of the search process to maximize ROI. We also illustrate the difference between retained and contingency search firms, and how to determine which type fits your human capital needs.



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    How to Identify, Qualify and Work with Executive Search Firms How to Identify, Qualify and Work with Executive Search Firms Document Transcript

    • How to Identify, Qualify, and Work withExecutive Search Firms
    • An organization’s ability to continually recruit and attract talented professionals is imperative tosustaining long-term success. That is why, in today’s business climate, the processes ofrecruitment and employee selection represent important issues for hiring managers and humanresources departments.The industries of construction, engineering, facilities, and real estate are especially cognizant ofthis because these sectors face specific talent challenges, which include: an aging population at the executive management and operational levels; a shortage of executives who are multi-faceted and have combined attributes ofinnovation, technical knowledge, strong business acumen, and management capabilities;and an overall lack of effective succession planning.Hiring managers and human resources departments are finding that traditional recruitmentmethods do not generate highly qualified candidates for their critical talent needs and are turningto executive search firms to make their recruitment efforts more strategic and proactive.The objective of this eBook is to educate hiring executives on: how to identify reputable and specialized search firms; how to qualify search firms for specific assignments; and how to support the search process for a successful outcome.By understanding the above, hiring managers and human resources departments can maximizetheir return on investment when partnering with executive search firms.
    • Helbling & Associates is a retained executive search and talent acquisitionconsulting firm specializing exclusively in construction, engineering,facilities management, and real estate.We proudly represent distinctive organizations throughout the UnitedStates and Canada including: construction contractors, engineering firms,public and private colleges and universities, healthcare institutions, publicagencies, real estate development companies, and corporations withsignificant real estate assets.We assist these entities in identifying and attracting talented professionalsfor leadership roles ranging from executive to financial administration,from facilities management to construction oversight, and from humanresources to business development.About Helbling & Associates, Inc.
    • Table of ContentsChapter 1: AreYou Ready to Engage a Search Firm?.....................1Chapter 2: How to Identify Qualified Search Firms…………………..2Chapter 3: Retained & Contingency Search Firms………………..…..5Chapter 4: Questions to Ask a Search Firm BeforeEngagingThem…………………………………………….…...8Chapter 5: Commencing an Executive Search………………………..12Chapter 6: Tips for Maintaining a Search’s Momentum……….…..14Chapter 7: WhatValue Does an Experienced Retained SearchConsultant Provide?..................................................15
    • Chapter 1Are You Ready to Engagea Search Firm?Prior to making a decision to partner with an executive search firm, there are many importantquestions and issues to consider in order to ensure that your organization is fully committed toworking in partnership with a third-party entity. Only after these questions have been addressedcan you be confident that retaining an executive search firm is an effective decision.Questions to consider prior to engaging a search firm Have all internal recruitment methods been utilized including job board postings, onlinedatabases / networks, print ads, social media recruiting, and employee referral programs? Have the position’s objectives and the ideal candidate qualifications been clearlyestablished? What is the level of impact that an ideal professional could have upon the future andprogress of the organization? Is filling the role critical to your organization’s advancementand success? Does the role demand specialized experiences and skill sets? Do you need to identify and attract top-tier candidates who may not be actively seekingnew career opportunities? Could a search firm save your organization time and money?If the position is senior level, other considerations are: Is your organization’s executive management and / or pertinent hiring managers inagreement that there is not an internal candidate who can fulfill the role and itsexpectations? Do all team members support the hiring of an external candidate? Is your governing board aware of the vacancy and significance of the position as well as thevalue of securing an ideal professional? Have board members been tapped as resources forpotential candidates?1
    • Chapter 2How to IdentifyQualified Search Firms IndustryColleagues: The best way to find any professional services firm or consultant isto ask colleagues and clients for their recommendations. After all, what could be morereliable than asking people you trust who they trust? LinkedIn: Recruiters abound on LinkedIn. Just enter ‘recruiter’ under people and you willfind a tremendous amount of corporate recruiters, placement agency recruiters, andexecutive search consultants. To make your search worthwhile, search on keywords such as‘executive recruiter’ or ‘executive search consultant’, and add your industry as well.Examples are: ‘facilities search consultant’ or ‘construction recruiter’. Your results may stillshow corporate recruiters, but they will be significantly lessened. If you have an upgradedLinkedIn account, you can further tighten your search by function, years of experience, oranother parameter you choose.Keep in mind that LinkedIn returns search results according to how you are connected toprofessionals. People you are connected to in some way will appear in results first. That canbe a good thing and works much like the idea above regarding obtaining referrals fromcolleagues. If one of your contacts is connected to a search consultant, that recruiter willappear in the order in which you are connected.After the decision has been made to engage an executive search firm, the next step in the processis identifying firms that can best assist you with your need. Regardless of your organization’s sectorand the function of the role, it is highly recommended that your research be focused on firms thatspecialize in your industry and / or in the role’s functional expertise.What are the most effective ways to identify specialized executivesearch firms?2
    •  Google Search: Of course, the most popular resource for finding just about anything isGoogle. In conducting a targetedGoogle search, try a few different keyword combinationsto determine which generates the best results. We recommend entering your industrysector or the title of the role plus other keyword combinations. Examples include:Industry + ‘retained executive search’Industry + ‘contingency executive search’Industry + ‘recruitment firms’Industry + ‘search firms’Industry + ‘executive recruiter’Industry + ‘search consultant’Title of position (if it is specific enough) + ‘executive search’ IndustryAssociations: These organizations are often overlooked as potential resourcesfor identifying executive search firms. Most associations have membership directories thatcan be accessed and the search consultants can be found within. Executive Search Organizations:Association of Executive Search Consultants [AESC] is a worldwide professional associationfor the retained executive search and leadership consulting industry. [Only search firms thatpay AESC membership fees are included in its International Executive Search Directory.]Website: aesc.orgInternationalAssociation for Corporate & Professional Recruitment [IACPR] is a senior-levelrecruitment community that provides networking opportunities and shares best practices.[Only firms and consultants that pay membership fees are included in the directory.]Website: www.iacpr.org3
    •  Other is a free online recruiter directory that connects corporate recruiters withleading executive search firms globally.Website: www.searchfirm.comDirectory of Executive & Professional Recruiters is a valuable resource even though it has anassociated fee. It organizes recruiters and consultants by their industry and functionspecialties. Any firm can request to be included in the publication.Website: www.recruiterredbook.com4
    • Chapter 3Retained & ContingencySearch FirmsRecruitment can mean different things to different people, and there are variances in what hiringorganizations want and expect from executive search firms. In consideration of these facts, it isimportant to understand that there are two types of executive search firms: retained andcontingency. Each type of firm has its own approach, methods, and advantages. As organizationshave diverse hiring needs, both retained and contingency search firms can be effective in differentsituations. The key is to evaluate which approach is best for your organization. The following chartoutlines the key differences between retained and contingency search firms, and when it isappropriate to engage one instead of the other.Considerations Retained Search Contingency SearchOverallapproachFormal engagement between hiringorganization and search firm.Working collaboratively with thesearch consultant, a strategy isdeveloped based upon the hiringorganization’s objectives, the roleand its responsibilities, andcompetencies and characteristics ofideal candidates.Searches arehighly consultative with thestructure and environment of theorganization thoroughlyunderstood prior to initiating searchactivities.This ensures that thehiring organization and its role areaccurately represented tocandidates and their professionalmindsets are assessed to determinecultural fit.No formal engagement betweenhiring organization and search firm.Because of this, there is no sharedcommitment and focus.Typically,the search process is notcollaborative and job specificationsare less structured to allow a greaterpool of candidates.5
    • Considerations Retained Search Contingency SearchFees Fees are typically one-third of theselected candidates total first yearscompensation package. A retainer feeis paid to initiate search activities andinstallments are due at certain stagesof the search process.Fees can range from 20% - 33% ofthe selected candidates total firstyear’s compensation package andthe firm is only paid if a candidate issecured.CandidateidentificationFirm conducts comprehensive andtargeted research of hiringorganization’s specific industry and oforganizations within similar or relatedindustries that may have talent withinthe function of the role. Consultantsalso utilize their firm’s network ofindustry contacts and acquaintancesto gather candidaterecommendations.Value lies in thesearch firm’s ability to identifycandidates who are passive and arenot actively seeking new careeropportunities.In general, firms offer candidateswho are actively seeking new careeropportunities. Firms will sourcecandidates from job boards, andinternal and online databases.Because candidates are those whoare actively seeking new positions,they may not necessarily be themost qualified candidates who canbe identified.CandidateassessmentCandidates are evaluated thoroughlyregarding their leadership, andmanagement and technical abilities,as well as ideal corporate cultureenvironment. Firm typically conductsinitial interviews and professionalreferences.At this stage of theprocess, a retained consultants valueis in assessing potential candidates’skills, motivations, and their culturalfit with the hiring organization.Firms will evaluate the technical fitof candidates but will typically relyupon the hiring organization todetermine cultural fit. Hiringorganization will perform initialinterviews and professionalreferences may or may not beconducted by the firm.6
    • Considerations Retained Search Contingency SearchExclusivity Hiring organization works exclusivelywith the firm.The firm does notrepresent two direct competitorssimultaneously and most will notrecruit the hiring organization’semployees for a period of up to twoyears following a search.Searches are not conducted on anexclusive basis. Hiring organizationscan work with multiple contingencyfirms simultaneously. Firms maywork with multiple hiringorganizations simultaneously (somethat may be direct competitors).Some firms offer an off-limits policywhile others do not.When theyare valuableWhen a hiring organization needs /wants:• dedicated, comprehensive,strategic effort to secure an idealprofessional;• partner for talent acquisitions;• consultant who will consider itsorganizational culture and thedynamics related to the role; and• candidates who are thoroughlyscreened and assessed beforebeing presented.Also appropriate when the role issenior level and critical to the hiringorganization, and candidate quality ismore important than speed.When a hiring organization:• is willing to assume moreresponsibility for screening,assessing and interviewingcandidates, and negotiatingcompensation;• has multiple needs for the sameposition and similar roles; and• views speed as more importantthan candidate quality.Also appropriate when there aremany professionals who are likelyqualified for the role, and theposition is lower level and not criticalto the overall success of the hiringorganization.7
    • Chapter 4Questions to Ask a Search FirmBefore Engaging ThemPartnering with an executive search firm can require a significant investment of time and money.That is why it is essential to ask pertinent questions prior to formally engaging one to perform asearch assignment. By taking the time to discuss the firm’s experience, its search process, and itscapabilities, you can better perceive how well they will represent your organization, if you want towork with them, and how good the return on your investment could be. It will also provide you andthe search consultant with an understanding of what to expect from one another.An experienced consultant will have questions about your organization, its challenges andopportunities, and the objectives of your specific talent need. The most reputable firms andconsultants will be honest about their abilities to perform your search successfully.From these initial discussions, you will come to understand the firm’s and the consultant’s abilitiesto provide comprehensive, focused, and strategic recruitment services.Questions about the firm in general Do they specialize in your industry?A firm that specializes in your industry can offer knowledge and understanding of yoursector, a strong network of pertinent contacts, and the ability to identify and attract keyprofessionals. How well do they understand your organization’s sector, its history, challenges, andopportunities? Are they familiar with your organization and the markets it serves? Do they currently represent organizations that are considered your competitors? Do they have off-limits policies or blocking issues that would restrict them fromrecruiting candidates in certain organizations that would be pertinent sources for thesearch?8
    •  Do they specialize in securing professionals in the role’s function?If they specialize in securing professionals for roles similar to yours, they will have acomprehension of the technical knowledge and experience needed to fulfill your position’sresponsibilities as well as characteristics of ideal candidates. How long have they been in business? Do they operate on a retained or contingency basis? Do they have client and candidate references you can contact?By contacting client and candidate references, youcan learn how the firm operates. Ask clients about:firm’s knowledge, responsiveness, integrity andcompetence, quality of candidates presented,and if they would retain them again. Ask candidateshow well the firm and consultant represented theirclient and presented the opportunity. Do they have the ability to provide valuable insight of market conditions,candidate talent pool, and knowledge of how to expand search parameters toensure the identification of all potentially qualified candidates, including thoseoutside of your sector? What are their policies regarding travel to meet with your organization andwith prospective candidates? Do they offer a guarantee and how is it defined?Typically, a retained search firm will offer a six-month guarantee if it is determined that thecandidate does not possess the desired qualifications as originally outlined. Do they offer an off-limits policy?An off-limits policy prevents the search firm from recruiting from your organization.Normally, the time period is two years following the engagement. What are their standard fees?9
    • Questions about the firm’s search process How will they perform various stages of the search process?Client Orientation: A reputable firm and consultant will take time to: understand your organization, its culture, its short- and long-term goals, and itscurrent initiatives; understand the role’s responsibilities, and its short- and long-term objectives; ensure they completely comprehend not only the role’s minimum qualifications andappropriate experience but also its ideal qualifications and experience; and provide feedback on the dynamics of the position and its salary structure, yourorganization’s competitiveness and perception in the marketplace, and the viabilityof attracting an ideal candidate.Search Parameters: How will they establish search parameters and perform researchand analysis of market conditions, industry and vertical market competition, and talentpool?Candidate Identification: How will they source and identify candidates? What are theirtypical strategies and what resources will be utilized?An experienced firm will leverage their industry network and be able to identify your directand indirect competitors, and the pertinent professionals within those organizations.CandidateAssessment: How will they represent your organization? How will theyqualify candidates? What personal intangibles of candidates will be considered?A consultant’s ability to recruit, assess, and attract talented professionals is fundamentallyimportant, and will determine the effectiveness and results of the entire search.Candidate Presentation: How will candidates be presented? Will they presentcandidates as they are identified or simultaneously? Will they submit resumes in a standardformat or will they submit the actual resumes candidates developed? Will they providetransparency on candidates such as: strengths, weaknesses, current compensation, careergoals, and any personal issues that may affect their placeability and performance?10
    • Interviews: How will they manage the interview process? Will they perform the firstround of interviews? Will they provide candidate feedback on interviews and within whattime frame?Typically, the higher the position level, the more important it is for the search firm tointerview candidates first. Feedback should be given to you and the candidates within 48hours of interviews.References & Background Checks: Will they provide written professional referencesand conduct background and employment checks on final candidates prior to an offerbeing extended?Professional references and background checks are highly recommended whether they areperformed by you or the search firm.Evaluation, Selection & Extending an Offer: After candidates have beeninterviewed, will they compare each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses with you? Willthey provide assistance during compensation negotiations?FollowThrough: Do they continue to follow through with you after the securedindividual begins employment and at what intervals? Do they also continue to followthrough with the candidate to ensure their transition is going smoothly?A committed consultant will continue to follow through with you and the successfulcandidate for at least six months following the placement.11
    • Chapter 5Commencing an Executive SearchThe hiring organization plays a significant part in the commencement of an executive search.Information shared at this stage provides the foundation for the search, and will determine itsstrategy, approach, and overall success. In this phase, the consultant learns about your organizationand the role to be filled. Being open and forthright streamlines and strengthens the process,supporting a positive outcome.In general, determine and share the specific objectives you want to achieve in hiring an ideal candidate,and ensure that these goals are clear among all parties involved in the search process,including members of your team; have a realistic image of your organization, and the types and levels of candidates it canreasonably attract; allow the consultant to share their views on the market, available talent pool, yourcompetition, compensation structure, employer brand / image, and how they perceive yourfirm’s attractiveness to high-caliber candidates; collaborate with the consultant on the search strategy in determining sources for qualifiedcandidates, how your organization and its opportunity will be represented to prospectivecandidates, and how candidates will be evaluated; and keep your internal team aware of the search strategy and progress.12
    • Information to share about your organization Its executive team, markets, financial strength, reputation and competition, short- and long-term goals, and planned strategies. Organization’s structure, culture, and environment, and the same of the department inwhich this person will be placed. Personal and professional characteristics of your organization’s high performers so that theconsultant can understand your organization’s ideal employee attitude, and the personaland professional characteristics of your most successful employees.and about the role Clearly defined primary and secondary responsibilities, performance expectations, and theexperience and technical competencies desired in candidates. Short- and long-term objectives. Specific challenges and opportunities. Employees who interact with the position, and their individual work styles and attitudes. How the role impacts your organization as a whole, which is key information to highperforming professionals who want to know how they can bring value and positively impactan organization.If your Human Resources department will have involvement Introduce your Human Resources personnel to the search consultant at the onset of thesearch, which will encourage them to work together as a team to achieve your recruitmentobjectives. Explain to your Human Resources personnel the reasons why a search firm has beenengaged, and the situation’s unique circumstances such as confidentiality, market access tocandidates, or other issues that prompted the consideration of using an outside recruitmentfirm.13
    • Chapter 6Tips for Maintaining a Search’sMomentumIt is essential toassume your rolein maintaining asearch’smomentum so thatyou do not risklosing the interestof high-calibercandidates and tosupport thesearch’ssuccessfuloutcome. Commit to your role in the search process,continually collaborating with the searchconsultant. View the search as a priority and respect thesense of urgency. Keep your internal team apprised of searchprogress. Regard the search firm as a trusted advisor andnot as a vendor. Respect the consultant’sinsight and knowledge of your industry andcandidates. Support the continuous flow of information andrespond to the consultant’s requests, emails,and voice mails in a timely manner. To prepare for candidate interviews, understandhow to present your organization and itsopportunity to potential candidates. A goodsearch consultant will assist you in developingan interview strategy as well as prepare you forindividual interviews (i.e. a candidate’smotivations, hot buttons, current employmentsituation, family issues). Provide timely, substantive feedback oncandidates and their suitability as you want tokeep the selection process refined. Trust the consultant’s suggestions duringcompensation negotiations.14
    • Chapter 7What Value Does an ExperiencedRetained Search Consultant Provide?Specialized executive search firms and experienced consultants can add tremendous value to anorganization’s recruitment and talent acquisition strategies. Developing a relationship with aconsultant who understands your industry, as well as your organization and its objectives, cansupport you in attracting and securing talented professionals who will add strength to your team,significantly impacting the future of your organization.An experienced search consultant brings value to the talentacquisition process by: working collaboratively with you, taking time to understand your organization and its uniquecorporate culture, style, and structure before initiating search activities; understanding how to develop strategies and solutions that navigate the challenges andlimitations of a given talent pool; providing insight on your market and your competitors (compensation programs,organizational structures, and corporate cultures); advising on the type of candidate you can expect to secure based upon the role, its salarystructure, and opportunities for growth; assisting in determining how to represent your organization and opportunity to make bothappealing to candidates; assessing the personal attributes and cultural fit of candidates, providing intelligence beyondresumes that includes professional comments about candidates, their backgrounds, careermotivations, hot buttons, family issues, and why they are motivated to pursue your specificopportunity. They will coach a secured candidate through their resignation process toensure a smooth transition; acting as a sounding board for you and candidates, providing a buffer zone to allowcommunication to flow freely and honestly. During the interview process and negotiationprocess, this reduces the formality and focuses on key issues.15
    • 9000 Brooktree RoadSuite 150Wexford, Pennsylvania 15090(724) 935-7500W: www.helblingsearch.comE: helbling@helblingsearch.comIf you are looking for talented individuals who can assist you instrengthening your organization’s competitive advantage, and would liketo learn more about Helbling & Associates’ recruitment and talentacquisition experience and capabilities, visit us request a brochure, visit our Contact Us page.