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Executive Search: The gold standard of talent acquisition

Posted September 28, 2022

Executive Search is the gold standard of talent acquisition. With the risks associated with making the wrong leadership decision and a small, highly experienced talent pool that is typically passive and in high demand, executive search assignments are typically entrusted to highly experienced search specialists with a proven methodology and extensive networks.

Sanderson Executive Search

At Sanderson, our executive search service is designed to provide a whole of market research-based assignment for challenging, unique, or leadership resourcing needs. It’s a highly consultative service in which we take the time to fully explore the requirement, agree realistic outcomes, offer complete transparency on the talent that matches the requirement and what motivates them, amplify our client’s brand to engage and attract candidates and provide a high touch service through every stage of the process.

This is most commonly used to identify the best candidate or create a succession plan for one individual role. However, given the current challenges associated with recruiting large volumes of specialist vacancies, most notably within the tech and digital sector. We asked John Rainsbury, Head of Executive Search at Sanderson and Conor Hiller, for their advice on what talent acquisition teams could borrow from executive search to deliver high quality hires, at scale…

Consult more with hiring managers when briefing a vacancy to better explore the requirement and agree realistic and achievable outcomes:

Too often, recruiters both in-house and agency are willing to solely take orders from customers and to ask simple questions. Executive recruiters are expected to have a better perspective of the market than their customers, which allows them to consider the wider industry challenges. With competition for talent at record highs there is a real need for recruiters to add value, truly understand the need and be capable of guiding the hiring manager through the challenges associated with the current market. Thanks to this context our recruiters are capable of adding value and understanding the nature of the recruitment need. The customer will certainly have a strategic understanding of their ideal hire, which may get them 80% of the way to the best hire, but 20% remains opaque. Strong consultancy by recruiters will overcome this and guide customers to the best possible result.

Focus on all candidates not just those available:

Executive search services focus on delivering best-in-market candidates. This is founded on a research-led, proactive sourcing strategy which widens our talent pool, and allows us to guarantee that the shortlisted candidates are the best options. ‘Active’ job seekers are currently overwhelmed by the sheer number of adverts on platforms such as Indeed and LinkedIn and will typically have multiple opportunities. In addition to this, many of our clients, particularly in the tech sector, have the need to hire specialist skills at scale. To deliver this we have to commit to a proactive recruitment strategy, and it is essential that we utilise proactive sourcing. This widens our talent pool, and allows us to guarantee that the candidates we deliver are the best options. Focal to our leadership appointments solution is thorough primary research, identifying and engaging with all relevant prospects not just those available. This provides our customers every opportunity to attract top talent.

Work in partnership with hiring managers to solve recruitment challenges:

The world does not stand still, business priorities shift and even with the best insight the employment market cannot be predicted with total accuracy.  It is essential that our executive search recruiters have the agility to communicate with our customers, present both challenge/ opportunity and solution, but genuinely garner customer input to ensure alignment with their preferences and business priorities. The most flexible recruiters will be able to test and learn with their customer, operating in a genuine partnership throughout the assignment process.

Ensure you’re building the right proposition:

It is not as simple as understanding the role, business and practicalities associated. To build a compelling proposition effectively you must really understand the motivations and drivers of both your candidate and customer. A strong executive recruiter will be capable of working with individuals, highlighting the key motivational match between the opportunity and their priorities. Being an attentive and capable listener is essential along with an ability to apply that insight in building a personalised proposition to either candidate or customer.

Provide real support to candidates through onboarding:

Executive Recruiters are used to working with candidates who have long notice periods. With potentially 6-12 months between a candidate accepting an offer and starting on day one, there has always been a need for exec recruiters to check-in on a regular basis and organise opportunities, where appropriate for the successful candidate to keep in touch with their new boss, meet new colleagues or attend company events during the onboarding process. The sheer competition for talent has seen a significant rise on counter offers from both current and prospective employers which has significantly increased the risk of a candidate not starting in their new role. Whilst notice periods may be significantly shorter than for leadership hires, there is just as much need for that high touch approach during onboarding, guiding a candidate through the process and maintaining their excitement in the new opportunity they have accepted.