Fintech, medtech, edtech, legaltech…the list of sectors being transformed by new technology is a long one. But some sectors have proved to be slower adopters. Executive search is arguably one of these. For HR Directors and their in-house recruitment teams the way in which executive search firms go about their business has largely remained the same for the last 50 years.
Now, however, we have reached a tipping point where the potential benefits are too great to resist and a new breed of executive search firms are digitally disrupting the market using new technologies to make the hiring process faster and more accurate.
How can HR take advantage of this shake-up?
To understand where technology can make a difference, we can break the search process down into a number of stages: the mandate, longlist, shortlist, and the hiring decision.
When it comes to the mandate, one good example of new technologies that can be used in executive search is a mobile app that provides an easy way for clients to narrow down their requirements by choosing from a library of options or using artificial intelligence (AI) to make suggestions. There are also organisational behavior tools to gain more insights into the kinds of attributes they require from an ideal candidate.
Once the search firm understands what the client wants, they begin to compile a long list of candidates to meet the criteria in the mandate. Many usually turn to volume search algorithms and platforms such as LinkedIn at this point. However, machine learning technology allows disruptors to draw on the results of hundreds of thousands of past searches to produce a long list of candidates that closely fit the mandate profile. All in a matter of seconds, instead of the days and weeks it usually takes. It is a paradigm shift in performance for clients.
Next, in-depth interviews and assessments are used to whittle that list down to a shortlist that closely matches the mandate. Here, search firms can use technology to support the interviewer in real time, enabling them to ask more finely tuned questions. They can also compare candidates far more effectively by using cutting-edge video interviewing technologies to measure responses on a standard scale.
Finally, a shortlist of the strongest candidates is put in front of the client with the search firm’s assessment so that they can make a hiring decision. At this point in the process, technology tools can be used to assist the interviewing and evaluation of short-listed candidates. This might include giving clients access to a digital room where candidate data and ratings have been collated.
Demanding more from executive search
Finally, with technology transforming executive search, HR may need to rethink the way they evaluate service providers. Ideally, they should be asking how their recruitment provider performs across three key dimensions: velocity, accuracy and transparency.
For a start, what does the time taken to fill a position – known as the ‘days to close’ – look like? Are the shortlisted candidates such a close match to the mandate that it is very difficult to choose among them?
It’s on the question of transparency that some of the biggest differences are evident. Executive search has long been a black box experience with clients being largely unaware of the inner workings of the search process. Today’s new technologies offer much greater transparency. Clients can ask to see everything the search firm is doing for them on a 24/7 basis. That might mean having access to a portal where they can view the status of the search in an easy-to-understand way. I know from talking with boards and CEOs how greater visibility can take a lot of the stress out of the search process and vastly improve the client experience.
The impact of new technologies across these three dimensions has a huge effect in the real world. It makes it far easier, for example, to assess for cultural fit or create a more diverse workforce.
There is no doubt that future innovation in recruitment technologies will continue to disrupt the industry, eventually reshaping executive search and its business model. In the meantime, if executive search firms can access new technologies to increase the velocity, accuracy and transparency of the search process, why wouldn’t companies demand such a service?
Umesh Ramakrishnan is CEO of Kingsley Gate Partners, a global executive search firm.