The question is often asked of me “why should I use Executive Search and not just run an advertisement to secure my shortlist”, and it is a great question. But for most of us that operate in the world of Executive Search, there are distinct advantages on both sides of this argument but it really comes down to what strategy will work best for the client. Search is often deemed the most appropriate strategy when the advertisement simply won’t provide a response from the market. For whatever reason, some candidates just will not respond to a job advertisement. This is most evident in the “executive space”. Similarly, Executive Search is more often than not utilised when there are sensitivities surrounding the recruitment process e.g the incumbent is being replaced and confidentiality is paramount, or the Board who is driving the process is seeking a successor for their CEO. Executive Search is also employed when there is one or a finite number of candidates who fit the “brief” so targeting them individually and pursuing them aggressively is an effective strategy. The end result is the client secures talent that they are familiar with!

executive search

Conversely, utilising Advertised recruitment may, in fact, bring a swifter result to the table. Because the advertisement is appealing to a “motivated” segment of the job market, respondents to the advertisement are “job seekers” wanting this specific role. A problem most often encountered with search is the target is not motivated to change jobs so may require significant persuasion to motivate them. Advertised recruitment is a cheaper alternative to Executive Search which can be very labour intensive and drawn out. In targeting a prospect for a client and “head-hunting” they may not elicit an immediate response. It may take months of luring and cajoling to get an offer accepted. There are exceptions to this like the fable of the two search consultants in Sydney who had been mandated to secure a CEO from a Top 50 competitor. There was only one person for the job so these two operatives stalked the target for several weeks establishing that he entered the driveway of his Corporate head Office at 8.30am every Saturday. They waited on this particular Saturday morning and as the roller door pulled up and the motor vehicle that the CEO was in was stationary, they  knocked on the window. The two suited operatives stood by the passenger front door as the target was chauffeur driven, and as the window rolled down one of the operatives was heard saying “ WE are from such and such search firm and we represent the Board of X Company. They are seeking to appoint a new CEO and they unanimously agreed amongst themselves that you are the man for the job! The appointment is paying X+Y…you have 10 minutes to consider their offer!” Job done, target accepted and assignment turned around in a very short period of time.

It doesn’t always play out as smoothly as that and clients need to understand what strategy will secure the desired result. The stakeholders in the process should be completely au-fait with “timelines” as well as the challenges of both processes. For “executive search” to be effective the client should be engaging a consultant who has been trained in this discipline and preferably someone who has an extensive contact base in the proposed  target market. Remember, anyone can run a process. Skilled consultants understand their craft and employ a range of disciplines to achieve a result. Executive Search generally employs a dedicated “research framework” to map markets and provide search lists. Both types of consultants whether they are recruitment consultants or search consultants should have an effective contact base to source talent from. Let’s face it, our business, our IP is about the knowing! If the consultant you are engaging has no industry knowledge or networks you may be adopting an expensive ineffectual author of your talent attraction strategy!

Paul O’Loughlin – Executive Consultant

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