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Search vs. Selection - Which One Is Right for You?
When a client approaches an executive search firm, it is often with the idea to ‘cherry pick’ the best executive talent. Less clear is what that talent looks like or where it will come from. There are two distinct routes to market that can be adopted on a client's behalf: Firstly, executive search or ‘headhunting’ is the process of proactively approaching individuals, not otherwise in the market for a new role. Secondly, selection is the process whereby candidates are generated primarily through a managed advertising campaign and qualified according to a specific set of criteria. A pure search approach may be seen by clients as the superior solution, as better value for money and have the status of a more exclusive, bespoke service. However, this is not the case where one solution fits all.
The closer the relationship, the better
To ensure ultimate success of the recruitment campaign, it is important to work closely and openly with the consultant to determine the most important factors in a new hire. Is this proximity to the office? Specific industry knowledge? Exposure to competitors’ working practices? Or is it a type of personality? A cross-functional skill set?
Do you have a clear idea of the type of company you would consider executive candidates from? Or are you looking to cast a wider net across a broad industry sector to consider a bigger range of potential candidates? One set of criteria lends itself well to searching the market; the other to a selection approach.
There are two distinct routes to market that can be adopted...
A targeted approach
Search entails looking at a group of organisations, chosen by a pre-determined set of criteria and identifying the most appropriate individuals to actively approach. Executive search, by its very nature, is a fairly narrow look at a very specific piece of the market. The industry standard is a target list of 25-35 organisations, chosen because they are a direct competitor, or are headquartered in a specific geography. This creates a definable market for potential executive level candidates, small enough to identify and approach them. The basis of a selection approach is a managed advertising campaign, backed up by networking to ensure the right type of person is attracted to the opportunity. Advertising is worded and placed to consider the widest possible pool of people who fit the profile criteria. Advertising can be branded to increase awareness of the organisation or non-branded when a role is commercially sensitive.
A hybrid solution can be the answer
Occasionally, a hybrid approach to the market may be the best solution. This is a combination of search and selection, but it is imperative to first determine which will be the primary methodology. For example, if a finance director with generalist experience of the FMCG industry is sought, an advertising solution should attract a sufficiently wide range of candidates to consider. In conjunction with an advertising campaign, a search could be undertaken within a small range of direct competitors, should it be required. However, implementing a secondary approach after the primary route to market has failed, inevitably means less chance of success. In order for a search firm to act effectively on your behalf, it is important to be open from the outset about the most important criteria for the role you are looking to fill. The search firm will advise on the approach to the market most likely to attract the candidate with the type of background and relevant skillset for your organisation. Search or selection, for any good executive search firm, the goal remains the same: to consistently find those elite individuals that fit a client’s strict criteria.