Executive Search: Four critical elements for success

The success of an executive search process depends on four broad categories: Research, Headhunting, Interviewing and Selecting the Shortlist.

If the executive search team is not highly accomplished in all four of these areas, the process is pretty much a hit and miss affair.
As an introduction, let’s unpack this in a bit of detail:

Firstly, ‘research’ in a search firm is NOT of the academic variety. It entails the proactive targeting of specific organisations and individuals to identify the right people for the role. And experienced executive researchers have the following skills in abundance:
•They know which companies to target based on turnover, size, geographic spread etc.
•They know how organisations are structured, in order to ensure that you’re targeting people at the right level
•They have a formidable network of people who can help them get where they need to go.

Having a list of names does not the headhunter make: being able to engage in meaningful conversation with individuals on the radar is the difference between ‘cold-calling’ and value-adding exploratory conversations. The quality of candidates who can be brought to the table is entirely dependent on the skills and experience of the headhunter who makes the calls in the first place.

Thank goodness we no longer focus on strengths, weaknesses, favourite colours and animals! Executive recruiters apply a range of interviewing techniques to determine candidate suitability for the role and the company. Knowing what questions to ask is important, but being able to assess the answers in a meaningful way is what really matters.

4.Shortlist selection
In our current world of work, the shortlist is no longer about individuals who can ‘do the job’; the focus is increasingly shifting to values and culture fit.

Nevertheless, culture / values fit is unfortunately treated as a ‘gut-feel’ by too many parties in the recruiting process. An experienced executive search consultant will assist clients to concretise the ‘gut-feel’ elements into an interview / interviewing process to increase successful culture fit matches.

Getting ALL of these four areas right ALL of the time (as well as a bunch of other things too), is the only way to be assured of successful outcomes to your search process.

Armed with this information, I hope you’ll ask some great questions the next time you mandate a search firm to secure your next critical hire.

Julia Botha
Principal: West Africa


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