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5 signs it’s time to work with Executive Search Consultants
By DeLynn Senna, Senior District President, Executive Search Global Operations, Robert Half
Whether an organization is preparing for a leadership change, experiencing an unexpected gap in the C-suite, adding a brand-new executive-level role — or perhaps, instituting its very first senior executive leadership team — hiring a leader requires a great deal of thought and planning. But because no company can afford to let these crucial positions sit open for too long, time is of the essence when it comes to conducting an executive search.
Even so, these searches can take many weeks or even several months to complete — and that is typical. Companies must often cast a wide net that extends beyond their immediate networks and geographic locations to find promising executive talent interested in making a move. And critical processes, from interview scheduling to compensation discussions to relocation planning, often require a significant investment in time and must be handled appropriately.
Engaging executive search consultants is one strategy that businesses, large and small, can utilize to bring more efficiency to recruiting for senior leadership roles. These dedicated and highly skilled professionals and their teams serve as an engine throughout the search process, helping to drive it forward and making sure it’s as swift and thorough as possible.
How do you know when it’s time for your business to enlist help from executive search consultants? Consider whether one or more of these five signs apply to your search:
1. The position has been open for six months or longer
While executive searches can take time, they can become unduly prolonged because companies lack the time, resources and experience required to conduct the process effectively. Often, businesses looking for leaders are not sure how or where to start their search, or what they must do to compete for executive talent in the current hiring environment.
This is especially true for small and midsize businesses that rarely undertake candidate searches at this level, and startups and other fast-growing companies that may not have experience hiring senior leaders. In many cases, these firms do not have a formal human resource or a highly experienced talent acquisition function to lean on for help.
Executive search consultants can take on the heavy and complex work of a search, working closely with the business and candidates to bring momentum and transparency to the entire process. Standout executive search practices also take the time to gather extensive, relevant market intelligence that they share with their clients, helping them to understand the dynamics of the hiring landscape and how their company is perceived by potential hires.
2. You haven’t conducted an executive search before (or in a long time)
Building on the above point, some businesses just aren’t accustomed to searching for executive talent. For example, say a fintech startup is in high-growth mode, and considering whether to go public or position itself for a merger or acquisition deal. It may be time for the founders to start hiring experienced professionals to help guide the business through a major transaction.
Rounding out the leadership team could require the fintech to staff roles such as the chief operating officer (COO), chief financial officer (CFO) and general counsel — or perhaps even the CEO. The business might also need a chief audit executive if it decides to set up an internal audit function.
That is a lot of hiring to undertake at a high level — and missteps can risk the reputation and success of this fast-growing business. Executive search consultants can help the fintech assemble its leadership “dream team” by making sure that candidates are likely to mesh with the startup’s organizational culture, share the company’s vision, and can work effectively with the other new leaders, as well as the founders. Here’s another example of when a business might consider working with executive search consultants: A manufacturing firm has had the same CEO for the past 20 years, and now that person is retiring. This small business has limited networks to tap for leads and is unfamiliar with current practices for recruiting a chief executive.
A retained executive search service can help that company’s decision makers understand the hiring environment and what they need to offer to be competitive for executive talent. They can also help them look as far outside their market as necessary to identify the right talent, and even assist in setting up travel and meetings for candidates as part of the interview process. These are just some ways skilled executive search consultants can ease the burden on a small or midsize business that needs to hire senior talent.
3. Your executive recruitment is highly confidential
No matter how well-orchestrated a change in senior leadership at your company might be, it can still cause your key stakeholders — from customers to employees to investors — to worry about what that shift means for the organization’s stability and future plans.
So, whether you’re looking to change current leadership, build out a new executive team or hire a seasoned professional to help launch and lead a new business initiative, a highly confidential search process can help keep the rumor mill quiet.
Executive search consultants will conduct thorough research of the marketplace to find promising external candidates. And when they reach out to a prospect the employer would like to engage with, they ask the interested candidate to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) before they proceed with sharing the company’s name and the details about the position.
This approach can prevent your competitors, as well as your employees and other key stakeholders, from getting wind of your plans for a change in leadership. And if those plans include replacing a current leader who is not working out, you can avoid alerting that individual and risking their departure before you have identified and secured their successor and formulated a transition plan.
It also benefits candidates to know that they have been contacted by a retained executive search firm. They can also be confident that the risk is low their current employer might learn they’re considering an opportunity with another company. Executive search consultants can also evaluate internal candidates to help the business confirm that the succession plan in place for a particular leadership role is still the best course of action.
4. You need to look for candidates nationwide or globally
In this digital era, it is easier than ever for companies to connect with and employ talent from around the globe. And with research showing that remote work has real staying power, businesses may need to accept that some of their leadership hires today, and in the future, will be people who don’t work anywhere near the company’s headquarters.
But conducting an executive search at the national or global level can be challenging for businesses of any size. That’s why many employers look to a retained executive search practice with a strong global network to help support their talent search in any market — whether they’re hiring a remote candidate or looking to staff their operations in another state or country. Companies with an international presence or that want to establish one, for example, might turn to executive search consultants with a global reach when they need to find executive-level candidates in local markets.
5. You need to secure a leader with specific skills or experience
Executive hiring is high stakes hiring for a business. So, it is not surprising that many companies have a long and detailed list of what they want to find in a candidate for a leadership role. While the most skilled executive search consultants will always strive to meet an employer’s wish list, the reality is that sometimes — as Winston Churchill noted — perfection can be the enemy of progress.
Executive search consultants will collaborate with companies to create realistic requirements for positions, based on their knowledge of the market and what their research tells them about current trends. Through their conversations with employers, they can learn about specialized skills and knowledge that are true must-haves — such as a specific industry background or type of technical experience.
When they have the flexibility to look beyond a stringent list of criteria, executive search teams can uncover promising candidates a business may not have previously considered. And through this process, companies often discover that the strongest candidates for leadership roles they need to hire for are high-potential and enthusiastic professionals who come into the role ready to make an impact.
Hire your next leader with confidence — contact Robert Half’s executive search practice
Robert Half’s retained executive search consultants can help find the C-suite and senior management professionals to lead your business forward. We work with public, private, and nonprofit organizations across industries to hire for these and other roles at the director level or above.
- CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CIO
- President, EVP, VP
- Executive director
- General counsel
- General manager
- Board member
Follow DeLynn Senna on LinkedIn.