Retained executive search consulting got organized in the late ‘50s. A branch of management consulting, Booz-Allen, McKinsey, the (then) “big eight” accounting firms all had search practices. Two of today’s “big four” in search were founded in ’69. So many corporations have experience with search. If you are new to the concept, or just want a refresher, these FAQs might be of interest.
When should you use a search firm?
When a position’s responsibilities are critical to restoring, maintaining, or improving the health of the organization, and the company must have superior, not just adequate performance from a person.
What makes search worthwhile?
There is no substitute for what search does (when it does it right). There are other avenues for finding people; the CFO says he has a few names; so-and-so in a division might be good enough with a little more seasoning; plenty of people are always looking for work. But the organizing principle of search is that the best talent rarely comes to you, that you find markedly better talent when you actively seek it out.
Does it matter who we turn to for search?
Identifying, evaluating and attracting top talent is a process that takes time, effort, and
experience. It is best performed by those who’ve chosen search consulting as their career and are professionally committed to it as a full time pursuit. They know its subtleties, blind alleys and broad avenues. Most of all they know the rewards it delivers to the organizations that use it for all it’s worth.
How does it work?
Search defines a universe of potential candidates, refines selection criteria, actively explores a field for evidence of the best work and then finds the people behind that work. It favors skill and ability rather than just prominence, identifying who gets results, not just the “big men on campus.” It extends the concept of meritocracy beyond the borders of a single corporation or not-for-profit.
Are the costs justifiable?
Compared to the time clients would expand trying to do it themselves and the waste if it turns out badly, the dollars are negligible, and probably the most effective leverage ever produced out of such a small investment.
How much time does it take?
A lot of ours, much less of yours than other means.
How fast does the search progress?
If you need someone yesterday (and who doesn’t?), the first few weeks of a search can be
frustrating. The search firm is doing its groundwork, contacting its sources, making its outreach identifying and approaching people who will soon become leading candidates. You can get quicker action, but not really quicker work, because search is a search, the point being not who you know but who you can find and accurately assess. Not a full file drawer, but a full toolbox of the techniques and methods that locate and attract the men and women who can deliver the results you need to make your organization turn around if it’s troubled, survive if it’s threatened, or grow if it’s plateaued.