Losing a leader in an organization can be traumatic, while finding and attracting the right replacement can be equally devastating. To eliminate the frustration, and to recruit the desired candidate, organizations often retain the services of executive search firms.
Placing effective leadership requires the expenditure of resources, regardless of whether it is done internally or by a search firm. Organizations with fewer resources often choose to do the search internally, not recognizing the true cost of doing the search. If an organization has the time, energy, and expertise to do the search internally it may be in its best interest to run the search in-house, an idea that becomes increasingly evident as both the level of the placement and the amount of resources that can be dedicated to the search diminish.
In actuality, however, it is often faster and more cost-effective to engage a search firm; here again there is a direct correlation between return and investment as the level and importance of the placement increases. Search firms are often better equipped to deal with the necessary networking and negotiations. They also have the requisite understanding of the industry to make the placements faster, as they are able to penetrate the networks more effectively without violating trust.
As noted above, there exists a relationship between the nature of the placement and the value of retained search. At about the middle-management level or just below, contingency firms make more sense. And at a lower level of importance, Internet-based solutions might make the most sense.
For top tier executive level leadership, however, finding the right leader becomes literally a life or death decision. There is a popular notion that the best leaders are found internally. For some organizations internal candidates may make the most sense to fill a particular position. Even in these cases a search may still be necessary to ensure that the internal candidate is indeed the right choice.
Regardless of who does the actual search, search is time and resource intensive. One of the benefits of using an outside search firm is speed, since search firms can generally make placements much faster than organizations that choose to do the search on their own. Even when searches take longer than anticipated, search firms can find more qualified applicants faster than organizations doing searches internally. Conversely, if an organization has time to spare or isn’t ready to fill the position, doing the search internally may be the best option.
For a search to be successful, to be conducted on an internal or external basis, the organization needs to have the will to actually dedicate the resources and make the commitment to fill the position. Internal politics, interpersonal disputes and management conflicts can have serious implications in filling executive level positions. These factors can also adversely effect the outcome of the search if the entire search committee or board isn’t receptive to actually fulfilling its commitment.
Finding the right search firm is in many ways as important as the search itself. Before committing to the search process, you should do as much research as possible to ensure you will find the right “fit:”
Ultimately, search should be a multi-step collaboration between the client and recruiter. As a matter of course, all searches involve the following steps:
What distinguishes a good search firm from an exceptional search firm lies in the firm’s approach during the in-between phases of the process. These slight differences can have profound consequences both during the search and after the placement.