Not all search firms are created equal, but firms that prove successful do tend to have certain features in common. For one thing, search firms are generally powered by a few core functions, each serving a specific purpose. There are the roles of enforcing strategy, conducting research, leading administrative organization, and, of course, the actual recruiting.
These roles can be performed all by one person or by a team of specialized professionals. What matters is that each role needs to played. Together, they should amount to something of an orchestra. Here’s what each core, structural role entails, and why each is so important to a search’s ultimate success.
Role 1: The Partner
To be a partner on a project in an executive search is to be responsible for that project’s success. Partners are responsible for both winning and managing the work. They need to make sure an internal strategy is successfully executed and that the client on the other side feels taken care of. They’re in charge of staffing—building out their team of recruiters, researchers, and admins—and supplying their team with the necessary resources.
What this responsibility also means is that some search teams may consist only of a partner, given their ownership over the process. In this sense, you can think of the role of a partner as something of a project manager—they’re the ones responsible for the final product.
Role 2: The Recruiter
The recruiter on a search is responsible for just that: recruiting. To recruit is to reach out to candidates and provide them with key information about a role after contact and interest has been established. Recruiters are also responsible for determining if a candidate is qualified. If they are, they collect information about that candidate to deliver to the client.
They may or may not be asked to present that information to the client. But the person performing the role of recruiter will be the point person for communicating with candidates and keeping them in the loop about upcoming interviews, company expectations and, ultimately, hiring decisions.
This responsibility means recruiters will also be charged with pitching opportunities to candidates in a way that is both informative and enticing. You want to persuasively pitch but not oversell it. You have to know how to position it correctly.
Role 3: The Researcher
Below the recruiter on the ladder of responsibility in an executive search is the researcher—the person who’s responsible for finding the candidates who match the search qualifications.
This research piece is incredibly important for the success of a search. If a team lacks researchers, you often see recruiters—or partners—stretching themselves too thin, pecking away on LinkedIn while attempting to manage their other responsibilities at the same time. The cumulative effect is like they’re spinning plates, ultimately rendering themselves less efficient.
Researchers help recruiters and partners more purposefully leverage their time. They make the whole team more productive and help firms complete searches more quickly. Personally, I’ve seen searches conducted without the help of researchers take much longer than they should—sometimes weeks, or even months longer.
Role 4: The Admin
The admin of a search team is something of a utility player, so the role can take many shapes. Admins schedule interviews, calls, and meetings—processes that can prove a big time suck otherwise, especially once you’re conducting multiple rounds of interviews or meetings each day. It’s a huge and multifaceted effort. Ultimately, the job of an admin is to complete the tasks that help the rest of the team communicate internally and deliver results to the client.
Why This Structure Works
At the end of the day, all of this work can technically be done by one person. In fact, it’s something we see at Clockwork often.
That said, a one-person operation will only work if that operator lends credence to the functions of each role detailed above. In search, you've got business development, candidate management, client management, recruiting, research, and outreach. As such, a well-structured search firm should accommodate for each of those functions. Many smaller search firm owners have taken advantage of the Clockwork platform—and its proprietary search project methodology—that improves every aspect of their workflow.
Such a structure—designed with technological transparency—will help you achieve a successful placement every time.