Avoiding the “Black Box": When It Comes to Executive Search, Insist on Transparency

You’re looking to retain a new executive search firm. You meet a recruiter while networking, and you take that as a sign. He or she is with a reputable firm, and seems professional, knowledgeable, and aggressive. So you seal the deal. After all, you just need someone who can get the job done—and fill your job(s). Right?

Well…not exactly. You can’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best. You’ve got to be careful, and you’ve got to be smart.

For one thing, a retained executive search firm is a partner in a very public way; we represent our clients in a sensitive, highly-charged marketplace where there’s little room for misinterpretation. At our best, we’re doing delicate, one-on-one PR for our clients. We need to convey all of the nuances accurately, and put you in the best possible light.  

Use the following questions to qualify any would-be recruiter:

1. Tell Us About Your Relevant Experience

Can you provide a representative search list of your personal search accomplishments? Insist on getting one, so you can make a truly informed decision.

2. Do You Have The Expertise to Help Formulate Our Search?

It’s easy for a search firm to say yes to your criteria. What’s harder is to find is a firm that adds real perspective.

3. Who is Going to be Conducting This Search?

Will it be you, or a junior recruiter? Beware of search firms that do the bait-and-switch.

4. What’s Your Process?

How are you planning to communicate with us throughout the search? How transparent are you willing to be? Insist on ongoing status reports that clearly detail the day-to-day work.

A great search firm thinks creatively, communicates eloquently, and provides excellent PR. An unqualified search firm simply chisels away time and money.

Do you have a story to tell? Please share your own experiences on this topic with us.

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