1st Executive Blog

29 Jul Data? Insight? Or Both? – New Questions for Executive Search

I have just read an article in the UK edition of “HRD – the HR Director” which says:

“The outbreak of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed have effectively ripped up the executive search rulebook……All that looks set to change – finally – as the pandemic forced the focus for many organisations away from the slow speed, high cost and lack of transparency and control of the traditional executive search model.”

We fundamentally disagree with the basic premise of this statement.

The author, Craig Pointon is the "EVP and Global Head of Executive Search" at Cielo.

That sounds like a title that is worth listening to as far as executive search is concerned. However, Cielo is not in executive search, it is a software vendor. I am sure that they would argue that they are much more than a software vendor.

This does not disguise the fact that the article is essentially an advertisement. The “article” makes some valid points about how the leadership environment has changed considerably in recent months, how companies need leaders with rightsizing experience, how some existing CVs were not created in today’s environment and so cannot reflect leadership skills developed in an enforced remote leadership environment.

The difficulty here is that the suggestion, both implicit and explicit, is that only data can address these challenges in executive search.

There is also a series of claims early in the piece about how executive search in is slow, lacking in transparency and expensive, even that general recruitment has embraced technology and the executive search industry has not.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The executive search industry has embraced technology from the start. I know of many practices that are running lean with combinations of the highest level of access to LinkedIn, world-class ATS and CRM systems, early adoption of AI, top-quality digital marketing platforms, world-class online psychometric assessments and automated reference checking. The last of these is still in the contrary world where it demonstrably reduces risks to employers and yet some employers are mistrustful of it. There are many more examples.

There are also many examples of new technology hitting the market every day. Some seek to support consultants on the agency side, some seek to sideline them and focus on “talent acquisition departments” and some seek to support both. It is curious that a vendor seeks to alienate the supply side of a market segment by appealing only to the demand side, which overlooks the universal truth that even today, many executive search assignments are conducted at the behest of the c-suite or a board and kept confidential from the rest of the prganisation, at least until an appointment is close.

Covid-19 Free Support

We think there are 2 realities that will emerge from the pandemic as far as executive search and even general recruitment is concerned.

1. Any CEO worth her salt will investigate very carefully the need to spend big money on resources that are not core business when there are higher skills available on the open market to be used on demand. This is good news for advertising agencies, executive search consultancies, the advisory industry and recruitment consultancies. It goes to the heart of a decent value analysis, which is more than just invoices versus salaries. The costs of internal resources have a range of internal on-costs and opportunity costs that are rarely used in comparisons and should be.

2. Regardless of the skills and experience required in any executive role, any quality executive search consultant is much better equipped to handle a discussion with, and assess the attributes of, C-Suite candidates than a talent acquisition team who may only address senior roles a few times a year.

In summary, as you read industry articles, from any industry, make sure you understand the deeper questions that the writer may choose to ignore and understand any motive that is not declared. For the sake of complete transparancy, It is clear that we believe in executive search, it is what we do - and we are more than happy to disrupt it competitively where that is merited.