The Future of Executive Search - Why You Should Embrace the New World

Written by Ben Walton on Aug 10, 2017

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The sheer volume of change and disruption that has occurred over the last five- ten years has been astronomical and quite frankly, frightening at times. With new advances in technology and accessibility to more resources, everywhere you look someone is claiming to be launching the next ‘UBER’ of something or other.

Lots of creative (and brave) entrepreneurs are attempting to launch “innovative” new businesses to become the next big influencers in their market. This change in mindset from the traditional ‘join a company and climb the career ladder’ route means that the landscape for Recruitment and Executive Search practices has also changed significantly (and will continue to do so).Much has been talked about regarding a shift towards a ‘gig economy’, the threat to jobs from Robotics/AI and how careers in 20 years’ time will be completely different to what they are now.

Having worked in Executive Recruitment for over 10 years, I’ve seen many search firms come and go. Perhaps now more than ever though, people seem to think that Executive Search is Easy money, after all, all you need is a LinkedIn profile and a phone surely? 

Well, let me tell you, it’s not.

To become an expert in Executive search takes years of experience, hard work, intuition and hustle. If you want to build a strong reputation and network, it will take time. You have to be resilient, able to handle the unexpected and not be afraid to challenge.

It is also fundamental to note the leap from high street recruitment to executive search is a big one and a completely different ball game. After all, you need to have the ability to effectively influence, persuade and consult with C-level individuals on talent strategy and organisational design as well as pushing back on unrealistic expectations and not being afraid to say ‘no’.

Therefore, to succeed and compete with the successful Executive Search Firms, new players will need to be more than forward thinking. They will need to be adopters of new technology and continually innovating. They need to be able to source talent in a way that is different from everyone else.

Last year my colleague, Andrew MacAskill (Managing Director at EO Executives) wrote a thought provoking article around corporate paleontology, discussing why more organisations need to vanish ‘dinosaurs’ from their boardrooms (read here).Theses dinosaurs do not only exist as individual laggards but in the form of businesses themselves.

If we look at recruitment, in-house talent acquisition teams are becoming more and more sophisticated. In my opinion, the days of the ‘high street’ recruiter who just chucks an advert up online or spins CV's over in volume are numbered. It is clear to see these guys are struggling and unless they change their ‘go-to market’ strategy quickly, they will soon become extinct.

What needs to be done?

Instead of sticking to outdated and traditional methods, search firms need to be doing more and investing greater energy into their searches. Yes, current processes may work for now, but with ‘start-ups’ demanding leaders who are agile, innovative and who can offer fresh ideas – the Executive Search Firms will need to know what to look for. How can they do this when they are outdated themselves? How can they entice the leaders of tomorrow?

They need to innovate and provide real value to their clients, complimenting and consulting with in-house talent acquisition teams – not fighting against them. That is why I’m passionate about my role at global Executive Search Firm, EO Executives. I am fortunate to be at a disruptive business, at the very forefront of change. At EO, we believe there is different way of finding top talent and are challenging the industry trend in growing 50% year on year, due to a smart mix of using science and technology in our search process.

As everyone in my network will already know, I head up the Technology Practice; focusing primarily on high calibre CIO, CTO and Head of Tech/Product/e-commerce placements. So, in case you were wondering what led me to write this post…l will tell you.

Last week I was amazed/ slightly shocked when I came across a large, reputable business advertising for a CIO (Chief Information Officer) on a generalist (Admin/customer service focused) job board. 

In-house talent acquisition teams can clearly do themselves now what traditional high street recruiters do (or at least have a reputation for). They are relied on to supply talent by business leaders but are all too often time poor and targeted on cutting costs. Despite increased internal talent acquisition teams’ skill levels and use of innovative technology / ATS etc, managing tens of roles at once inevitably means they end up reverting to cutting corners and relying on applications – not targeting the best and taking their time to assess in detail.

I get why they would do that for the majority of roles, but why for such a critical, board level hire would you rely on active candidates applying, rather than going out and targeting the industry’s best talent directly?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. I ask you...

- Do you think that Talent acquisition teams truly value search partners (and Visa Versa!)?

- Are you focused on saving money or are you looking to hire the best talent who can drive your business to the next level?

So, why not leave a comment below or contact me directly at: [email protected]

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