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What Gaps Can A.I. Fill In The Outreach Stages For Executive Search Firms?

Thaddeus Andres - July 9, 2024

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Generative AI (ChatGPT) and Automation over the past year have evolved at a rapid pace. To gain a deeper understanding and the future evolution of AI’s role in the executive search process, Clockwork surveyed 179 executive search firms across the globe over a 6 week period at the end of 2023. The purpose of the survey was to identify key areas of opportunity for AI to support the search process, and gather insights around market demand for future growth for AI. This is an excerpt below on A.I.'s impact on the outreach phase of the executive search process.

Search Firms Want AI’s Help To Uncover “Missed” Candidates.

In the previous stage, Stage 4 (Research), search firms are very interested in leveraging AI to streamline sourcing and research activities by categorizing and more deeply qualifying high-value talent. This trend follows through into Stage 5 (Outreach) where the majority of search firms (62.4%) are very interested in AI automatically suggesting any “look-alike” candidates they may have missed in Stage 4 (Research). In Stage 5 (Outreach) as search firms work to more deeply qualify and disqualify candidates, there remains an underlying doubt that not all candidates have been exhaustively researched and they want AI to surface and uncover them. For search firms, the real value-add they believe AI can bring to the forefront in Stage 5 (Outreach) is to double check their work and find additional passive talent that is available. Here, there is a strong demand, and equally strong opportunity, for AI to compensate for and mitigate detractors including any issues around pipelining.

Roughly 1 in 3 Search Firms See AI As An Opportunity To Reduce Time Spent In Stage 5 (Outreach).

The key area in which search firms are very interested in AI supporting Stage 5 (Outreach) is reducing the total time it takes to move through this stage of a search. With this being one of the longest stages of the executive search process, search firms believe the real impact AI can have is shortening this timeline by supplementing the time spent writing outreach emails and the prep work done prior to making outbound calls to candidates. Stage 5 (Outreach) is not a high priority for search firms in terms of AI’s impact compared to the other Stages of the search process, and see AI’s role as more of a “nice to have” versus a transformative role. Hence time-based benefits being the key area of interest here. Across the board, roughly ~30.0% of search firms are consistently very interested in AI supporting their firm in improving performance and speed at which the search moves through Stage 5 (Outreach).

Search Firms Remain Equally Divided On The Concept of Direct AI (Machine) to Human Contact and Communication.

  • 52.7% of search firms do not want AI to automatically conduct initial screening calls.

Search firms are split evenly when it comes to AI handling the disqualification process for candidates. It is not surprising that the majority of search firms do not want AI to conduct screening calls on their behalf. This is where the deeper relationship building between a candidate and an executive recruiter occurs, and is essential to not only the search process but the overall candidate relationship and experience. Within initial screening calls, Stage 5 (Outreach) requires acute, active listening skills to lead, probe and ask the right questions, and pivot accordingly. Naturally, search firms believe AI should not be involved in this aspect of Stage 5 (Outreach), with 52.7% of search firms saying they were not interested in AI conducting initial screening calls. This begins to form the divisive theme and notion that search firms feel about direct AI (machine) to human contact and communication.

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Topics: Executive Search- The Eight Stages of Successful Retained Search- Best Practices

Thaddeus Andres

Thaddeus Andres

With nearly 13 years of experience within executive search and recruitment, Thaddeus has held several marketing roles at various industry associations, networks and companies where he was responsible for implementing, leading and driving key marketing strategies and initiatives.

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