Search consultants must produce goods

As organisations struggle to secure the services of the best candidates from
the marketplace, there is a need for search consultants to produce key players
who match the pre-agreed specification, with the right attitude and required
levels of proactivity.

Search assignment failure generates a strain on fragile corporate and
personal relationships.

Many key players are reluctant to move from one organisation to another in
times of market turbulence, even though many companies are experiencing growth.
However, at such times, the introduction of new blood will assist with growth
and add substantial shareholder value.

It is at times like these that executive search consultants can greatly
assist strategic growth, but they need to have a close working relationship
with the corporate client, and an intimate understanding of the needs of the
organisation and the human chemistry involved. Client and executive search
consultant need to work hand-in-hand. Yet, as the end of 2003 approaches, there
seems to be a disconnection between them, even though more emphasis is placed
upon supply chain management, preferred supplier routes and seamless service
provision within FTSE organisations.

I suppose if supply chain management techniques involving regular appraisal
and review are implemented, there is a greater chance of a successful outcome.
But this cannot be a foregone conclusion, even where a 360-degree approach is

In many cases, lip service is paid to the well-worn statement:
"Successful search is a matter of strong personal relationships, achieving
or exceeding pre-agreed targets, producing the right candidates, and managing
the process pre- and post- commencement". Yet, failure to produce suitable
candidates still occurs, and consultants and agencies can often produce
mediocrity or a shortlist that bears little resemblance to the original

To be successful, there needs to be close attention to detail and a specific
brief that fully covers the tangible and non-tangible aspects of the role and
the organisation. A robust process needs to be applied and re-iterated at
regular intervals, and finally, total commitment must be given to full and
regular communication between the client, the consultant and the candidates.

So why do failures occur with such a well-scripted brief? Incomes for many
search firms have been and are still reducing, although the first shoots of new
growth are appearing. Major search companies are ‘down manning’. Boutiques are
springing up and, more dangerously, agencies are re-inventing themselves as
search consultants.

Maybe it is because both clients and search companies need to go back to
basics and ask: who do I want to work with? Why do I want to work with them?
What can we mutually achieve from the relationship that will add value to both

By Stephen Hall, Group HR director, Costain Group

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