What's Important from an Executive Search Firm?

Study details what clients deem most important from its executive search firms

The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) is the worldwide professional association for the retained executive search industry.

In 2010, the AESC surveyed 157 executives who are clients of executive search firms, asking them to rate the importance of a series of different executive search firm services or attributes.

Clients who participated in the survey were from a range of positions at both private and public companies including Disney, IBM, Motorola, Harper International, nexus health Systems, and Avery Dennison. Titles included CEO’s, COO’s, Directors of HR, VP’s of HR, and Directors of Global Recruitment.

Clients were given 17 attributes or services provided by executive search and asked to rate their importance as ‘ Not Very Important’, ‘Important’, or ‘Crucial’

The findings were as follows:

Seven Attributes or Services Were Deemed Crucial

1. Confidential treatment of information exchanged during a search assignment.

2. A Clear understanding of the company’s culture, the position to be filled, the required background, and experience and competencies that are reflected in a position specification.

3. Market intelligence on available candidates and comparative assessment of those candidates’ compensation levels as well as how the company is viewed in the market.

4. Comprehensive knowledge of the industry in which the search will be conducted.

5. A policy of not recruiting from the company for a prescribed amount of time after a search is performed.

6. Close consultation with key decision makers both in initial analysis of the company’s needs and in the process of assessing candidates.

7. A guarantee that if the chosen candidate leaves within a prescribed period of time that the firm will be replaced at no additional professional fee.

Deep Reference Checks were rated as either important or crucial by 94% of respondents:

Deep Reference Checks were defined as reaching beyond career history into a candidate’s competencies, character and potential.

Five Attributes were considered Important by a clear majority of respondents

1. Regular detailed status reports of the progress of the search.

2. Provision of detailed written and verbal reports of each candidate’s profile and assessment.

3. Contribution of creative thought- “pushing back” to encourage client to think outside the box and consider potential candidates/solutions they might otherwise have ruled out.

4. Diversity-presentation of a diverse slate of candidates.

5. In-depth knowledge of technological qualifications required for the position.

Four Attributes while rated as Important by a majority, also showed a third or more of clients rated them as Not Important

1. Proactive search of highly qualified candidates well suited to a client’s organization on an ongoing basis regardless of whether the firm is currently retained for an active search.

2. Post-search consultation at regular intervals with the client and placed candidate.

3. Benchmarking consultation to determine the level of internal talent vs. the talent on the market identifying gaps or areas of weakness in internal talent.

4. Assistance in the structuring and negotiation of an employment package

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Harris Search Associates is a leading global executive search firm. Our higher education and academic medicine practices are focused on identifying and attracting leaders Presidents, Provosts, Deans, Department Chairs, Researchers, and Senior Administrators to support the growth of clients in the areas of research, science, engineering, academic medicine and commercial enterprises. We are the higher education headhunters of choice for universities around the globe.