Cover image for Secrets of the executive search experts
Secrets of the executive search experts
Schoyen, Christian.
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New York : AMACOM, [1999]

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xviii, 334 pages : illustrations, maps ; 27 cm
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Central Library HF5549.5.R44 S2944 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Headhunters have a knack for making "miracles." Out of seemingly thin air they locate star job candidates, folks who rarely materialize using the usual recruitment sources. How do they do it? This compelling book reveals the strategies used by top-ranking executive search professionals. It focuses on the crucially important research process, explaining how to maximize the power of both traditional and online resources. Readers will discover:



Chapter Eight Interview With the Experts In this chapter, three experts in the field of executive search have been interviewed with the most frequently asked questions. Each person is responsible for his or her own particular segment in the search process. They are working for three of the leading international executive search firms. They all have extensive experience and have achieved great recognition for their work. Henrietta Davis, Research Director KORN/FERRY INTERNATIONAL Century City, United States 1. How do you choose the parameters for selecting target industries and companies? Target companies are normally selected by using the client organization as a model and identifying other companies of a comparable size (in revenues or number of employees), in a similar or comparable industry, falling within a defined geographic area, and excluding clients and other companies protected by Korn/Ferry International. Particular attention is paid to organizations having similar dynamics to that of the client; for example, rapid growth, a recent or impending Initial Public Offering (IPO), global operations, and comparable technologies. The target list is further refined by eliminating companies deemed inappropriate by the client or consultant and including organizations identified by the client as desirable targets but which might not otherwise have met the established parameters. 2. How many contacts or targets do you need to get a sufficient calling list? The number of companies is typically twenty-five to fifty, but could be smaller or considerably larger, depending upon the complexity of the job specification, geographic constraints, compensation package, and other considerations. 3. How do you choose published material, and are there some basic directories that you tend to use more than others? Directories are selected primarily on the basis of their accuracy and overall usefulness. There are a number of basic publications including, but not limited to, Dun & Bradstreet, Standard & Poor's, Ward's, the Directory of Corporate Affiliations, and the Leadership Directories (Yellow Books). These are all helpful in the establishment of target lists; many provide the names and titles of company officers and directories, and some are available on CD-ROM as well as in the traditional bound versions. In addition, there are many function- and industry-specific associations that publish their own directories. 4. What is the split-up (in terms of numbers) between original research, own personal network, published information and previous searches on the target list? This depends largely on the level of expertise and industry knowledge of the researcher, but would be approximately: 1. Original research: 30 percent 2. Personal network: 20 percent 3. Published information: 30 percent 4. Prior searches: 20 percent 5. Describe your approach when identifying a target within a specific company. Researchers call a company and request that they be connected to the appropriate department. Upon reaching the desired area they ask appropriate questions, for example, "Who is the head of marketing, and what is his or her actual title?" They will then attempt to identify the individual's direct reports and/or superiors, responsibilities, department size, and so forth. Direct-dial telephone numbers are obtained whenever possible. 6. What is the biggest obstacle when calling someone to do identification (ID) work, and what is the success rate? The biggest obstacle when requesting ID work is failure to communicate the client's needs, appropriate industries, and the functional areas to be penetrated. If a researcher is given inadequate direction, his or her ability to produce accurate information will suffer accordingly. It is imperative that the individual directing the research effort have a clear understanding of the client's requirements and the job specification of the position to be filled. The success rate varies, depending upon the level of difficulty of the search and the experience of the researcher. The overall average rate is about 80 to 85 percent. 7. What is the time frame for making a good target list? Depending upon the complexity of the job specification, industry knowledge and/or level of experience of the researcher, and the overall search parameters, production of a target list of companies could take from one to five hours. 8. How do you organize your information, and why do you do it this way? All information gathered through the research process is coded and entered into the Korn/Ferry database. This includes both updated and new candidates, company data, and affiliated structures. Most researchers also develop and maintain subject files of information on specific functional areas, industries, individuals, or companies. 9.What are the requirements (basics) for making a good target list? You should understand the client's needs, the requirements for the position, listening to direction, common sense, and creativity. 10. How do you see the future of ID work? The future of ID work is predictable only in that it will become more difficult as new industries emerge and corporate hierarchies change or become more complicated due to mergers, acquisitions, or divestitures. In addition, voice mail frequently precludes a researcher from speaking with potentially helpful individuals within a target company, and many organizations decline to provide or verify information on their employees. Justin Carpenter, Research Manager A. T. KEARNEY EXECUTIVE SEARCH London, England 1. How do you start out the calling process, in the hunt for candidates? Our strategy is likened to one of ever-expanding circles. The innermost circle defines the pool of candidates most likely to be right for the position; the outermost circle represents the probable extent of the candidate universe. The most straightforward strategy is to concentrate on the inner circles, working outward only when that most immediate pool is either exhausted or, as can happen, the assignment takes on other characteristics that require a broadening of the initial strategy. First calls on any assignment are always more difficult; I try to target second rank candidates rather than prime targets in order to warm up and refine my pitch. 2. How do you pitch the people whom you get hold of? In our view, involvement is the key to the ability of the research team to market job opportunities. From proper briefings with consultants, or, much better still, face-to-face with the client, the researcher will have a much better understanding of the position and the associated dynamics - he or she will probably feel more affinity to the client and will want to get the job done rather than try to sell another soulless typewritten proposal. In essence, when the job "comes alive," the researchers are at their most effective. A further tangible result of this style of participation is that the research team has much more to say; they gain better ideas of how to market the position and whom to pitch it to. 3. What message do you leave when you cannot get hold of someone? Messages left with personal voice mails and secretaries should be clear and succinct; leave your name, company, and enough of a clue to suggest it may be a headhunting call. Use your judgment on each call but never, as with all calls, fabricate an untruth. It is very important that you clearly state in the message that you are seeking assistance. You do not want someone to lose his or her job because you did not get your message right. When leaving a message on voice mail, you can also make the position for which you are hiring sound extremely attractive. If you must leave a message with a secretary, keep it extremely simple just to make sure she or he does not get the opportunity to convey it incorrectly. 4. How do you deal with difficult switchboard operators and secretaries? This is a two-part problem: (1) making sure you get through to the person, and (2) making sure you identify the right person to be contacted. Unfortunately there are no magic solutions to getting around a secretary who has been told not to put calls through. There are many methods, but none are foolproof. Voice mail and gaining direct lines are probably the most obvious solutions. Switchboard operators are becoming very aware of their role in defense of the organization, and in many cases they are not given the information we need in terms of job title or description to avoid the risk that they will pass this detail on. Departmental secretaries are more useful, but again there are no guarantees that they will be helpful or accurate. More fruitful research can be conducted from department to department, which requires researchers to think about the people they need to identify and to understand their position in the structure. 5. How many do you call on a given search, and when do you stop or reduce the number of calls? Researchers should make as many calls as required to be able to understand the dynamics of the market - the key players and industry trends, for example, as well as identifying and approaching suitable candidates. Our experience suggests that quality work targeting the most likely sources of candidates pays dividends as opposed to a more volume-oriented smile and dial approach. Calls on assignments should be seen in terms of opportunity cost; there are always competing needs for resources, so it makes commercial sense for researchers to make fewer but more accurately targeted approaches. Volume calling is still an integral part of executing the assignment. However, excessive calling may suggest a weak search strategy or a fundamental question mark over the attractiveness of the position, which needs to be addressed with the client. 6. How do you decide if someone is right or wrong? You should employ a series of "filters" to refine the short list of potential candidates. There are a number of key drivers that a researcher should recognize as being nonnegotiable; these are often macroskills such as the possession of specific product knowledge or functional expertise. Clearly in the filtering process we need to eliminate all those without these key core skills. The more difficult part of the process is the fine tuning - conducting a telephone interview and trying to develop the conversation so that high-value questions in terms of the person's past performance and motivation can be addressed. Ultimately, the process relies on judgment that is conditioned by having executed a good number of assignments, ideally in the same or similar industry. If in doubt, discuss with the consultant or client. 7. If someone appears to be "on target," what do you do next with him or her? First of all I try to get them to send me their resume or curriculum vitae (CV). If the time line is tight, then it is very important to just develop the CV over the phone. In most cases the resume that you receive from a candidate or prospect lacks information that you are seeking. Therefore, if you have the time, the results usually get better when you put it together yourself. After gathering the prospect or candidate's background information I arrange a face-to-face interview. 8. How do you organize your information? Each call is logged on the in-house database. Progress reports are derived directly from this system and put into a user-friendly format. Above all, researchers or consultants should produce a report that not only shows the raw data of names contacted or identified but also some form of structure; a logical line of argument that reflects a strong methodology. 9. What is the time frame for finding candidates, and how many do you need? The time frame for finding candidates is getting shorter and shorter! In the "good old days," a short list might be expected after twelve weeks; now it is closer to six weeks. This is manageable with the appropriate research and database resources. How many candidates do I need? As many as required so that the client is highly confident and is viewing the best and most appropriate candidates from a true and fair view of the marketplace. 10. What happens if you cannot find any candidates? Each approach call should be considered as a source or candidate call. I start on the basis of "What if it goes horribly wrong - the client has paid X fees, what am I going to show for it?" I need to be able to demonstrate that I have not only been through the logical places to go but also applied some lateral thinking. On occasion there is a fundamental issue that renders the position very unattractive: poor salary, unclear reporting lines, market perception of the client. I believe the approach on each call should be to get information such as this and, as consultants, be in a position to make recommendations as to a change of search strategy or to undertake a fundamental revision of the position. The search firm should not wait for six weeks to articulate any "snags"; good researchers should identify common theme problems early on, indeed within weeks if not days. This should be relayed directly and immediately to the consultant or client. Overall, if no one is interested, avoid surprising anyone by being up front with the true state of affairs. 11. What do you do if you have a person who is interested in the position but not right for it? Each call should be seen as a marketing call; do not turn cold on someone because he or she does not fit the specification. He or she may know someone who is right; a careful switch sell can be worked if the person is told clearly why he or she is inappropriate. The researcher may have to execute an assignment where that person is right in the not-too-distant future - think of developing the database. As a final example, especially if the person is senior, a well-presented approach call by someone who understands the marketplace is an excellent form of business development. 12. How do you approach highly qualified candidates who turn you down immediately? If the person is genuinely considered to be a good potential candidate, my specific approach is to be quite direct and address the issues openly as to why the person is not doing what I had expected. Only by developing a frank exchange of views and getting to the roots of motivation and what the person wants can the researcher understand why he or she has been turned down and, more important, how the client is viewed, how attractive the position is, what would be required for the person to think again, and, for the future, what the person is looking to do. Doug Smith, Managing Director WARD HOWELL INTERNATIONAL Chicago, United States 1. How do you prepare for a face-to-face interview? You must have a thorough understanding of the company and the role - scope, responsibility, and such. In other words, what the client really needs. Once you have prepared the mental template and a list of questions - both specific and open-ended for the interview then you are ready to proceed. Last, review the candidate's resume or background in advance identify areas you want to explore and any inconsistencies that you want to focus on, to try to get to know the person behind the paper. 2. How much time do you spend on interviewing someone? You should spend as much time as necessary to get a thorough understanding of the individual and his or her appropriateness for the role: average time one and one-half to two hours. You might also have a second interview by telephone to follow up on some additional questions. 3. What are the basic characteristics that you are constantly looking for, and how do you do it? I focus on two areas: "soft" and "hard." For the soft area, I look for basic personal values. For example, are the individual's values stated consistent with his or her actions? In the hard area, does the candidate have the intellectual skills and experience to tackle the task at hand? Ask for examples of what the candidate means when talking about their experiences and views. 4. How do you know what to ask a candidate? You must really understand the role, the company, and the industry dynamics. Only then can you ask the right kinds of questions. And remember, each candidate is different and may have different kinds of the same experience. 5. How do you make a candidate reveal information? Ask open-ended questions - How? Why? Ask for anecdotal examples. 6. How do you organize the information from the interview, and how do you use it afterward? Prepare a template of key interview questions. While recording the answers, include personal impressions, body language, and so forth. In order to have fresh recollections, the report should be completed within twenty-four to thirty-six hours after the interview session. 7. What is the next step after someone has been interviewed? Give yourself a chance to reflect on the interview - are your day after impressions the same? Upon review, do you sense any inconsistencies? If the impressions are positive, you may review them with the client and follow up with a detailed report. Give the candidate an opportunity to reflect upon the meeting with you and encourage him or her to contact you if there are any questions. 8. At what point in the process can you reference check someone, and how do you go about doing it? If a candidate is currently employed, you must be sensitive to the confidentiality of the discussion and not allow the candidate to be compromised with the current employer. If the candidate has a high profile within an industry, anecdotal references may be gained quickly and easily with no threat of compromise. 9. If someone you speak to does not have what it takes, how do you deal with it? You must be honest with candidates - tell them about their status in the search as soon as it has been determined. It is important to be honest to a point - give constructive feedback. 10. How many do you usually interview in a search, and when do you decide to stop interviewing? In order to generate a valid slate of four to six credible candidates, it is highly likely that twelve to sixteen face-to-face interviews are required. You stop interviewing when the client is satisfied with the initial slate presented or when the recruiter has a high level of confidence of successful completion. 11. What makes someone good at interviewing and reference checking? You must be able to make the candidate or reference comfortable and at ease. Honesty and ability to be credible - you must know what is needed. It is also very important to show respect to the candidate or reference - for not only giving you his or her views but his or her time as well. Copyright (c) 1999 Christian Schoyen and Nils Rasmussen. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Part I Executive Search Research Methodologyp. 1
Chapter 1 Beginning the Search and Defining the Jobp. 3
Defining the Jobp. 7
Chapter 2 Identifying the Candidate Sourcesp. 13
Selecting Likely Industriesp. 13
Identifying Target Companiesp. 14
Sourcing for Specific Individualsp. 15
Time Schedulep. 17
Chapter 3 Identifying Specific Candidatesp. 19
Sourcingp. 20
Documentation (Recording Information)p. 29
Modern Electronic Search Systemsp. 35
Candidate Backgrounds (Resumes)p. 40
Chapter 4 Interviewing and Screeningp. 42
Basic Screeningp. 42
Candidate Developmentp. 43
The Face-to-Face Interviewp. 44
Written Presentation of Candidatesp. 52
Chapter 5 Reference Checksp. 61
Resume Inflationp. 62
Preliminary Reference Checkp. 63
Regular Reference Checkp. 65
Reference Reportp. 67
Chapter 6 Closing the Searchp. 73
Closing Out Candidates and Sourcesp. 73
Closeout Filep. 74
Part II The Executive Search Professionp. 79
Chapter 7 Working With an Executive Search Firmp. 81
Categories of Recruiting Firmsp. 81
How Much Will It Cost?p. 83
How to Select an Executive Search Firmp. 84
Working With the Executive Search Firmp. 87
Your Role in the Search Process Versus the Executive Search Firm's Rolep. 88
Chapter 8 Interview With the Expertsp. 90
Henrietta Davis, Research Director Korn/Ferry Internationalp. 90
Justin Carpenter, Research Manager A. T. Kearney Executive Searchp. 92
Doug Smith, Managing Director Ward Howell Internationalp. 96
Part III Online Researchp. 99
Chapter 9 An Introduction to Online Researchp. 101
Which Resources Should You Use?p. 103
Online Research Step-by-Stepp. 104
Rules of Thumb for Online Searchingp. 105
Chapter 10 Professional Online Databasesp. 109
Chapter 11 Commercial Online Servicesp. 129
Web Sites of Popular Online Servicesp. 129
Example of Information Search on America Onlinep. 130
Comparison Between AOL and CompuServep. 131
Links and Other Featuresp. 134
Chapter 12 Using the Internet as a Research Toolp. 136
A Short Description of the Internetp. 136
Internet Bandwidthp. 137
Online Research Resourcesp. 137
How to Get Connected to the Internet and Online Servicesp. 138
How to Find What You Are Looking Forp. 139
Searching the World Wide Webp. 141
Industry and Company Resources on the World Wide Webp. 163
Examples of Executive Search Companies on the World Wide Webp. 169
Part IV Country Profile Overviewp. 173
Chapter 13 Country Profilesp. 175
Australiap. 177
Brazilp. 186
Canadap. 193
Francep. 202
Germanyp. 209
Hong Kongp. 220
Japanp. 228
The Netherlandsp. 238
New Zealandp. 245
Russiap. 254
Scandinaviap. 262
Denmarkp. 262
Norwayp. 267
Swedenp. 274
Singaporep. 281
United Kingdomp. 289
United Statesp. 300
Appendixp. 308
Glossaryp. 314
Bibliographyp. 323
Indexp. 325

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