Dawar Hashmi discusses how to get the best out of working with external recruiters and offers some key tips
So, your organisation has a senior vacancy or two. You are under pressure to bring in external industry experts to help you make an appointment as quickly as possible, but often, the recruitment campaign doesn’t go to plan.
What can you do to ensure the best return on your investment?
I’m surprised at the amount of councils who do not want to invest time engaging with their executive search consultants before going live with a vacancy. A headhunter will know the market, the candidates, and the external perception of the authority. By choosing not to engage and communicate with recruiters you are missing an opportunity to succession plan properly and could end up running an ill-informed campaign.
You want the best talent out there, and you also want it to be diverse. Councils often set themselves challenges around timescales as they haven’t left enough time to run a campaign which will take an innovative approach to the search and are looking to identify candidates from other sectors and may have non-traditional career paths and CVs. It’s also proven that diverse and passive talent takes longer to consider an opportunity and needs more support with their application and process.
Allow the right amount of time because there isn’t a quick fix. You need to consider the implication of having to rerun the search if it fails. The risk of not making an appointment will impact on time, and it will cost you more money. More importantly, the impression the candidate market has of these opportunities and your employer brand will be affected when you go back out to market. This is something we have seen first-hand when we have been asked to take on a search that another executive search company has failed at.
Not only do you want the best and most diverse talent, but you want it at the best possible price. A lot of high street firms can offer you a CV emailing service after taking your job descriptions and person specifications. If you want a fast, and a cheap service then you can expect a ‘bum on a seat’ if you’re lucky. If the search doesn’t churn out the talent you are looking for then be prepared for an expensive re-run, or an even more expensive interim manager. By investing in the right headhunter, you will not only get the service but the experience you are looking for.
Many of my colleagues in the recruitment sector (who also happen to be competitors) are at the top of their game and will approach the market with years of experience, as well as the warmth and care that you should expect. You get what you pay for.
At senior level, it can be hard to find candidates with the required skills, experience and values within a commutable distance, so allowing flexibility around this is critical. As we work ourselves through the pandemic and restrictions are eased, think about the apprehension some people might have about travelling, in particular those from minority groups where there are clear health inequalities.
Your employer brand
Making sure we have a transparent and open approach to each campaign is critical to its success. If you think there are any challenges internally or externally, that may impact your brand they must be considered at the earliest point possible so we can work with you to control the narrative when we engage with the market.
The way we recruit now is very different to how we used to do it traditionally. Interview processes should not be like something out of The Apprentice where the assessments are one way. Remember, candidates will also be studying you, your people, your organisational culture, and your values. They also have the right to choose to reject you after the final panel.
A collaborative recruitment approach with your external head-hunter is always better than a process where you just outsource recruitment and only engage with the applicants on the day of the final panel interview. If the vacant positions are really important to you, then you should take out the time to speak with potential applicants if they want to have an informal discussion.
Allow extra time for fireside chats so that you can get to know the candidates better – interviews never bring out the best in people. Offering a job to someone who has had an off day at interview but has presented well throughout other stages is far better than taking on someone who is polished at interviews but not so great in the job.
Dawar Hashmi is Partner, Executive Search (Government, Health and Housing) at Green Park