This week I was told an excruciating story of a senior executive going for two roles at the same time and the two very different experiences he had during his job search. The end result was one happy employer and consultant who scored a top executive, the other consultancy and client didn’t see it coming, and would have felt blind-sided and confused as to where it all went wrong.
Both employers outsourced their vacancy to an external consultancy – an expert in their field, committed to filling the role with the best candidate from the market. When outsourcing to an external recruitment consultancy there are generally a number of key factors that clients consider such as:
- Reputation / brand
- Track record / expertise
- Consultant relationship
- Methodology / offering
- Value-added services
Ultimately, every consultancy is promising the same thing – to find that needle in the haystack – the very best person available for that vacancy.
What sets Consultants apart is not the shiny brand or website, not the long list of placements, or the most competitive bid. The real difference is the Consultant’s ability to manage, negotiate and consult through what is a very emotional, intuitive and onerous process. A Consultant’s ability to read people, situations and solutions is paramount. This becomes even more crucial when conducting executive search. Your Consultant needs to know when to push you and your board to move faster, to make a decision, to challenge your thinking, question your assumptions and ensure you have your eyes wide open to all the positives as well as development areas and concerns. On the candidate side, there is a responsibility to build a relationship, get inside their head, know what makes them tick, know when they are holding back, know when to put pressure on, to take pressure off and ultimately how to manoeuvre the candidate through what can become a competitive bid process. This was the case I heard this week.
My friend, had 2 jobs that were neck and neck in terms of his level of interest and in terms of where they were both at in the process – both second interview with each panel. He was equally interested. He was equally committed. What got him over the line? The relationship with his Consultant and their ability to move fast and to run a true executive process (rather than transaction recruitment) – there were phone calls, consultation, probing questions, availability and check in’s over the weekend (both Saturday and Sunday), which resulted him taking that job at 9am on the Monday. The other firm was rushing at the final hour with final reference checks and testing, then knocking off at 5pm Friday and said “talk to you again on Monday”. While they were enjoying their weekend, the other Executive Consultant was doing the deal – keeping the board and their candidate informed to enable them to have a signed contract on Monday morning.
There is a difference between executive search and contingent or main-stream traditional recruitment. It doesn’t only lie in the fees (which may seem an attractive proposition when comparing proposals), it lies in the firms ability to run an executive search process that goes beyond ‘filling a job’.
In the highly skilled area of executive search, you don’t often see what goes beyond the fine print of the proposal – it’s the nuts and bolts, it’s the people skills, it’s a Consultant’s ability to earn trust and go beyond the shiny, slick proposal with pages of placement history to create both warmth, trust and competence to negotiate the finer points that will ultimately result in a win for all parties involved.
How will you choose your next Consultant?