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Consulting Can Make Or Break Your Executive Search Project

Christian Spletzer - April 22, 2019

There is more to executive recruiting than quickly finding and placing quality candidates. Yes, finding the right candidate is a key aspect of search, but as an executive recruiter, a huge part of your role is partnering with clients in a consultative capacity.

As an executive recruiter, you’re hired to lend clients your expertise.

Clients who retain search firms are looking for consultants. They’re looking for someone to help them solve a crucial problem which they cannot adequately solve on their own. They’re not looking for someone to strictly check a few boxes or, more importantly, defer work to them.

In fact, when a recruiter does this, it outright upsets clients. When a recruiter presents clients with a candidate profile, for example, and asks them, “What do you think?”, that defers the onus of the hard thinking onto the client.

Now, they have to stop what they’re doing, read the candidate profile, recall what they and the recruiter had discussed and agreed to in preliminary strategy meetings, dissect the recruiter’s rationale for sending this particular profile, and make their own decision.

That’s not what clients want. That’s not why they hired you.

Your expertise, analysis, and insight should accompany and inform every deliverable you present to the client.  

When you send clients a batch of candidate profiles, for example, you should be including your opinion of each candidate. You should be sharing how well you believe they meet the client’s requirements, as informed by your search strategy. And you should be including whatever bits of logic went into your decision making.

That’s what it means to consult and collaborate. That’s how you empower clients with knowledge they didn’t have before, which will better allow them to make a sound—and simple—hiring decision.

In fact, the ease with which you enable clients to make a final decision—or at least a decision to move forward with the interview process—will reveal much about the sort of job you’ve done over the search. If you and the client have collaborated on the research strategy and have documented your key decisions, when you ultimately present the client with a strong candidate profile, they should almost always agree. It should be an easy decision to move forward with that candidate.

If it’s not, that could very well mean that the client doesn’t feel plugged into your partnership, or that you’ve somehow strayed from the vision set forth in your original meetings. Which is to say, they might feel you haven’t held up your end as a consultative partner.

Operating as a consultant better sets you up for success.

Consider this: getting genuine feedback from clients on your process and on your deliverables is a great way to refine your search strategy. Finding the perfect candidate is a complex, multi-variable equation. The more you show your logic when presenting candidates to a client, for example, the more specific the feedback they’ll be able to give you:

  • “This candidate has the requisite experience, but they don’t live in our priority location.”
  • “This candidate seems like a cultural fit, but they’ve never held an executive role.”
  • “This candidate matches tangible skill priorities we detailed in the search strategy, but their experience is in the wrong industry.”

If you’ve collaborated and consulted with the client efficiently through setting the search strategy early on—and further refining it as you go—this kind of granular feedback will help you more quickly find a qualified candidate.

Document everything.

Of course, as always, documenting every stage of the recruitment process with your client remains critical. It’s much easier to ensure you and your client remain on the same page and that you don’t lose track of key decisions you’ve made together if that info exists in one transparent, easy-to-find place.

Certain software applications give you such a space. In Clockwork, for example, we provide specific tabs in which all bits of relevant information pertaining to a search can be stored. Research strategy decisions, for example, can be kept in the project’s Strategy tab. High-level candidate information—such as their LinkedIn profile, their experience, and their location—can be kept in that candidate’s Overview section.

The ability to go back and quickly review that sort of relevant information—either in reflection or when supporting a certain decision you’ve made—is remarkably helpful.

Ultimately, every recruiter should believe they are a consultant.

Repeat this to yourself:

Your job as a recruiter is to help your client solve a specific problem which they cannot solve on their own. Your work with your client, in this sense, constitutes a partnership.

Recruiters who understand this will set themselves apart. More granularly, it will be what makes or breaks your search.

Christian Spletzer

Christian Spletzer

After years of working as an executive recruiter, Christian Spletzer founded Clockwork to improve how search firms and clients work together on retained search projects. He designed Clockwork to help recruiters demonstrate their consultative value to their clients at every stage of each project.

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