Alignment is the Key to Search Success in the War for Talent

Getting the best and most out of a search firm/recruiter can be a tremendous advantage with all the individual battles that make up this war for talent.   Our clients are telling us that it’s only getting more difficult.  We hear things like: we lost a candidate between acceptance and start date, we have urgency – but not one throat-to-choke accountability, our process is too long, we are losing market share, speed AND quality matter, threat of turnover,  candidates are shopping our offers,  my open head count is causing substantial discomfort and pain, without human talent our company, division, region, team cannot transition to the next level.  It doesn’t matter if you are pre-IPO or post-IPO, small or big, hot or a turn-around, nobody seems immune in this War.

To our recruiters – it’s not the fee that matters most, nor is it the exclusivity, multiple openings or retainers.  Sure, those are all things big billers would like to have but that’s not necessarily fundamental to what the big biller recruiter needs; what they really need and want is to be successful in completing your difficult search assignments. But how do they accomplish that?  The prerequisite for the best recruiters is:  client/recruiter accountability and an emphasis on how we work together – that is what matters most.  We call this Bond of Alignment.  Just how important is it?  Well, you could propose a 33% fee with 12 exclusive searches but the chance of mutually agreed upon success and completing those 12 searches is minimal without Bond of Alignment. It’s all about the Bond of Alignment and here’s the great news - you, the client, deserve it just as much!

Here’s a further explanation of Bond of Alignment (BoA) - Executive search is a team sport, and both the client and the search firm are on the same team, and just like any team, they need to be mutually accountable to one another in order to succeed and win.  This means that both parties need to place a major emphasis on how they work together.  Including but not limited to, being clear on objectives, agreeing upon a game plan to achieve success and trusting in one another. They must be able to communicate early and often, as well as cooperate.  In fact, ‘this’ trumps everything else - if you layer ‘this’ into the working relationship, then the ‘Bond of Alignment’ framework to success is in place.   Here’s an even closer look at what should be put in place in order to fill difficult, time sensitive, searches.

-        Collaboration – seek out insights, feedback and opinions, agree to work together and trust each other. Candidates have a lot of options out there.  You want your recruiter obsessing on your search and being on point for you for all bad things that can happen.

-        Realistic Expectations – you do not call us for the easy searches and we fully accept that responsibility. But we will call a spade a spade when unrealistic expectations are impeding success. 

-        Matched Urgency – make sure that your urgency is articulated AND reciprocated.  “I’ll match my urgency level to yours”.   Acid test question: If you can’t give your recruiter preset dates and times, timely feedback and cooperation, then why should they invest 2-4 weeks of their time on your search?

-        Invest Time Upfront  - help your recruiter with these two questions: 1) why would someone who’s gainfully employed and kicking ass want to join your company (be prepared to answer a lot of questions around what your corporate highlight film looks like) and 2) what exactly will you hire – we are not interested in who you’ll interview, we want to zero in on what the person looks like, acts like, experience and credentials, including human traits and why they are important.

-         Communication - both parties need to agree to potentially over communicate with all involved in the hiring process. Being clear and concise in a timely matter will expedite decisions.

-        Mutual Accountability to milestones and deadlines.

-        Agreed Upon Search Project Outline – deliverables, timing, weekly status calls,

-       Interview Process - that is fair and reasonable (as opposed to the anti-hiring process – bad press when it comes to your hiring practices, is NOT good press).

-        Celebrate success and evaluate failures together

Just like any relationship, albeit: a coach/player, coach/parent, boss/employee, husband/wife, board/CEO etc… most problems stem from a lack of understanding expectations of each other or a lack of a clear definition as to boundaries and mission that both parties agree too.  The key ingredient for short and longer term success in any relationship is alignment and a commitment to getting thru the good and most challenging of times.  Again, this responsibility does not lie solely on your shoulders – a good search partner will help frame this out for mutual recruiting success.

By Craig Millard