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Complexity and specifics of direct search

Ekaterina Bakhareva - Be-Exec

Responsibility in the search for key employees
In most cases when searching for candidates for mid-level or lower positions, an HR consultant or HR manager is only required to conduct a few steps of the interview, evaluate the completed test assignment, and analyse the candidate’s social media accounts.  If the task is to find and evaluate a candidate for an executive position, the consultant must have specific skills and background for effective recruitment and subsequent evaluation. 

The cost of error and responsibility for finding the “wrong” employee is too high, and the requirements often exceed the capabilities of the labor market. 

Understanding the goals and objectives that face the future manager
It is important not only to discuss but to get a written description of the goals and objectives that are facing the employee and underlie the role for which we are looking for a manager. 

Of course, it is important to understand the history of the role, what happened to the previous employee of the position and what made the search relevant. These are all basic questions that an HR consultant asks. 

When searching for management positions, the depth and analytics of the context of the position’s emergence are important. Knowledge of the segment is always an additional plus, often executive search consultants come from the industry. 

Personally, my previous experience in marketing communications helps me in my search. Thanks to this experience, I have an understanding of the main performance indicators in marketing, media, and working with the premium segment, where I started working more than 10 years ago. 

Candidate personality
Personal competence is one of the determinants in the search for key employees. 

Moreover, it is important to coincide with the personality profile of the immediate supervisor, the company’s shareholders, the requirements of the headquarters, and the hiring manager if we are talking about global corporations. 

Basic personal competencies are important, among them: emotional intelligence, leadership, ability to innovate, and flexibility, to the latter I would also refer “technological thinking”, which is now coming to the forefront for a successful manager, as the ability to make decisions, teamwork.    

In addition to evaluating the candidate himself, it is important to understand the profile of his future head, and we show the importance of this understanding to our clients. It is important to assess the profile of the hiring manager and work through compatibility with that person. 

In the assessment, we use the DISC system, the Myers-Briggs typology, and the value questionnaire. 

I would like to elaborate on the last tool, because now it is a new and important element in the search for key employees, and I would say all future employees of the company. 

Company values
Many companies declare their core values. It can be openness, proactivity, client orientation if it is a service business and many other important things. 

When recruiting people, the importance of matching the values of the company with each specific candidate is often ignored. When selecting a key employee, a match, a sharing of one’s own values and those of the company are fundamental. It is important to understand the underlying values of the future manager, as at the interview level the candidate may state one thing, but a more detailed evaluation will reveal that in reality, the value profile does not match the company.    

A direct search is always about working within a certain framework
Working within certain limits and with limited resources is considered to be a standard when looking for key employees. 

What does this mean? To give you an example, when looking for a Marketing Director for a sports and lifestyle brand, we, first of all, approached the direct competitors and the best global players in this segment. The number of such players is limited, and candidates who have the right and interesting experience and at the same time are motivated, even less. So we expanded the pool of companies and industries from where we were looking for candidates. The client wanted to see a perfect match in terms of professional and personal competencies, sharing and understanding of company values, and of course a high level of motivation to make the transition. 

We did a lot of analytical work, provided a search map, and organized meetings/interviews with candidates from similar industries from management marketing positions, from the consumer segment. After 10-15 meetings with such candidates, the client came to the conclusion that it made sense to focus only on direct competitors. The circle is back to the original starting point, but the client can only draw such conclusions after meeting candidates from related industries and studying the profiles of such candidates. In that case, we may encounter a change in the timing of the search and release of the candidate we need. But as a result, we find a perfect match. 

Deadlines in the search for key employees and top managers
It is good when the client sets a clear deadline and we understand that we have a task with a specific deadline, for example, to get a candidate out within 2.5-4 months. On average, the search period for a top management position takes up to 6 months, and in some cases up to a year. For executive positions, at least 5-6 interviews are required, including evaluation and involvement of global colleagues, if we are talking about international companies. 

Moreover, it is important to consider the candidate’s readiness to enter, often 1-1.5 months to complete cases in their current position. I can point out that if a candidate even with a general manager position needs more than a month to complete business, this is a kind of signal and should be taken into account and paid attention to the actual motivation and readiness for the transition.   

The search for leaders and key employees is a painstaking, long, and consisting of a lot of details, but it is vital for efficient and successful work of a company. 

To assess the quality of a headhunter’s work, it is possible to look at the example of his placements, how good his/her employees were for the company, and how well they justified the investment that the company made in the search for such a specialist. 

The risk of a hasty and shallow search is too high.  

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