When an executive or upper management position needs to be filled, many organizations naturally gravitate toward hiring an executive search firm. While outside firms can certainly be the best solution for some organizations, they are not always the best path forward. Internal HR departments often focus on lower-rank positions, but they can also be the best resource for filling higher-level positions as well. And they often go untapped.
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Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when it comes to deciding whether or not to partner with an executive search firm:
1. Take a Hard Look at the Goals for the Position in Question
What are you trying to accomplish with the new hire? Are you trying to bring in a change agent? Does your strategic plan mandate a very specific skill set or individual in this role? Make sure everyone involved is in agreement on the goals and objectives from the beginning of the process.
2. Consider the Culture of Your Organization
Then take it a step further and look at the culture of your organization within the context of the specific position. Do you want someone in a high-level leadership role who is a 180-degree departure from everyone else, or someone who is like the other executive leaders already within your organization? A good resource to consult here is Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It stresses the importance of finding people who think differently and are also a good fit within the organization.
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3. What Are the Factors That Would Help Elevate Your Organization at a Professional Level?
This could include things like diversity, outside industry experience, or something as simple as having a completely different perspective on what needs to be accomplished within the organization
At the end of this evaluation process, if there is consensus that you need to shake things up or make a major shift in the direction of the organization, then it may be time to bring in an external partner.
What Steps Should You Take When Selecting an Executive Search Firm Partner?
1. Do Your Due Diligence Into Who the Firms Are and What Their Networks Look Like
The right firm should have expertise and proven success in the areas in which you are interested – human resources, technology, CIOs, etc. Many successful firms are very embedded in their particular industries. To respond to changing needs, firms today have become more specialized in terms of industries, career levels, and even organization size. If you are looking for something very specific, you may want to consider hiring one of these boutique firms.
2. Interview Several Firms
The firm you choose needs to align with your goals as an organization, as well as for the specific position.
3. Spend Time With Each Firm Before Making a Final Decision
Have them get a feel for your executive team. Culture is very important in the hiring process. The individuals you would be working with at an external firm should meet the people the new hire would interact with on a daily basis.
When filling C-suite positions, it is important to be consistent with the type of firms with which you partner. Once a firm is selected, make sure it not only understands your goals, but also is able to articulate them to potential candidates.
Regardless of whether you ultimately bring in an external firm to lead the hiring process, remember that your internal HR department can be one of your best and most valuable resources. No one else knows and understands your organization's culture better. It is also important to communicate what is being done, and why, to the rest of the employee population. Internal HR resources can be key in creating an atmosphere of transparency surrounding the process and making sure it translates into buy-in from the top down.
Carol McDaniel is immediate past-president of HR Florida State Council.