When I tell people I work in Executive Search, I hear a fair bit of criticism about people in the profession. Essentially, I hear that service to clients (the employers) is average at best, and the interaction with the candidates, even those who are short listed for an opportunity, is below average. I am always quite surprised seeing that this is a ‘people’ business; I assume anyone in this profession is above average in the ‘interacting with people’ department, which should coincide with above average customer service. Apparently this is not always the case.
As an employer, when selecting a search firm, find one that has the experience and ability to successfully complete your mandate, but also one that reflects your company culture. If it is important to you that each applicant, regardless how far they get in the process, is treated the same, for example a proper acknowledgement after submitting a resume, then make sure this is something your chosen search firm does. Your reputation in the market place will be impacted by the search process. Several capable candidates will be introduced to your company via the search firm, who is essentially the front line for you throughout the process. They need to represent you appropriately.
As a candidate, you don’t have as much luxury in deciding which firms to work with if you are searching for an opportunity. Essentially, you will deal with whichever firm has the mandate. This can be difficult as you may not have a pre-existing relationship with the firm and as such cannot get great response from them, including something simple like whether or not you are being considered for the position. However it is not necessary to wait to build a relationship with a search firm – you can do so when you are gainfully employed and happy with your work. This way, there is no pressure; you are just introducing yourself, letting them know what you do and getting your resume on file. Two good things can come of this. First, they may have an incredible opportunity with which they can approach you and second, once they know you, and what you do, they can offer you some of the superstars that come their way who may be an excellent fit for your company.
Whether you are the employer or the candidate, it is ideal to get comfortable with the right search firm(s). If the fit doesn’t feel right, it’s because it isn’t. There are plenty out there. Find the one(s) that work for you.