Strategy: Executive Recruiting Sets a Bad Example for All Recruiting

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As a recruiting professional, you know the struggles of getting people to follow some sort of process. Decision-makers try to skip steps, interview panelists insist on asking illegal questions, and hiring managers want to hire someone who thinks (and looks) like them under the guise of “culture fit.” Or their son grew up with the candidate. Or they like that the candidate went to their school. Or any other factor that has little to no impact on whether someone can actually do the job.

Where does this constant struggle come from?

Some of it stems from some onerous process requirements (whether self-imposed or mandated). Some of it stems from some basic human need to rebel when told to follow the rules. But really, a lot of it stems from the bad example set by executive recruiting.

Justifying the Cost

The executive search industry is a monster. Globally, it generated $15.6B USD in revenue in 2018, and a quarter of all executive search firms are located in the United States, with Korn Ferry being the largest. Korn Ferry alone pulled in $1B in revenue, with the vast majority of their business being conducted in North America.

That’s a lot of money changing hands, considering that chief executives comprised only 0.2% of all U.S. hires in 2019. The market is competitive, with the perceived shortage of top executive talent driving practices that are closer to wooing a movie star vs hiring an employee per EEOC guidelines.

A quick search of how executive search firms justify their cost boils down to three primary areas:

  • Supply and Demand. There are only so many candidates for an executive position, so you need an expert who has the right network.
  • Speciality. There is a science — nay, an art — to executive search, and you need an expert who won’t spook the candidates.
  • Proaction. Executive search firms are far more proactive and will hand-pick your perfect candidate for you.

So basically, executives are a rare breed that need to be catered to and for whom a regular ole recruiting process just wouldn’t do. I mean, would you really expect a CEO candidate to fill out an application?

The Trickle-Down Effect

Because executives experience a radically different recruitment process, is it any wonder that they fail to see the value in a standardized process? After all, they were actively sought out — executive recruiters build and maintain relationships with a core group of prospects in anticipation of that next placement. That means some serious ego-stroking.

The executive candidate most likely talked openly about their commute, their family, the work-life balance issues. If they did an assessment, it was probably in an assessment center vs an online test that took hours at a time. 

They were also wined and dined, meeting with a number of key stakeholders across the organization over weeks, if not months. They had access to people to answer all of their questions and were given the opportunity to carefully consider their options and to name their price.

In short, an executive search is the ultimate candidate-centric experience.

This is why most executives have little patience for compliance in the hiring process. They probably hand-picked their direct reports, and those people probably used all their influence to “expedite” the process for their teams. It’s a trickle-down effect of what is both expected and tolerated —  and it can impact the effectiveness of any internal recruiting team…

Source: ERE

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