Today corporate’s pay an Executive Search Professional anything up to USD 200K to search a right professional for their enterprise. Quite often people ask me why one would pay so much for finding an employee when there’s so much unemployment around. Answer is that unemployment is at lower level or at entry level due to skill mismatch or lack of information. At senior/top level there is an acute shortage of talent. Not only that, at senior level professionals do have their choices and apprehensions that makes match making very difficult. There’s saying “Executive Search Professional does not hunt those who hunt jobs”.
One of the most important roles of an Executive Search Professional is to develop a communication without exaggeration to entice the person to take career decision in favor of the opportunity presented. We have heard how Steve job convinced John Sculley from Pepsi to join Apple by asking Sculley “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Above statement by Steve jobs depicts an art to entice an unwilling individual. Sculley proved to be most successful CEO later on. Believe me it is no easy to attract good talent when prospective employer is small and does have the matching brand equity. In early 2001 , one of my clients, a most reputed Real Estate Conglomerate at Mumbai, wanted to diversify in IT/ ITEs and was willing to invest USD 20 million in cash capital apart from lending Real Estate but no established IT CEO was willing to join them, due to obvious apprehensions. We released a half page camouflaged Advert in India & , USA, spending close to USD 100K ,mentioning Mid/ senior level positions to announce seriousness of their intent and willingness to spend. Then we identified 14 successful CEOs from IT Industry whom I had known otherwise and sent them the advert cutting requesting them to refer someone from their network for CEO position for this company. Seven of them reverted asking golden question “Who are the promoters?” and search story begins. Five of them were eventually presented to our client and one out of them joined. Some time you need to show intent in action to shake their apprehensions.
Foundation of Executive Search is research & knowledge on the DNAs of the Companies & Professionals operating in the sector of one’s specialization. It is all about reading the undercurrents of the industry and understanding professional whims and fancies of the individuals. Many confuse Executive Search Consultancy with low end recruitment Agency. Lower level recruiting is more mechanical process & number game coupled with filtering skills. One should not expect from a contingent recruiter to develop such communications strategies.
Executive Search is used by all but it is boon for SMEs who need good talent to grow their business but does not have requisite size and brand equity. At the time when Steve Job proposed John Sculley, Pepsi was global giant and Apple a pygmy. How does one convince a professional to join a small upcoming company with low paying capability is both science & art that Executive Search Professional need to exercise. Recently I was introduced to one Mid-size industrialist whose company was not doing well and wanted a Professional to turn around. But industrialist reacted sharply & negatively to my poking questions to understand the reasons for his company’s sickness. Guess what, meeting lasted just five minutes and I have to decline the mandate. If you are a Promoter / Businessman wanting to hire the services of an Executive Search Professional, my advice to you is to find a good Executive Search Professional through validated references and be transparent with that Professional to get the best out of him/her. Do not hesitate to share with them inner woes. Because an Executive Search Professional needs to understand clearly the type of person needed to do your assignment successfully. He/she needs to be clear on “must have” strengths and ill-affordable Limitations of the prospective individual if he has to do a good job. As such all of us are under the oath of secrecy & Non Disclosures. Many of the seasoned industrialists spend few minutes extra with their trusted Head Hunter because Executive Search Professionals are supposed to be very authentic source to find or validate the undercurrents of Industry or to know new good practices. Executive Search Professionals interacts with many successful Executives in the industry and are privy to many happenings & analytics in the industry
And if you are a talented individual, then best is to network with an Executive Search Professional much before you need them. Best time is when you are just getting out of middle management getting into general management roles. And if you are already at senior level looking for a change, then do connect with ones you had networked in past but don’t solely depend upon them. The reason is that an Executive Search Professional is driven solely by the needs of its clients and has very limited wherewithal to push someone through unless his/her mandate warrant it. It would be only a coincidence if Executive Search Professional happened to place you when you connected for a change. Of course one specializing in your sector will have better access and better chance to place you. But do keep in mind that an Executive Search is a very low volume business; they place not more than 1% of people they meet or know. You can use your relations to take their inputs to make better career decisions or to get deep insight on a company of your interest. A knowledgeable Executive Search Professional can prove to be a good sounding board. Executive Search Professional will invest his time in you if he/ she see a potential in you and you had maintained relationships. But don’t expect them to share beyond a limit as most of us are bound by our ethics and Non-Disclosure commitments.
Executive Search is all about relationship. Most of us have relationships with our customers & candidates that go back more than a decade. Two years ago, I placed a person, for the position of Managing Director with one of my old European clients, whom I had known for over a decade but never placed him before. During this period, this gentleman conferred with me for 3 to 4 times regarding his career moves. Thanks to this I understood that he thrives in chaos. All his successful innings were in troubled companies and he turned out to be virtual status quo manager in a stable company. So this time I have to really impress upon my client to push hard his candidature because the said company was in all sorts of troubles including the treason by local JV partner. In Last two years, this gentleman had sorted out all problems and put the company on comeback trail. You must have guessed it already; soon it is going to be the time to hand over company to someone else.
It would make a sense to keep in touch with Head Hunter just the way you connect with your doctor even when healthy. But refrain from asking oft asked question “How’s the job market these days? “ as there exists no such market. And if you consider your talent a commodity then you are not worth a search by Executive Search Professional.