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A previous article in this publication discussed the rationale for enlisting the services of a recruitment consultancy, comparing and contrasting the process to “doing it yourself”. Let’s now assume that your organisation has taken the decision to put a senior executive assignment in the hands of a consultancy.
What follows is an examination of the factors which should be taken into account, when deciding which particular recruitment firm to partner with.
Some companies make the mistake of opting for a recruitment practice with a high profile, simply because of the overall image of that firm. It is much more advisable to select the recruiter on their individual merits, rather than because they happen to be in a group which has brand awareness in the marketplace.
It is crucial to ascertain that the consultant who will handle the project has a track record of successfully completing assignments of a very similar nature. Some recruiting firms will claim to have undertaken certain projects, when the truth is that the individual who handled the assignment has long since left that firm. Put another way, it is vital that the consultant has the required expertise, as opposed to the practice itself. It also pays to ensure that the consultant who is briefed actually carries out the work themselves, which is preferable to discovering that they delegated large parts of the process to inexperienced staff, or those who are not conversant with the industry sector.
Moreover, if an organisation finds that they have established a high level of rapport with an individual consultant who produces consistent results, they should continue to use that HR specialist. This applies even if they move to a new consulting company, or take the bold step of setting up their own enterprise.
Other factors to take into consideration in evaluating recruitment expertise are:
If a consultant has qualifications in a particular discipline, it is a fair assumption that they will have studied alongside a cohort of people who have gone on to apply that training in an operational context. In addition to giving the recruiter advantageous knowledge of that industry, it also confers on them the ability to network with their peers. There is therefore a dual benefit in that the consultant has an appropriate grounding, as well as senior contacts.
In the same way that an HR practitioner with formal training in any discipline will have an advantage over their competition, it is also true that a recruiter who has had operational exposure to a field will be easier to brief on an assignment relevant to that area. There is of course no need to explain the nuances to that person, since they are across the jargon, the legislation and the prevailing issues.
Some consultants may lack this kind of involvement but might have acquired an appreciation of an industry through non-executive directorships. This can certainly be useful, although the best combination of all is a specialist who combines qualifications, operational experience and governance credentials in any given area.
Networks are essential in assessing talent pools and identifying prospective candidates, but they are also important in giving a consultant the capacity to contact those who are sources of recommendations regarding candidates. Such people may not be appropriate for the position in question, but their standing in the market gives them the capacity to put forward further names for assessment.
The acid test for assessing the networks of a recruiter is to ask yourself the question “How often do I see them at industry functions, and to what extent do they maintain subscriptions to peak bodies or member-based associations which support that sector”?
Consultants attend networking events to build their relationships with upwardly mobile executives, with those they have placed in roles, and also with sources, who might well be referees for individuals being considered for future vacancies.
Any HR practitioner who attempts to convince an organisation that one candidate sourcing methodology used in isolation is the answer, is doing their client a huge disservice.
Those consultants who extract a sizeable fee from an entity for simply advertising a role (at the client’s expense), and then sitting back and waiting for the world to beat a path to their door, should be avoided at all costs. Advertising is indeed a powerful tool to circulate information about vacancies, although it is only one facet of the total picture.