Executive Search firms – trusted advisors, not CV providers



Last week we were present at the 2016 World Executive Search Congress in London. Both executive search firms and in-house recruitment/search teams from around the world reunited for 2 intensive days, exchanging insights on the trends and future of retained executive search.

Today we want to share with you a few key takeaways on the main topics covered during the congress.

Client partner or Client servant?

John Niland’s presentation on raising the value of our work as search partners particularly resonated with me. Retained executive search needs to be seen through the same lens as a client would view their management consulting partner. Partnership relationships are based on trust; that means having confidence in your recruitment partner and their expertise, allowing them to challenge you and listening to their advice. Hand in hand with trust, investing the time so that they understand your company’s culture and values will always be rewarded in stronger shortlists.

Clients expectations of retained executive search are indeed shifting to more strategic partnerships; working with search partners to gain market insight, advice and support on how best to navigate around the various options. True partners are therefore not just CV providers; they hold the role of trusted advisors.

Key behavior traits show that partners will ask tough business / operational questions and challenge you, for example, if the market is not aligned with what you are looking for. Partners will not quickly quote fees, offer large discounts or promise the moon. Rather, they will realistically review your hiring needs and provide advice on the best approach and resources required to reach your goal. Partners that understand the value of what they provide will be willing to walk away rather than embark on a process that they know will not end in success.

Talking money

Search fees were a hot topic on the agenda, fueling many discussions over the 2 days. One thing we all (in-house and external search) agree on: no one wants the quality of search to suffer.
The expertise of in-house search functions today make for a more sophisticated buyer and this norm means that the heyday of traditional firms billing at 33%+ on full package will diminish as they feel the downward pressure on their pricing. So the best approach for both the client and the search firm is a real partnership agreement, with long term visibility in mind.

To conclude, here are the summit’s main reflections and observations :

Executive search is transforming into a leadership development and advisory profession. In-house recruitment and external search firms by no means preclude the other rather they complement and reinforce one another. Retained executive search is there to address those specific client needs that require a certain expertise. Rigor, analytics, speed, and engagement with top talent is what every client wants and expects from their search partner and what every firm should offer if they aim to stay competitive in tomorrow’s recruitment market!