How to Identify, Attract & Commit the Best Available Talent

10/11/2015

By Martin McEvoy, Managing Partner at Signium Ireland. Originally published at LinkedIn.

"...genuine...search practices identify, attract, evaluate, benchmark and commit the best talent available for a role, not just the best person looking for a job.”

I am often asked if I enjoy what we do and I always answer with an enthusiastic yes! The reason for our passion about this business is that experience shows us that technology, machines, raw materials, infrastructure, utilities, money and other inanimate resources can generally be bought at a prevailing market rate, so it is reasonable to assume that the talent and ability of people to deliver, is the likely key differentiator between failure and success for organisations.

By extension, how people are led is central to organisational performance. When decisions to appoint leadership, strategic or specialist roles are taken, decision makers naturally have a responsibility to optimise the probability of success. In this context a professional and comprehensive Executive Search process is of real value.

Whether a strategic appointment is an internal promotion or an external hire, the logic of undertaking a comprehensively briefed, properly structured executive search process which uses bespoke research to identify the best talent in the market is undeniable. Genuine and authentic search practices identify, attract, evaluate, benchmark and commit the best talent available for a role, not just the best person looking for a job.

To ensure success, a comprehensive client brief should be developed and deeply understood by the lead search consultant and research team. A professional brief ought to outline the market context, organisational culture, strategic direction, key challenges, scope and responsibilities of a role. A detailed profile of candidates to be targeted and considered along with the type of organisations they work for can then be developed and agreed with the hiring organisation.

The value of strong briefing cannot be over-emphasised; the truism being that if you have clarity around what you are looking for you are much more likely to find it.

Sometimes this ‘person profile’ is relatively straightforward. For example a partner hire for a professional service firm in taxation or regulatory services will more than likely need to come from a similar organisation and be undertaking a similar role.

On other occasions where a role is a strategic support function (e.g. SVP Finance or HR Director), targeted candidates may not necessarily come from the same industry. Other key variables such as scale / recent organisational change with comparable challenges / complexity of structure / transactional similarities etc. may be a key determinant of where a search is focused. There may even be situations where a client decides not to search in their competitor’s organisations because they want to hire innovative and fresh versus traditional or sector-specific leadership.

“The value of strong briefing cannot be over-emphasised; the truism being that if you have clarity around what you are looking for you are much more likely to find it"

Professionally briefed and “research rich”, real-time Executive Search processes generally eradicate speculation from strategic hiring. Online, industry word of mouth & network sources can typically generate an incomplete shortlist or provide prospective candidates who are often just “looking for a job” or “in need of a hand” from their friends or associates.

It is also unlikely that generalist or specialist agency databases (often populated with unhappy or unsuccessful candidates), or internet / traditional media advertisement can realistically hold or attract a high proportion of the candidates you would wish to consider hiring from the market for your strategic role.

Furthermore, advertised selection not only relies on a desirable candidate seeing the advertisement but also taking the time out to make an application; with the additional fear of confidentiality breach.

Targeted Service

Professionally structured search communicates and promotes the career opportunity directly to the agreed universe of the targeted talent market. These are the leaders and specialists who are effectively passive candidates as they are currently too focused on making a real difference to their present organisations to be “on the market”. Such target candidates also need to be approached sensitively, with professional and regular communication – accurately reflecting a client’s employer brand - being a further key element to success.

However when a high performing targeted candidate is diplomatically, confidentially and professionally approached with a comprehensive brief; outlining a real career opportunity, it optimises the prospect of the ‘candidate’ seriously considering a role outside of their current organisation and this inevitably leads to richer shortlists. This professional consulting approach tends to deliver an equal or even more compelling result if the search is seeking talent with a direct competitor.

“…..when a high performing targeted candidate is… professionally approached.., it optimises the prospect of the ‘candidate’… considering a role outside of their current organisation and this inevitably leads to richer shortlists.”

In summary, experience has proven that when you are looking to hire the best available talent for a specialist or strategic role, you should heavily factor in both the cost and opportunity-cost of a bad hire. Sourcing and considering the best available talent in the market – which professionally structured Executive Search provides – will deliver greater long term value.

Martin McEvoy is founder of Signium Ireland who are members of the Global Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC). He is an active member of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, has previously been National Chairman of the Marketing Institute and Director & European Speaker of Signium for four years.