How to use an Executive Search Firm

1 November 2017

Herringbone Search Partnership with Financial Times | IE Business School Corporate Learning Alliance

Early last summer Ryan Henshaw met Marc Thivessen, COO of a joint venture between the Financial Times and IE Business School – the Corporate Learning Alliance.

The venture harnesses the power of the world’s most respected business media brand with a world-class business school and global network of educators.

Marc knew FT |IE Corporate Learning Alliance would at some stage want a search firm to help them hire a commercial leadership team to keep pace with the growth. They stayed in touch.

A few months prior, we introduced ourselves to the razor sharp commercial leader and London-based Dutchman, Michel Rosier (photo, centre). He was an early bird so Ryan had a coffee with him at dawn in central London. He joined our candidate treasury, happy for us to connect him to our contacts in the market.

We introduced Michel to a leader at a leviathan information company a month later. It was a good meeting, but the Leviathan didn’t have a perfect role at the time.

Over the summer, a role to lead global sales at FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance started brewing.

In August, the need had heightened and Ryan met with the COO Marc to nail down the brief. The leadership team hoped to present news of this key hire at the main board meeting in late September.

Working with search firms can (and should) take the pain out of hiring. In this case, we worked hard with the COO to clarify the brief and set a clear timeline. We were dealing with a decision-maker who was driven to make an appointment efficiently.

Ryan called on specific leaders he knew and approached the market within the timeframe. To avoid Outlook purgatory there were defined windows for first and second interviews and key players were pinned down in advance.

We talked Marc through a handful of individuals. The search was fine-tuned with a tight feedback loop. Three candidates were interviewed in late August, including Michel. He was invited back. At the end of the second interview he was offered the role by the CEO, VanDyck Silveira. Decisive.

Michel is now approaching his first year in the business and we’ve placed four more senior leaders with them, two reporting into Michel himself (including Nassim Ershaed pictured above).

From our standpoint, FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance were the perfect partner.

So how can you use Executive Search firms to guarantee a better result and process?

These simple rules of the game help to consistently secure the best people:

  1. Ensure the key decision-makers are dealing with the search firm. Golden candidates don’t hang about, especially if they’re commercial leaders on the hunt for a job. It’s a turnoff for them if they’re left in limbo in the process (and painful for the secretary or HR team who become liaisons).
  2. Work with one firm who is a specialist in your sector. They will have longstanding relationships and you’ll be benefitting from the multiple searches they undertook for other industry leaders over the last few years. This represents thousands of hours of work and expertise on the market. Using one firm per appointment streamlines the process, protects your employer brand and secures the undivided attention of the search firm – along with the candidate.
  3. See the relationship as long-term. Invest in the search firm once you trust them – help them to understand your company. Once they do they will be able to aggressively screen candidates on your behalf and champion your business to the candidate market. It will add so much value.
  4. Set limits and be decisive. Do you want to see endless people for fear of missing out? See a maximum of 5. It’s a tic of the times – what’s the next thing, who else is out there, can we find better? Our culture can bend us to be on the look-out for the next best thing, the upgrade, the person who may walk around the corner. Of course, you want the best asset to the company, but how much time can you devote to the hiring process? If you can, trust that the firm has done the job. Get rolling and be decisive.
  5. Schedule the process in. We have a timeline we can send you that we use that keeps the process dynamic. It will keep you and your executive team focussed on a result.
    Only work with a firm you trust (and like). They are representing you to the market and should act as an additional member of the team. If you don’t like or trust them, the candidates they approach on your behalf won’t either.

process has been refined over a decade and these are the guidelines that consistently seem to secure the most satisfactory appointments. We hope they’re helpful. If you use Executive Search firms and would like a copy of our timeline do let us know.

If you’d like to find out more about the executive courses run by FT| IE Corporate Learning Alliance get in touch with Nick Winwood.

If you’d like to meet to talk about sales and commercial leadership hiring, media and information market knowledge, staff retention, salary benchmarking or general hiring please get in touch.

More about Ryan Henshaw.

More about Herringbone Search.