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How To Select Your Retained Executive Search Firm | S1:E4

  • Episode 4
  • 'Inside Executive Search' Podcast

    Attracting, selecting, and retaining top talent is a challenge for many businesses. Join long-time executive search professional Scott Peterson, alongside Steve Yakesh, President of Direct Hire & Executive Leadership Search at one of the leading executive search firms, to discuss insights and techniques to assist companies to achieve their best results. If you’re an executive leader looking for advice on hiring the best talent for your company, you’ll want to hear this advice from these industry experts.

    Steve Yakesh | President, Direct Hire & Executive Leadership Search

    As President of Direct Hire & Executive Search, Steve Yakesh leads Versique’s award-winning permanent placement division with more than 20 years of experience. Additionally, he guides strategy for Versique’s twelve practice areas, including IT, HR, Finance & Accounting, Engineering & Operations, Sales, CPG, Digital Marketing, Executive Retained Search, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Family Owned and Demand Generation.

    Scott Peterson | Vice President, Executive Leadership Search

    Scott Peterson leads the Retained Executive Search division at Versique as the Senior Practice Director. In his role, Scott fills critically-important senior level positions such as CEO, CFO, CIO, COO. Scott has over 20 years of experience in executive recruiting. Additionally, Scott has also served on the Board of Directors the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation, Medina Golf and Country Club, as well as several youth sports organizations.

    Podcast Transcription

    Speaker_1: 00:04 Get ready for your weekly dose of talent strategies and tactics from industry leaders to help you attract, select and retain your top talent. You are listening to Versique’s Inside Executive Search with Steve Yakesh and Scott Peterson.
    Speaker_2: 00:30 Hello and welcome to the Inside Executive Search podcast. My name is Steve Yakesh and this show is for business owners, board members and executives exploring strategies and tactics to attract, select and retain top talent. If you are not feeling 100% confident that you have a plan to bring the very best into key executive roles to your organization, this podcast will help you get there. So last week we covered a few key elements in the attraction process, which include doing market research and activating your network in addition to vetting out and bringing in internal and external candidates and how to manage that process. This week though, we are exploring how to select an executive search firm partner if you feel like you need some professional help. So that said, we’re going to bring in Scott Peterson from one of those executive search firms. Versique Search.
    Speaker_3: 01:27 Thanks Steve. Great to be back here again. I can’t believe one episode four of this journey already.
    Speaker_2: 01:31 I know it’s flying by.
    Speaker_3: 01:32 It is, it is.
    Speaker_2: 01:34 All right for our first time listeners, Scott is a 20 year veteran in this Executive Search business and leads Versique’s executive leadership practice. So today, selecting a search firm Scott, handful of elements that I think that are key. So we’ll break them down as we typically do one at a time and you’re going to need to go fast because again, we only got about 10 minutes.
    Speaker_3: 02:01 This is one of these topics again that you need to take your time, but we’ll try to give you the main points here and try to be agnostic to which from we’re talking.
    Speaker_2: 02:12 And by chance, if you want more information, they can always get ahold of you on or LinkedIn, right? Yep. All right, so let’s get going. So the first piece is have understanding if the firm has an understanding and a knowledge base, either for the functional area
    Speaker_3: 02:32 or the industry itself, so talk about those two areas. I think it’s important as you embark on identifying a search partner, and I want to emphasize partner because they really step into the shoes of the organization. So, from an industry standpoint does the firm have industry expertise and or positional expertise? Do your homework on them, interview them. And so now knowledge of the industry and the skills and experience necessary to excel at your company is critical. You also want to know that the firm has the ability to leverage their well established network, the network that would provide potential candidates for this role.
    Speaker_2: 03:16 Absolutely, but not to network because they won’t have any companies to recruit out of. That’s correct. Right. Yeah. Cool. All right. So, track record of previous searches that they can tell stories about, give you information to help you identify do they have that expertise? How critical is that that they can provide, you know, past searches that are like, or similar?
    Speaker_3: 03:44 Yeah. I think this is another extremely important component to any search firm that you want to partner with. Ask some detailed questions of that search firm ask things like what’s their average time to complete a search? Is it 12 weeks or is it 24 weeks? I mean, that matters when you’re trying to find your best people. You don’t want a firm that speeds through the process, but you also don’t want a firm that takes 12 months to find the right person for you either because it’s a critical role. How often can you express expect updates from your firm? Does your firm give you a weekly updates? Do they just do it when they see if or when they send over the candidates that they’re presenting? I would say that the more frequently updates the better because you keep your client engaged in the process as well as yourself.
    Speaker_2: 04:33 Well, good segue because the next item is understanding their process and obviously having update calls and keeping lines of communication open I know is one of the key pillars to your process or our process at Versique, but walk me through how do you understand, because every search firm has probably written down somewhere their process, how do you differentiate or understand who has the best process that’s going to drive value?
    Speaker_3: 05:00 Right. So as you said, every search firm has a process and so really having that firm in front of you walking through what that means in real life examples of it. The two main considerations here, first, how do they qualify the position in question? This gets back to that earlier episode in building the compelling story. How much time was that search from spending with you? To not only understand the position, but the company, the culture, the people. If they’re just taking the job description in a phone call with you, that’s not the right firm for you. It goes deeper than that.
    Speaker_2: 05:39 They shouldn’t have to be looking at a piece of paper to describe their process. Right. They should know it, live it, breathe it.
    Speaker_3: 05:45 Yeah. We all have it on paper but you should be able to articulate that in a conversation. Do the companies methods demonstrate a clear ability to flush out the position in a company? Do they take the time? The example we gave earlier is we spent an entire day with a company to learn about the organization before we called one candidate. We were there for eight to ten hours talking to the executive leadership team and the ownership team. It’s really about taking that time and building that deep understanding of the organization.
    Speaker_2: 06:19 Absolutely. That leads to our next topic, are they going to be an credible ambassador for your company when they are in the market?
    Speaker_3: 06:31 Right. I love that word ambassador because it really is stepping into the shoes of the organization and really becoming their cheerleader for the company. What are they saying about the company when they’re recruiting candidates for you? I would encourage companies that if they’re going to engage with a search firm, really at any level, but more particularly executive level. Once they meet with you, have them come back a second time and have them articulate the company back to you. What are they going to say to candidates in the marketplace? Do they have our company down? Understand it can build that credible story, a compelling story and have them come do that audition them and see how they react to that.
    Speaker_2: 07:19 Can they articulate your message in the marketplace? Right. And get people excited? Absolutely. Cool. So, a lot of firms handle searches differently, but in my opinion, and I think you subscribed to this opinion too, it does matter who is handling the search from the recruiting to the process to the communication with the client. I firmly believe that’s important, but give me your thoughts and how does a firm vet that out when they’re interviewing potential search firm partners?
    Speaker_3: 07:55 Yeah. It gets back to that asking a question about the process. So part of that process is what’s your internal process at that firm? And so the client should ask, so when you get this search, tell me how you go about doing it? Walk me through your steps internally. Do I hand it off to a second or third person and they work on it for two or three months and then the person that met with you in person starts to be involved in the process, or do they really hold the entire process from beginning to end and talk to every candidate and present that information to the client? So there’s a lot of different ways of going about doing that. We feel that that having a closer connection to the actual person that you met that it’s going to do selling of the company to the candidates is important.
    Speaker_2: 08:49 Yeah, and it’s not just once they get to a certain point the key individual stepping in there, they’re really selling it from the very first phone call.
    Speaker_3: 09:00 Yeah. That’s how you handle it. Yeah that’s how I handle it And certainly firms do it different ways. I think it’s just important for everybody to understand from the company, what is the best approach that will work best for them in their organization.
    Speaker_2: 09:16 Yeah, I agree. I mean it’s a tight market out there and these executives are busy and I don’t want to take the chance to miss out on a particular candidate because I had a junior researcher trying to see if they can schedule a phone call with you. I want to be the one that controls the ability to get those calls back.
    Speaker_3: 09:37 Right. Yeah. It certainly takes more time doing it the way we do it, but I think the end product that our clients have really liked over the years.
    Speaker_2: 09:44 Absolutely. All right. So another piece that I think is extremely important and I think it allows for firms when choosing to partner with a particular firm that the firm has people they can call for references to validate obviously all the things we talked about. I think it’s important that a firm can provide references to help validate. But what’s your thoughts?
    Speaker_3: 10:10 My thought on references are absolutely you should do two, three, four to get a feel for that companies, the search firm style and process. Now are they going to give you four references that are bad? No, they’re going to give me great references, just like people when they’re interviewing for a position, they don’t typically give you a bad reference, but the question that you asked them or what’s important. Talk about process, talk about thoroughness, talk about the time they spent understanding your company, communication, communication, talk about the time it took to fill the position. Did they meet the expectations that were set on the front end? Those are the types of questions you should dive deep with your potential partner firm and so a reference can then validate those. Because the reference is going to be a good one otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have given it to you in the first place.
    Speaker_2: 11:08 Absolutely. Well, I think two other things that we’ve talked about over the years as well, but a) you’ve got to just enjoy being around the person, right? There’s got to be that connection. Right? Right. And then I think that the other pieces are they excited to represent you. I mean, I think I’ve seen it where, and I’ve talked to others where you just don’t hear the excitement and the passion in somebody’s voice and you have to somebody that’s excited to do it.
    Speaker_3: 11:36 That’s a red flag that they’ve got a lot of work on their plate already. Right, it’s an indicator to me of someone who’s not as passionate about the business. you’ve got to find that person that you like and trust in the process because you’re going to be working with them for quite a while for these executive positions because they do take a while to bring to the finish line. Find the person who you enjoy working with and then do all the background and all the references to validate what they’re talking about because at the end of the day it really is the reputation of you hiring this firm that we’ll get questioned at the end.
    Speaker_2: 12:20 Yeah, and like we alluded to and I think our preview last week of today’s episode is, not all search firms are great at everything. And I know there’s plenty of searches that if we’ve had an opportunity as a firm to take on it, we’ve just declined because we just were not the best fit. There’s other firms out there. I think one question to ask as well is what are searches that you’re not good at? Right. That is another good qualifier.
    Speaker_3: 12:48 I think that’s a great honesty play the credibility of the firm. If They’re going to tell you that they’re not interested in a certain search, that’s a good thing because I’ll really focus on the things that they’re good at.
    Speaker_2: 13:01 Yup. Absolutely. Well, awesome. Well that’s going to conclude this episode and next week we’re going to tackle the last initial segment in attraction. There’s probably another 10 we could do, but we’ve isolated just a handful of them and that’s really going to be around managing your employment brand. There’s a lot of strategies, tactics, and ways to do that, but also just try to articulate the importance of the, your employment brand and if it’s not in the best of shape now we’ll provide some ideas. How do you start to manage that reputation or that employment brand? So we’re excited to do that one next week, but like I said, this will wrap up today’s episode and as always, if you want to get ahold of Scott, visit or look them up on LinkedIn. Again, if you like what you’re hearing and you want to listen to Scott’s voice on a weekly basis, go ahead and subscribe to Apple podcasts, Spotify, we were on all those major channels and we’ll talk to everybody next week.
    Speaker_3: 14:04 That sounds great, Steve, I look forward to it. Also I what I want to do next week is a summary of the previous podcasts so that if someone just listened to that episode, they get a little feeling of what we’ve talked about and know they can go back to those previous podcasts and kind of catch up from there.
    Speaker_2: 14:19 Awesome. Yeah, there’ll be a great idea. We’ll make sure to weave that in next week’s podcast. Great. Awesome. Talk to everybody next week.

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