The Executive Brief

Don't Leave Your Executive Hire to Chance

Bob Schoenbaum Culture, Evaluation, Executive Leadership, Hiring, Retained Executive Search

We've discussed time and time again the increasing difficulty of making great hires in private companies. In a booming economy with a low unemployment rate, private companies have a difficult time attracting top talent to their companies: this is especially an issue when it comes to executive level hires. The competition for truly transformational leaders is fierce.

To find an outstanding executive leader, you cannot simply post the position on a job board and hope to find the perfect candidate - because the right person probably isn't going to see it. It is considerably more work, takes longer and requires careful screening to find a candidate who has the perfect set of skills and is a great culture fit.

Doing It Yourself

As a business owner/CEO, the DIY (Do It Yourself) Method seems like a natural approach. You have a huge network and it makes sense to turn to your trusted advisers, consultants and fellow business owners for recommendations. And, important to your bottom line, doing it yourself is inexpensive, if you can complete the process with a great hire. 

The Challenge of DIY

Sometimes the DIY method can result in a great hire who is a perfect culture fit. Unfortunately, if the new hire doesn't work out, the money saved will be small compared to the headaches, resource drain and lost opportunity cost. Challenges include:

  • Small Candidate Pool: The DIY method results in a very small pool of candidates (1-2% of the workforce) who are either actively looking for a new position or are unhappy in their current role. This limited field of candidates can be a huge disadvantage, because you do not have multiple qualified candidates to compare and contrast.
  • Screening: Often, small-to-medium private companies do not have robust HR departments with the time and ability to carefully interview, quality, assess and select. If this is an extremely important decision, the DIY method leaves a great hire up to luck: who was available at the time, who came highly recommended, who answered the questions correctly.
  • Timing: Finding candidates, bringing them in to be interviewed, comparing and contrasting is time consuming. If good candidates are not coming your way, filling a seat can take months. And, hiring the wrong candidate who is not successful and exits quickly is all time lost.
  • Culture and Core Values Fit: Most executives come with a certain degree of polish and excellent interview skills. You might interview some very talented people, but if they do not fit the core values and culture of your company, the executive will not be able to drive your company to greater heights.

Another option is to hire a contingent search firm, will allow you to reach about 10% of the candidate pool. Contingent firms know people who are actively looking for jobs, but they still do not reach those candidates firmly entrenched in their current positions. Contingent firms also struggle with making hires at an executive level.

Unlocking the Hidden Job Market

In order to unlock what I call the hidden job market of happily, gainfully employed candidates (an additional 80% of the talent pool)  you might need some help. To reach this pool of qualified candidates, you need a retained executive search firm.

A retained search firm with a dedicated process will conduct original research and sourcing to find you the best pool of candidates - including passive candidates who are not actively looking for a new position. Retained search firms reach candidates who are currently working for someone else every day - but could be working for you! For the right reason, they might be seeking a new opportunity, if someone reaches out directly and shares it with them.

In a relatively short amount of time, a retained firm carefully screens, interviews and vets a pool of highly qualified candidates to bring you the best 4-6 who are uniquely talented, and also share your company's core values and fit your culture.

Investing in a Retained Executive Search

Yes, retained search is an investment. But, considering the value a strong executive leader will bring to your company in a few short years, the investment is well worth it. For example: 10 years ago, KeyStone was hired to add an executive leader to a team after a DIY search had failed. The candidate the company added after completing a DIY search (adding someone from their network) left in less than a year because they had very little work ethic and did not fit the culture. 10 years after the KeyStone placement, the business has grown dramatically. The placed candidate has also developed an internal candidate to succeed them in the role.

KeyStone Search has successfully placed incredible executive level talent in private businesses. We're not the least expensive option, but we promise a thorough search process, defined deliverables and an outstanding new executive at the end of the process.

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