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Why Exec Search needs a rethink



The Covid crisis, the geo-political shift to China and the acceleration of tech innovation in our digital world, shake up our comfort zones, install a new (ab)normal and consequently have laid bare the need for different leadership traits to cope with both continued change and crises. At the same time, all these events offer tremendous opportunity to innovate business models and re-design delivery of services in particular. That’s why we set out to rethink Exec Search… Here are our eight core observations that we advocate:

  1. Online video technology allows for faster and global access to interview candidates. Interview techniques can be adapted to optimize video-based observations so that the benefits actually outweigh the challenges of the online interview. At the same time, this process allows more time flexibility for candidates to engage, which ultimately speeds up the search process for recruiter and client.

  2. The online interview can easily be combined with an online assessment centre applying machine learning and AI tools (even during the interview) to confirm the observations of the interview and enhance an understanding of the leadership traits and competencies of the candidate. This is particularly meaningful as, in our view, character of leadership is in today’s context as critical - if not more – as competence and experience: Executives need to be more agile, making decisions not only based on facts but intuitive reasoning, motivating teams with purpose and passion to keep everyone resilient and focused in tough and complex situations. More than ever, values of integrity, trust and respect are critical to successfully manage subordinates that are working remote and need to be guided with empathy and fair process.

  3. The exec search project team needs to remain agile throughout the project and collect (online) feedback to continually update the search strategy. We have experienced that client requirements may change as organizations evolve faster than ever and perceptions of hiring managers can change as more insights are gained during a leadership change, vacuum or simply from interviewing external candidates during the search process.

  4. In the war for talent, offering purposeful (meaningful) work is rapidly becoming a must for the employer brand. The exec search team can add value by helping to clarify or define a client’s purpose, while using it in its presentation of the client to attract candidates. We have experienced that more than C&B today, finding purpose in work is a core motivator to attract leadership for an employer (while it also works long tern in retention). In some industries like life sciences, this may seem straightforward, but in others it may require a bit more thought. E.g. rather than stating we are the market leader in supplying chips to electrical vehicles, defining the job as ‘helping to save lives and bring a relaxing driving experience’ may work far better… By observing how candidates respond, search teams can help to fine-tune that one-minute employer branding elevator pitch.

  5. Close to purpose, is the dimension of corporate culture. While it has always been important to hire candidates whose behaviours and expectations would align with the values of the future employer, there are now solid (online) tools available to take some bias out and have this assessed both on the client and candidates’ side to ensure a better match. The search team also here can help facilitate this process better than before.

  6. Especially in high-tech and life sciences, new roles are emerging that require a multi-functional and multi-expertise approach. In order to better understand the requirements of this role, we believe in the engagement of advisors that understand in-depth, the various aspects of these jobs and help the search team to target the right candidates. The 360 consultant that understands every aspect of the project, is to us ‘deja-vu’ and we believe in agile collaborative teams where every member adds value to the project whether in search, assessment or industry/functional expertise.

  7. Home based work is not only gaining popularity among clients, it also offers tremendous opportunity to improve work-life balance of the search firm’s team and allows for lower cost and agile operations. This can and should be reflected in budget savings for the client when engaging an external search firm.

  8. Last but not least, we believe consultants that engaging with candidates should not be a one-time game where there is one winner and a multitude of losers. Candidates spend time and effort to apply, and search have a unique window to assess these candidates and offer them a valuable path forward beyond the job opportunity they applied for. We therefore see real value in offering one-on-one virtual global mentorship to all candidates and help them on their journey of well-being and happiness, bringing more wise and responsible leadership to the world, while helping candidates to find passion, purpose and ultimately happiness..


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