UK Executive Headhunter Search and Selection Process

Recruiting for top-level leadership talent can be extremely complex and drawn-out over a long period of time. CEO or board-level assignments have very specific requirements and involve an intensive search to find candidates with the right blend of talent, expertise, experience, track record and leadership qualities. Individuals must stand out and have exceptional personal qualities to make a difference for inspiring, motivating and guiding entire organisations on future plans. Substantial commission fees are often paid to headhunters in respect of completing top-level appointments, so the process is finely tuned and designed to search (target) and select (capture) top talent as part of a well-executed search and selection process.

Researching Talent (Search Process)

Headhunters conduct a proactive executive search process to shortlist prospective candidates. They actively use the Internet, company information (and news), industry / sector information (competitive landscape; industry news), existing networks (and contacts), existing candidate databases (includes previous and current clients), social media portals, press releases,  publications (published research) and LinkedIn (increasingly important). This is to build a list of potential candidates in key positions and create a profile of target individuals. The list will be screened against the assignment specification before any attempts for making contact are made.

Headhunter Selection Processes

Leading organisations and major corporations partner with executive headhunters to manage the overall search and selection process. Headhunters guide clients through the process and recommend candidates for closer scrutiny before engaging in a formal selection process. Initial contacts with target candidates are very discrete so as not to compromise relationships with existing employers or jeopardise current roles. This is to convey an outline of the opportunity in question and check formal interest before moving to the next stage. There is usually a screening interview by telephone before narrowing down candidates and inviting those shortlisted for interview. Interviews may be conducted in partnership with headhunters or by the client company directly depending on the relationship established.

Extended Interview Processes

For top-level appointments, expect a long drawn-out selection and interview process. Recruitment methods vary according to company processes, type of appointment, strategic fit of the candidate and whether there is a need to involve key people to final decisions (or decisions by consensus). It is reasonable to expect an initial screening telephone interview and at least two subsequent interviews incorporating a presentation, business scenario, competency-based questions and one / two psychometric tests to help profile candidates or test specific competencies. Typical  interview processes include:

  • Initial Screening Telephone Interview (conducted by headhunter or company)
  • First Interview with preparation required for a presentation or business scenario
  • Second Interview with scenario-based questions and interview / psychometric tests
  • Third Interviews – further questions / meeting senior executives before appointment
  • Fourth Interview – one final meeting in front of influential person for final approval

*Sometimes interview processes are extended because it is difficult to get everyone in the right place at the same time. This can delay the process over a number of weeks, so be patient!

Use Executive Headhunters to your Advantage

At every stage, there is an opportunity to sell credentials to the headhunter, gain feedback and make adjustments for each subsequent interview stage. Headhunters can give important insights into the company culture, expectations of the role and clarify each stage of the recruitment process. Whether successful or not, there is also  an opportunity to gather learning points for next time, identify strengths (and weaknesses) and build a further relationship (trust) with the headhunter should other opportunities arise (candidates MUST be credible with the headhunter and be prepared to nurture relationships going forward).

Executive Search and Selection Processes: Conclusion

Recruiting top-talent is not an exact science though there are certain processes and decision-making requirements involved for making the best possible appointment. Expect headhunters to move quickly for securing the right people (key targets), though sometimes recruitment processes can be delayed depending on the availability of key decision-makers within the client company who need to be part of the recruitment process. Expect an extended interview selection process involving different stages and recruitment methods. This is also an ideal opportunities for candidates to build headhunter relationships, remain focused, be patient and listen to feedback in order to maximise chances ahead of the competition.

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