The Outperformers

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The Value Of Benchmark Profiles

Christian Spletzer - July 22, 2019

There's a lot that goes on in the retained search process, all of which ensures that a firm finds you the right person for your company. However, just after you establish the research strategy and just before the search commences, there is a subtle yet crucial step in the retained search process called profile benchmarking.

Think of profile benchmarking as a cautionary or preliminary measure. It's a simple yet often overlooked step that will save time and effort down the road for both you and the firm.

What Are Benchmark Profiles?

So you've got real candidates, and then you've got benchmarks. Benchmark candidates, or profiles, are not real candidates. They're not the people that you go to and ask, "Hey, are you interested?"

At this point in the search process, the research hasn't truly begun. A firm needs to ensure that their understanding of what you consider to be a good candidate is correct and benchmarking profiles is the best way. They're the example people that a firm will seek out to establish the standard to which you hold your real candidates.

The Purpose Of Benchmarking

On top of it being a cautionary measure, benchmarking can also be considered an exploratory procedure. It's an opportunity to perfect the research strategy and narrow down previously established criteria.

The goal of benchmarking is for a firm to get your feedback on a set of profiles and use that as a way to hone in on what you consider a quality candidate to be. Objectively, these benchmark candidates meet the criteria of the research strategy. You want to keep these criteria in mind when looking over the profiles a firm presents to you, that way you can clarify what aspects you do and don't approve. Once a firm has your approval of said profiles, then it is their green light to amend or continue with their research strategy.   

Is It Really Necessary To Benchmark Profiles?


If you’re one of the skeptics that think you can bypass benchmarking profiles for the sake of saving time then you might want to think twice. Assuming you want to find the right person the first time around, benchmarking profiles is an inevitable step in the process.

Benchmarking saves you time

Let's say for example you do decide to forego this step. You risk several consequences, wasted time is one of them. The firm will have to spend more time searching for new candidates and you extend the search project longer than you originally planned. 

A firm will ultimately go through the effort of finding you candidates that they think will meet your criteria and present them to you. However, if you realize too late afterward that they DON'T meet your criteria, then the time and effort it took to find these candidates in the first place will be wasted.

You avoid disappointment down the road

A firm is going to do outreach, engage a candidate they think meets the criteria, and get not only their hopes up but yours as well. For you to disapprove of these candidates, you risk massive disappointment for all parties involved. Specifically, you risk disappointing the candidates that got their hopes up as well as the firm and yourselves for prolonging the search longer than intended.

How To Fit This Step Into Your Retained Search Process

A big reason why a lot of folks skip this step, firms and clients alike, is due to the misconception that it takes time. On the contrary, you and your firm will be even busier restoring lost progress if you don’t benchmark profiles from the start.  

Time is money, we get it. Think about it though, you’re hiring a retained search firm to find you a key hire for your company. There’s much at stake when choosing an executive-level hire so this must be a top priority for you and your company. 

Should you come to the conclusion that the criteria needs to change, then the firm needs to know so they can revise the research strategy. Any personal preferences should also be conveyed to the firm so they know to account for them when narrowing down their research. It's as much the firm's responsibility to present the client with their analysis as it is the client's to express their feedback.

Rather than throwing caution to the wind or allowing ambiguity to cloud your process, take the time to engage with the right firm and mitigate the risks of a hasty search project.

Topics: Executive Search- The Eight Stages of Successful Retained Search

Christian Spletzer

Christian Spletzer

After years of working as an executive recruiter, Christian Spletzer founded Clockwork to improve how search firms and clients work together on retained search projects. He designed Clockwork to help recruiters demonstrate their consultative value to their clients at every stage of each project.

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