Utilizing a search firm can be highly beneficial in finding a new executive or leader for your organization, but only if you know how to get the most out of the experience. If your search committee decides to utilize a firm, it’s helpful to have some insight about what you can expect from them as well as what you can do to equip them to serve you in the best way possible. A firm that is committed to exceeding expectations and helping your team select the absolute best candidate for the job will be able to do so to the extent you utilize their skills and provide helpful information about your organization and the expectations you have for the search. The following are five specific ways your team can support the search and maximize the benefits of using a search firm.
1. Find a firm passionate about your mission, values and culture
Because your company is unique, with its own culture, strengths and challenges, an off-the-rack search firm or approach won’t cut it. When choosing a firm, explain your mission, values and culture. Show them what your team does and why you’re passionate about it. (This may even be a good time to revisit your mission and values, not to tweak it, but to reinforce it and refresh your team’s perspective.) Even if the firm doesn’t totally understand the ins and outs of your organization as an outsider, the right one will be on board with what you’re trying to do. They’ll be excited to help you find someone who will make your team even stronger and take your mission further. Firms that do high-quality work and champion your mission do exist — don’t settle for one or the other.
2. Give the search consultants access to key stakeholders and information, including direct engagement with the hiring decision maker(s).
It’s tempting to play things close to the vest when another company is providing input for sensitive decisions like hiring a new executive, but giving search consultants pertinent information to the job at hand is crucial to getting the most out of the service they are providing. Allow the team to access key stakeholders and engage with hiring decision-makers. Doing so will help them get a better feel for what you’re looking for and what candidates will ultimately make the best fit. It will also allow the individuals who will be interacting with the new hire on a regular basis a chance for their voice to be heard, whether it’s board members, senior executives, direct supervisors or middle managers. Encouraging interaction between these stakeholders and the search firm also helps the search firm have a fuller picture of the qualities, abilities and even personality type the new executive should possess.
3. Give the firm “room to run.”
Hiring a new leader is a major decision, so a natural tendency is to want to micromanage the process, or at least oversee every step taken. Hiring a search firm, though, means enlisting a team of experts. To do their job thoroughly and successfully, a firm must be given the freedom to work independently — to be trusted with the understanding of confidentiality and be allowed the space to fully explore their options. They must have the ability to conduct comprehensive research both nationally and locally and be afforded the full amount of time required to do the job to the best of their ability. Doing this may be difficult, but trusting that the firm understands your organization’s mission and the importance of the task at hand is crucial to receiving high-quality work from the firm. Conducting an in-depth search using a firm is not a quick-fix, but finding the right candidate rarely is.
4. Target milestone dates.
Setting expectations on the front end about deadlines for candidate selections, interviews and hire dates helps ensure the firm and your company are on the same page, minimizing the likelihood of conflict and frustration later on. Set a specific date for the firm to present a slate of candidates and a specific date for candidate interviews to begin. Having a calendar in place will allow all parties to remain in sync throughout the process and help the firm manage their time wisely.
5. Involve the search consultant in the employment and compensation negotiations.
Though companies may be hesitant at first to allow a hired search firm to have input during these final stages, perhaps for fear of sharing too much information or having “too many cooks” involved, a firm can be a valuable resource when negotiating employment and compensation. A search firm will have a wide breadth of familiarity with the marketplace across the board as well as knowledge surrounding current trends. It will also have in-depth research and data about average compensation levels and ranges of related positions in other organizations, which would often otherwise be confidential therefore unknown to most internal hiring authorities. This rare insight is a unique advantage to hiring a firm and should be taken advantage of if possible.
The firm can also help facilitate back and forth communications during the negotiations while offers are extended and discussed, including salary, bonus and benefit details. At times, it can be highly beneficial to have a third party act as a “buffer” between the candidate and the employer, as well as provide counsel on suggested terms for either side before they submit it to the other party. A firm’s experienced insight can shed light on the appropriateness of requests and specific offers based on market research and avoid having terms seen as unreasonable by the other party.
If your company maximizes all a firm has to offer, hiring one to assist in your search can be a highly efficient and worthwhile investment, enabling your team to explore every avenue when looking for a new leader. By employing the steps above, you are empowering the firm do to its job to the best of its ability and utilize its resources to their full extent, which gets your team the best results.