Selecting an online dating app is a bit like picking an executive search firm.
These days, if you want a new partner you can just jump online and tap into the many dating apps, services and websites that promise to deliver you plenty of hot talent to choose from. If you’re a Board member, or a Councillor looking to appoint a CEO, you are also in the market for an ideal partner – all be it one who will successfully lead your organisation rather than provide lifelong romantic fulfilment. Luckily for you, instead of having to do the dating equivalent of hoping you might ‘get lucky’ in the local bar, there are specialised search firms that, for a fee, will do the hard work of finding a match for you.
Just like dating apps are now a ‘normal’ way for many adults to meet others, so too recruitment agencies can assist Boards and Councillors find the ‘perfect match’ for their next CEO.
For decades, online dating services have been helping people find their perfect match. Specialised ‘Head Hunters’ have also been helping organisations place top executives. They are not cheap but represent good value when the risk of a ‘bad hire’ for your next CEO could be a lot more serious for your organisation than personally going on a bad date.
If you want to source high-quality candidates for your chief executive role it’s time to call in an exclusive headhunter. But at first, how do you recruit the right recruiting agent? If you don’t come from a HR background and you have never employed a CEO before how do you avoid the overwhelm of so much choice?
Agencies are modern matchmakers
In the past, singles looking for romance used to place a ‘lonely hearts’ advertisement in the local paper. Now, online dating agencies boast of algorithms that can link you into databases of hundreds of thousands of potential matches. Recruitment agencies are our modern-day matchmakers, skilled at identifying, attracting and assessing qualified candidates to be considered for the CEO role.
And, just as there are plenty of online dating sites – all with different pricing, client databases, and success rates -so too with recruitment agencies. As a consultant, I support councillors as an independent adviser through their CEO recruitment process. The first step is to select an executive recruitment agency that will deliver a good match for the organisation.
So how to select which recruitment agency is right for your organisation? It’s a lot like selecting a dating app!
5 questions to ask when deciding which agency to hire
1. What is your reputation?
How good are they at their job? In my work in the local government sector, councils have the choice of several top recruiting agencies to partner with for CEO recruitment. It is a relatively small sector so it’s simple to ask other councils about the pros and cons of the agencies they have previously worked with. Word of mouth is effective. A potential recruitment firm should also be able to provide references and testimonials from like organisations.
Check their success rates and placement statistics. For example, one Australian dating site boasts that it has ‘been responsible for over 11000 marriages’ which sounds impressive. What are the recent success stories of your potential agency? How extensive and diverse is their own database of potential applicants, either existing CEOs or ‘step-ups’ from senior management?
2. Tell me about your experience?
It is useful to understand the background of different agencies and their experience in your sector or profession. Do you want a firm that is well known for appointing successful placements over many years? Or are you willing to try a new company with an innovative niche approach?
3. Can you explain your processes?
When deciding on who to hire as your recruitment firm, their processes make all the difference. Ask about:
- How do they source talent – how they find and reach talent; both through passive advertising (e.g. newspaper, LinkedIn, SEEK etc) and active means (such as ‘tapping people on the shoulder’ to apply or their own database?)
- Psychometric testing – just as a ‘personality test’ is key to setting up an online dating profile, similarly, most recruitment agencies offer to test as part of their assessment processes. But not all psychological tests are useful. Check that the agency applies tests that are relevant to the skills (soft and hard), character and aptitude which is specific to the role.
- Their guarantee – If the placement doesn’t work out, for whatever reason in the first 12 months, do they have a guarantee to refill the position free of charge? And is their dispute resolution process quick and fair?
- Manage confidentiality – how do they manage candidates that wish to be discrete with their application?
- Dealing with Internal candidates – how do they sensitively and fairly manage internal candidates?
- Diversity – how effective are they are putting forward diverse candidates for consideration?
- Fraud – how do they check and vet potential applicants. Just as with on-line dating, not everyone out there is exactly who they say they are. Careful security vetting is a must.
- Support – understand how they will keep you (or the CEO recruitment Panel) involved, informed of progress and build ownership of the process?
4. Who is your personnel?
Who will be handling your search – the top talent or her/his junior associate? The musical, Fiddler on the Roof has a famous song about matchmaker Yente, the village woman who knew everyone’s business and was skilled in arranging traditional marriages. When selecting an agency, you want to get the top talent, someone who is as experienced as Yente! Does your agency personnel know who’s who in your sector? Do they have a good network and understanding of who could potentially be a great CEO for your organisation? Are they like the ‘village busybody’ with a great handle on what’s going on?
5. Are you a FIT for us?
There’s a dating app out there for just about any niche group you could think of; from a racial background, LGBTI to vegetarian. You can easily find the right ‘fit’ for your potential dating interests if you care to search.
When you are paying good money to hire an executive search firm to come and partner with you for several months in the search for a new CEO, you need a firm that understands you.
One that ‘gets’ your challenges, opportunities and your culture. For instance, in the local government sector, it is important that the recruitment agent understands the rare skills mix that is required to be a successful Council CEO in what can be a highly charged, political environment.
Swipe right and commence the search
Next time you need to select an executive recruitment agent to land your ‘perfect match CEO’, draw on these tips to ‘swipe right’ and select your ace recruiter. With a bit of luck, there will be plenty of fish to select from, including top talent that RSVPs ‘yes’ to your advertisement, ultimately producing a CEO that matches all your expectations so that you can work together in harmony for happily ever after!
Ruth McGowan is a consultant to local government and supports councillors as an independent adviser in the recruitment of their CEO. She is a former Mayor and has been appointed to numerous boards where she wishes she had known then, what she knows now about recruiting a CEO.