Should Executive Recruiting Move Faster?

Executive recruiting is not a race to finish first

This month, we release a significant new study of business trends based on interviews by our Partners in 20 countries. In this series of posts, we look at the impact of the study findings on the bedrock of business growth, hiring and managing top talent. First up, Speed: the accelerated pace of business.


Our latest study – Where is Your Business Heading? – identifies three current impacts on global trends.  The first is the new, ever-faster pace of business – the demands it creates and the procedures it modifies.  Do these include executive recruiting? Do we need to find new talent faster?  And the answer, inevitably, is yes and no.

Let’s start with yes.

Technology has almost completely re-written the hiring process. No more classified ads for workers or prestigious half-pages for executives. The Internet is a gigantic job-board and time-to-hire has been slashed from weeks/months to days/hours.

For most people, that is. LinkedIn lists 600 million ready to work and says one is hired every 10 seconds. Specialist recruiting firms match candidates with algorithms and flood the hiring company with “best qualified” resumes.

But that just gets you to first base. Someone still has to read the resumes, select, reference check and interview, negotiate and hire. The time here has also been reduced – but not as much — by early steps in AI and machine-managed profiling.

Clients encourage and seek out speedy service under the early-worm strategy that fears someone else will get the best people if you don’t move fast.

All of which thinking has merit but remain subject to the most important criteria of them all. The value of the hire to the company.

Every new employee brings value in different ways. The relevant assessment in recruiting requires turning around the telescope and looking in the other end. Value to the company will range widely from the plant worker to the decision maker and the best way to see it is to look for the cost of loss.


Cost of failure can be huge

If a machinist falls short, a replacement is swift and straightforward.  If an executive doesn’t fit the culture, the cost can be huge ($500k+), the disruption major and the risk of lost intelligence extremely serious.

Which brings us back to the other answer above, which was “no”. Reducing the time-to-hire is the least of your objectives the higher up the recruiting echelon you go.

To understand why, you just need to examine the service offer of the Retained Executive Search firm.  The companies already mentioned, the pile-‘em-high resume senders, are called Contingency Search firms. They compete with each other and are rewarded only if one of their resumes is accepted.  The retained firm is contracted exclusively to find the best candidate. Period.  (Go here to download our e-Book “Retained or Contingency”)

Time-to-hire has been shortened in the retained biz (some firms promise finalists within a month, compared to 2-3 months not long ago) but the time taken, however long, is still dictated by the in-depth assessment and qualification process.

Here’s how Cornerstone International Group President Larry Shoemaker explains it.

Retained search firms not only look more intently at available candidates, they actually create them. Superior knowledge – of markets, sectors, cultures and companies — is one of the foundations of the retained service model.  And, most important of all, is knowing who has not offered their services but who might be persuaded to.

Known as “passives”, these are high quality men and women who are currently employed.  Skilled recruiters, however, know the type of company and the type of offer that might pry them loose.

This intense focus on finding exactly the right person for each opening shows that retained search firms are acutely sensitive regarding the cost to the company of a failed hire. It is probably THE most important reason for their being hired in the first place. Against this backdrop, the need for speed is attractive, but strictly secondary.

NEXT:  The impact of a shrinking world on executive recruiting.

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