Executive Search Industry

Search Industry Overview

The executive search industry exists due to the increasingly competitive landscape to hire and retain the absolute best talent within any organization. For nearly all companies, the most valued asset is their employees. Assembling a strong team of professionals who can drive bottom-line results and long-term company success is essential to the health of any organization.

The challenge with this scenario is that there is a war for talent; simply put, the demand exceeds the viable candidate market. Without a proactive, consistent recruitment effort for the highly valued and protected top talent in external organizations, it is impossible to say with certainty that a company is hiring one of the best possible individuals – not just the best available.

Organizations use recruiters because of our ability to identify, attract, evaluate, and then land the top talent that exists within their industry. Although consultative, search is still a sales business; typically, recruiters are engaged only after client organizations have exhausted all other avenues. At that point, we are expected to present those clients with candidates that they could not find on their own and through their efforts. In other words, Dimensional Search teams are brought in for only the more challenging searches. Successful recruiters know they are utilized to provide solutions to client problems, not just “fill empty chairs” in an organizational chart.

The search process is not an overly complicated process, but executing it effectively certainly is. Most Dimensional Search Consultants choose to specialize in some combination of a specific function, industry, location, and level of expertise – which is what we refer to as Market Mastery. One of the biggest challenges that you will face, as a recruiter, is to bridge the gap between being perceived as a vendor to your clients and candidates versus being perceived as an irreplaceable and invaluable partner to your clients and candidates.

One of the best ways to bridge that value gap with both clients and candidates is to develop true expertise in a very specific industry or niche in addition to expertise in the search process. By gaining in-depth industry insight beyond the obvious, you position yourself to bring unique knowledge to the marketplace – knowledge worthy of not only the time invested when partnering with you, but worthy of the professional fees you charge as well.

The bottom line is that your clients want to hire specialists. Patients no longer see a general surgeon; they go to an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in specific areas such as the spine or the shoulder. The drug industry does not just have one pharmaceutical sales rep that handles all products; they have a rep that handles cardiovascular products and another that handles oncology products. Whether you choose to build from your previous business experience, background, and connections or start a new chapter, the Dimensional Search Network has a methodology that will help cement your foundation and future in search.

The Dimensional Search® Process

Our proprietary Dimensional Search process sets us apart; it is a “multi-dimensional” process that matches:

  • The Client’s position and expectations with those of the candidate, such as title, compensation, relocation and amount of travel.
  • “Technical” requirements, such as education, relevant industry experience and managerial experience with the candidate’s relevant background and experience.
  • Cultural fit of the company with the candidate’s experience and success in similar cultures and/or his likely adaptability to the company’s culture.
  • The chemistry between the candidate and hiring manager as well as the candidate’s attributes to the subjective traits required in the Position Profile.
  • How “translatable” the candidate’s experiences and capabilities are to the company’s expectations with respect to responsibilities and major projects.

Embedded in our proprietary process is a detailed 32-step search progression, summarized as follows:

Understanding Client Needs: In order to have a true strategy to identify, evaluate, attract, and secure the very best talent available in a timely manner, we must first have sufficient information from the client. Our objective is not to feel like an external recruiter, but rather a member of our client’s internal recruiting team. Although needs and requirements may sometimes change during the course of a search engagement, unless there is a clear mutual understanding or anchor point established up front, it is challenging to ensure that our candidates are truly the appropriate and best match.

Position and Opportunity Profile: A summary of the client’s needs and requirements are compiled into a comprehensive Position Profile to ensure we accurately reflect the client’s requirements, appropriately match the candidate’s background and experience to the responsibilities and requirements described by the client, and provide compelling information to prospective candidates regarding the uniqueness of the position as well as the company’s “sizzle”.

Candidate Identification: We create an extensive plan customized for the search utilizing proprietary databases, as well as the Internet and other state of the art tools and technologies, for this initial phase. However, most often the best candidates come from the extensive network of contacts we have established; referrals from colleagues are typically the best source of qualified passive individuals. The key to successful referrals is in the compelling presentation about our client’s opportunity presented to every possible candidate in hopes of widening the net and spreading the positive story about our client, their department, their future, and this opportunity. Candidates will be screened on more than just their skills; they will also be qualified based on experience, chemistry and motivation. Depending on the specific opportunity, we may contact literally hundreds of candidates before identifying a suitable quantity of quality prospects for pre-qualification.

Interview Process and Debriefing: As Dimensional Search Consultants, we thoroughly conduct a complete preparation for both parties prior to any initial conversation. A candidate will know exactly who they will be meeting with, what their backgrounds are, what questions they will ask, what their interview and personality styles are, and how to discuss next steps at the end of the meeting. Similarly, the client will understand why this individual is receptive to making a change, what their top motivating factors are, what they liked about this opportunity, what they might be hesitant about, and anything else pertinent to the attraction and screening process. Following the interview, we debrief both the client and candidate and talk through what worked, what didn’t work, what might not have been covered as thoroughly as it should have been, and help both parties determine the next steps. We continue to consult throughout this process until ultimately, we have a candidate who wants to work for our client and a client who is excited to extend an offer to this candidate. We are trained to sense any “red flags” in areas such as relocation, compensation, family and timeframe to making a change. These are just a few of such issues that might occur during the candidate recruitment process and, not only inform clients of such issues, but work with client and candidate (if possible) to resolve them expeditiously.

Our offices establish with the client the defined process with respect to the details and timing required for reference and background checks as well as who will conduct them; we are able to assist clients in whatever manner desired to ensure such checks are done prior to the candidate entering into the final stages of the interviewing process.

Once we have two parties that have both been attracted, qualified, evaluated, and now ready to take those next steps of partnering together for career and organizational advancement, we will we work collaboratively to create an offer that is presented effectively and intended to be accepted immediately.

Resignation can be a very stressful experience for candidates; we will coach the candidate during this delicate timeframe and share preparations, suggestions, and best practices to help make this a seamless transition, but also leave a good impression with the current company.

Prior to the candidate’s start date, during the early phase of employment, and for months after the candidate’s date of hire, it is essential to follow-up with both the client and the candidate to ensure a successful on-boarding process! As Dimensional Search Consultants, we consult throughout the process and make sure goals are confirmed for the first several months of employment, a mentorship program or training program is in place, reviews are scheduled early and often, and anything else that will help create a long-term match for both parties.

History of Executive Search

Executive search originated from the recurring need of management consulting firms to recruit executives who could implement a recommended strategy to solve a client’s problem. The management consulting firms would identify solutions for organizational growth or evolution – but that solution was missing the link of the right person.

Eventually, firms established by veterans from McKinsey as well as Booz Allen began recruiting executives for client companies. The search consultants who came out of these firms applied the tenets of management consulting to their endeavors from the start, thus laying the foundation for the legitimacy of executive search as a consulting discipline.

From 1978 to 2008, Global Retained Executive Search Revenues grew to over $10 billion.

Retained search developed a reputation of professional individuals, who were very thorough, consultative, and knowledgeable. On the other hand, they had very lengthy processes. Many times, they had to fabricate long processes just to create the illusion that it took that long to find someone. The retained partnerships had little, or in some cases no, performance assurance whatsoever, they charged very high fees, came with very high expenses, and sometimes were limited to working at only the most senior of levels.

As the retained search world grew, so did another world – that of contingent recruiting and it too has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The contingent recruiting world had a reputation of being fantastic partners because they worked quickly – they knew their niches intimately well and could identify the best of the best candidates quickly and work at multiple levels within an organization. The contingent search world was only paid for results – so there wasn’t a need for a lengthy process if it wasn’t required. On the other hand, the reputation of recruiters being very transactional providers came out of this industry. The recruiters tended to not necessarily be as professional or consultative in many client’s minds and thus the reputation tended to have some negative imagery associated with our business.

Ultimately, two lines seemed to have been clearly drawn: contingency was for the mid and lower-level positions, while retained was for the higher levels.

Well, several decades ago, we came in and challenged that paradigm, and the concept that we trademarked called Client Focused Search has evolved our industry to this day.

We started asking questions.

Why wouldn’t the urgency and critical nature of a position dictate the financial arrangement, as opposed to the role? Why it is that the recruiting industry classifies itself that way? There aren’t contingent law firms and retained law firms. There aren’t contingent consulting firms and retained consulting firms. There are just law firms and consulting firms that work in a manner that best suits the need of that client. If a retained solution was appropriate for that law firm, that’s the way they would work for that client and if a contingent program was appropriate, that’s the way they would work for that client.

So companies were left with two choices – work with a retained firm or work with a contingent firm. That lasted for decades until the 1990s came along. In came a thing called TQM – Total Quality Management. TQM was all about core competencies – figure out what you are good at and then outsource it. Because of your tremendous competency, you may even be able to expedite the delivery of the product, enhance the quality, and perhaps even expand your overall offerings and even lower the cost through the economies of scale that you’re able to provide.

That TQM trend moved from a product to a service industry, and then eventually to the recruiting industry. From the mid-90s to the late 90s, the idea of core competencies and relying on search firms to provide that human capital acquisition competency resulted in explosive growth for our industry. That growth continues to this day as we are hired to help our clients identify, evaluate, attract, and land the best possible talent for our client’s most urgent and critical needs.

The reason this history lesson is important is because our industry evolved during those times – and clients craved search firms who were able to be flexible when crafting the way they worked to solve their organization’s needs. Clients don’t want to go to a restaurant that only serves chicken, or only serves steak, or only serves lobster, or only knows how to cook burgers – they want chefs that help create for them what’s suitable for their palette at that moment in time.

Our Client Focused Search approach is our way of being that customized and capable chef. A client-focused search firm can work in a variety of ways, each reflecting the specific needs and circumstances of that client for a specific search. We have a responsibility to educate our clients as to the differences between dedicated search and contingency recruiting as it relates to the search process, the style of relationship, and the contractual terms – but we should not do our clients a disservice by only knowing how to prepare chicken if what they really need is a steak.

Ultimately, the search industry continues to be as viable as ever. Job boards, social networking, and rapid evolutions in technology don’t erase the need to have a partnership with a trusted search partner. Just as job boards changed the face of how to search for jobs twenty years ago, there are several other portals on the internet that make sourcing for candidates easy. However, keep in mind that search professionals are hired by our clients to do four things – to identify, attract, evaluate, and then land the candidates they cannot land on their own or through their own sources.

The bottom line? High touch cannot be replaced with high tech. No matter how easy the ‘identification’ piece becomes, the best recruiters are the ones who truly become experts at attracting and ultimately landing the superstars for their clients – a skill that is highly valued no matter the technology or economic conditions.