Insight Blog

6 Most Common Reasons to Retain a Search Firm

Of all of your 2018 initiatives, how many involve hiring? If you expect upcoming projects, retirements and vacancies requiring strategic new hires, you may be considering whether or not a role requires the need for a search firm.

As executive search consultants, we are the first people to tell you that not all recruitment efforts necessitate the use of a search firm. In fact, the initial stage of our process with a potential client is basing our engagement on understanding, in detail, the need for the search and the possibilities for success. Over the last 25 years, there are 6 reasons (we’ve noticed) that have become most common for retaining a search firm that may provide you and your organization with beneficial insight for making a decision either way.

Here are the most common reasons, starting with #6:

6. When company culture is difficult to define and communicate.

Initially, you are sitting down with your hiring team asking yourselves, “In an ideal scenario, what would the ‘perfect’ candidate look like?” The next thought that usually pops in your head is: would we be able to succeed in attaining that ideal candidate? Ultimately, it comes down to company culture, and does your hiring team understand your organization’s culture and how to assess it in candidates, and are they able to effectively communicate it as a selling point to your ‘ideal candidate/s?’ If the answer to any of these is met with uncertainty, consider retaining a search firm who knows the ins-and-outs of your industry and can effectively sell your company culture and marketplace perception to candidates.

5. When the role has been redefined.

This can play out in different ways, such as:

1.)    The previous professional may not have kept up with trends and technology, management, security, etc., and now the professional you’re looking for must be more progressive.

2.)    The role is going from highly specialized to broader/generalized OR vice versa.

One would think with a role that is completely new, it would be difficult to define and identify the ideal candidate, but that usually isn’t the case. More often, it is when someone retires after 20+ years of service and the roles and responsibilities decades ago is nowhere near the same at it is today; or, isn’t as it should be. Then, defining what it should be with everyone on the hiring team becomes a lengthier discussion as it changes the scope of talent. Imagine if everyone has a different idea of that ideal candidate mentioned above, and, on top of that, imagine if everyone has a different idea of how the role should be defined? When the task of bringing everyone together seems daunting, an organization may be best suited reaching out to a search firm.

4. When there are differing opinions from the hiring committee/board of trustees/stakeholders.

Relating directly to 6 and 5, this reason is usually amplified by a combination of opposing interests and ideas. Use these questions for consideration of where your group is sitting on this issue:

1.)    What impact could the right professional have upon the progress and future of your organization?

2.)    Is the importance and value of this role understood by everyone on the board?

These questions dig a bit further into the ideal candidate and the definition of the role. Typically, a board can agree on the potential impact of the right professional, and the importance and value of the role itself. However, if the organization can’t even agree on that, it’s likely time to retain a search firm to bring some alignment, understanding, and compromise.

3. When the role’s vacancy begins to negatively impact the organization and its ability to move forward.

This one is tricky as most organizations are being negatively impacted and do not realize it. If you are unsure, take the time to do the math on what it costs to have the role vacant along with the cost of having others wear multiple hats and the cost of the hiring committee’s time. If the potential of the ideal candidate is lost on how imperative it is to fill the role and fill it quickly, it’s time to consider getting some outside assistance. Why? Because filling the role just to fill it could backfire; if you think the cost is high of having the role vacant, you won’t want to consider the cost of having someone resign after they’ve been hired, onboarded, and trained.

2. When you’re not finding ideal candidates in active job seekers.

One of the strongest reasons for retaining a search firm is the network they have built from their expertise, as well as their learned ability to attract passive candidates. After considering numbers 6 - 3, it may be critical for your organization to attract top-tier passive candidates who would not actively seek a new career opportunity through traditional recruiting methods. This depends on the role, but usually for the more senior-level jobs, it’s practically a requirement. The job market is different in today’s world, and it will be even more so in tomorrow’s. Beginning a partnership with a search firm could be your best bet for inside knowledge on who is competing in your geographic region, how much talent there is to pull from, and what it’s going to take to bring a talented, passive candidate on board.

1. When traditional recruitment methods are not producing positive results.

Similar to the second most common reason above, all resumes received from job postings are professionals who are actively seeking new employment. And, let’s face it, if you and your organization have experienced any of the other issues we have listed in this article, you may not have received a large quantity of resumes let alone the quality. If the ‘ideal candidate’ for the role hasn’t been understood and agreed upon then, at this juncture, traditional job postings, advertisements, and social media posts won’t communicate the correct message. When your internal recruitment and referral system is at a stand-still, and the company has exhausted its efforts, it may be time to stop wasting more time by repeating the same strategy and expecting different results.

With all this in mind, it’s no wonder hiring committees typically begin to consider what all could be accomplished if they had this time and energy back, and retained a search firm. If you trust the firm, they know your industry, and you are fully engaged and transparent from beginning to end, we are confident you will make it out alive with an extremely successful new hire!

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