Nov 2012

Getting The Most From Your Search

Retaining an executive search firm can be very simple.

You tell them about your need for a new CEO, agree the terms, and then send them out into the world to round up the industry’s best and brightest.

From this point, a good headhunter can execute a thorough search with minimal client input; but to really get the most out of the service, a collaborative and co-operative approach is far more powerful.

Get The Timing Right

Give real consideration to when you will need to bring this person on board and how long it will take to do so.

Typically, an executive search firm will take around 4-6 weeks to produce a final shortlist of candidates. Factor in your own interview process plus the predicted notice periods for the role you are looking to fill.

Be realistic – will the business be ready to appoint by then or, conversely, will it be long overdue?

Know What You Want

It is important to have a very clear picture of the ideal candidate, starting with the skills and experience that you cannot compromise on. Discuss your thoughts with fellow board members – all stakeholders should be in agreement so that the headhunter has only one set of parameters to work from.

If you have specific individuals in mind, then mention them. If you can point to someone you really want, the headhunter will not just reach out to them, but also use them as a template to find others.


A good search consultant will keep you regularly updated on progress so pay attention to the work being conducted – even at an early stage.

If you think the wrong tangent is being pursued or you would like peripheral areas to be explored, speak up. It needs to be discussed sooner, not later. 

Plan Ahead

Momentum is key to capitalising on candidate interest so have specific time in your diary set aside to conduct interviews. You will know from the outset when the shortlist is due to be submitted so block out some days for as soon after this date as possible.

Plan in advance which colleagues will be involved in these interviews and what format they will take.

Build Interest

The shortlisted candidates will not be looking for a new job.

They will come to you with a well-developed interest in the role, but you will need to build on this during your own interview process.

Keep the first meeting relatively relaxed – give them the opportunity to understand your business and the proposition. Let the discussion evolve naturally into exploring their background and what they could bring to the table. Save the more intense probing for further down the line.

Make The Right Offer

When the search reaches this stage, you might be tempted to “cut out the middleman” and negotiate directly with the candidate.

It is worth remembering, however, that the headhunter’s insights and experience can be key to ensuring the first offer made is accepted. Use him/her as a broker to balance the expectations and demands of both parties.

Salary discussions can be emotional – having that buffer should diffuse the potential for tension, ensuring your working relationship with the appointed candidate starts out on the best footing possible.

Emma Brown, Head of Research, Intramezzo Ltd

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