To Search or Not to Search that is the question …

Interview with Patricia Pedrosa, formerly VP HR with Bacardi


When talking about big companies like Bacardi, it’s common to have a significant in-house recruiting department with many tools at their disposal in order to find candidates. And yet, these organisations are reaching out to executive search firms to support the hiring of their senior positions. Why?
We’ve interviewed Patricia Pedrosa, former HR Vice President – Global Operations and MEA Region at Bacardi, asking her to share her experience in working with executive search firms and to provide some insight into the whys, whens and hows of working with executive search partners.

Q: Patricia, when should a company turn to an external consultant in executive search?

A: The answer is simple: when we do not have the quantity and quality of resources internally. A company should focus on maximizing the quality of the recruitment processes and capabilities. If a company does not have the right level of resources internally, it’s best to turn to an external partner who has the methodologies, the knowledge and the capability to secure the best talent.
An internal talent acquisition team can be extremely efficient, but maybe better suited to use for the low- to mid- level positions. When it comes to key executive roles, such as C-suite or board, the stakes are higher and we need to ensure we make the right choice in terms of hire. And an executive search firm will do just that: identify, evaluate and secure the best people in the market that fulfill our criteria. A bad hire in a top executive position can adversely affect a business, so no risk should be taken.

Q: Talking about criteria, how do you select which executive search firm to work with?

For me, just as important as choosing your team members is choosing your external partners. They are your extended team and they will either contribute to your success and the success of your unit or undermine it. Process and methodologies used is something I scrutinize when selecting a partner, structure and capacity is another, but most importantly, people and their capabilities. For example, I decided to work with Borrer because on top of good processes and methods, high flexibility and responsiveness to client’ needs, I was also impressed with their level of market knowledge, which is key in recruiting for a specific position.

Q: What is the added value of working with an external consultancy firm specialized in executive search?

A: There are multiple reasons for working with an executive search firm. First of all they know the market, they are the assessment specialists and they can benchmark talent widely for a given role. Moreover, they will manage the whole process, which allows me to focus my resources on other areas.

Q: What are the challenges when working with an executive search firm? What is the difference with using the in-house talent acquisition team to fill top positions or a contingency firm?

A: The challenge of using an executive search firm vs. in-house talent acquisition team is that an external partner doesn’t know the business, the roles, the culture, as well as we do. They will need to dedicate time to understanding the company and the culture, so that they are then able to source the right people who would fit the organization. Also, depending on the quantity of recruitment processes a company may need, it may be more expensive to do it externally. It depends on the circumstances.

I believe that more and more, executive search partners will work as extended teams, getting to know each business better, and offering the expertise and the resources flexibility to cover different recruitment volumes with a fixed fee that can represent a win-win situation for both parties.