The most effective way to recruit top business leaders
Pat O’Donnell, Managing Partner of Principal Connections, outlines the most effective method to recruit top senior management, executives and board members in today’s competitive business environment.
According to the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC), 2015 was the biggest year in history for the executive search and leadership consulting profession worldwide. Global revenue for the industry was estimated at $12.41 billion and markedly, Ireland and the United Kingdom represented the second largest market with an impressive 16.3% market share.
Despite the maturity of the executive search industry in Ireland and the undeniable upswing in demand for such high value services across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, as one of Ireland’s authoritative specialist executive search firms, it is interesting to occasionally encounter how executive search and mainstream recruitment methods are sometimes considered interchangeably. This is especially peculiar when one contemplates what an authentic executive search solution actually is, where it can be most effectively utilised, and most importantly, the outcome it is designed to ultimately achieve.
So what is an authentic executive search? An executive search is a specialized form of management consulting delivered on a retained and exclusive basis to identify, assess and recruit elite candidates for senior, executive or other highly specialised positions. The process is defined by its methodology which is generally fundamental in determining such factors as the experience of the assigned lead consultant (although passion will also be critical), the designated time (and in turn reach) to be invested in the process, the professional fees which will apply, and crucially, the likelihood of success.
Where can it be most effectively utilised? An executive search is typically used in circumstances where a position is of critical importance and fundamental to ensuring the success or failure of a company or its leadership team. It can therefore be presumed that all measures must be taken to optimise the probability of success to ensure that the best candidate is recruited and the risk of a poor or average appointment is mitigated.
An executive search can also be of tremendous value where a company is seeking to recruit a candidate with a rare mix of skills or a ‘game changer’; where the demand for a specific type of candidate is particularly high; or where there are specific points of sensitivity which require an independent, objective and confidential recruitment approach be taken.
It is not uncommon for an executive search to be commissioned where another recruitment method or party has not achieved a satisfactory outcome. However, this is never an ideal scenario due to the added complexity created by the perception of the failed recruitment attempt. It will also not be every executive search firm that will want to undertake an assignment under these circumstances.
An executive search firm may also be a useful idea where a new position is being introduced or newly redefined within a company or where there is a belief that a unique third party standpoint is likely to generate a greater degree of interest while positive competitor relationships are maintained. In recent years, the executive search solution has also been supportive in helping companies achieve diversity agendas while continuing its tradition of creating strategic advantage through better hiring decisions.
Why is this method most successful? Aside from the criticality of the experience, skill, passion, tools, innovation and very importantly, the pre-engagement risk analysis of the consulting firm delivering the solution, the reason for success often lies in the methodology. Methodologies and their constituent parts will typically vary from one firm to another. By example, at Principal Connections we have an unrivaled 98% assignment completion ratio. Our methodology is uniquely partnership and results focused and appropriately applied to each specific client context. Typically, we will work very closely with our client company; spending considerable time in scoping out the assignment and developing the optimal search strategy.
Original industry and authentic candidate research of the domestic and/or international and global markets will then be conducted and the resultant target candidate demographic will be aptly contacted or headhunted ensuring engagement. Candidates who signal an interest in the position we are representing will be invited to participate in our comprehensive assessment and evaluation processes following which we will agree on a final shortlist for interview with our client company.
A member of our consulting team will generally sit on the client interview panel and will assist in preparation and setting the interview agenda. The concluding phase of the process will often see the introduction of cognitive and personality psychometric assessment tools; 360 degree reference checking together with a comprehensive medical examination. Subsequently, we will manage the offer and negotiation process and will sometimes assist with an integration plan for the successful candidate.
Pat O’Donnell is a Founding Partner and Director of Principal Connections – search & advisory.
Named ‘Best in Practice for Executive Search’ at the National Recruitment Federation Awards 2015 – 2016, Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading executive search and headhunting firm.
This article was featured by Dublin Chamber of Commerce in May 2016.