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Why Roles Matter in the Retained Search Process

Christian Spletzer - July 15, 2019

There’s a lot more that goes into the retained search process than you might have originally thought. As the client, it's critical to realize that finding the right person for your company is a process, one that you can't afford to overlook.

Why are we telling you this?

The fact of the matter is that you cannot come into the retained search process as a bystander. Every individual in this process has their role to play and that includes knowing your role as the client in addition to that of your chosen retained search firm.

That being said, there is a careful distinction to be made between titles and roles. A title can mean something in a firm in the same way that a label provides a means of identification. However, an individual's role in a firm is to ensure that their responsibilities are executed correctly. If you as the client understand the retained search process and what each role entails, then you're better able to understand what it takes to find your key hire.

The Role of the Partner

Think of the Partner like the overall project manager. They're the first one to contact when a team doesn't know what to do or when a client is unhappy and needs someone to address their concerns. A Partner is responsible for overseeing several stages of the retained search process including:

  • Winning work (business development)
  • Managing work (making sure the client is getting what they need)
  • Internal strategy and execution plan
  • Making sure the process stacks up with proper resources (recruiters underneath partners, admin, etc)
  • Overseeing the full life cycle of the project from beginning to end and ensuring that there is a road map for everyone to follow

At the end of the day, you hire a Partner/team to carry out a search on your behalf. A good partner will know when and how to designate other aspects of retained search and leverage their team to get the job done. Whether they're a team of one or one person with a team running their own projects in a large firm, a partner is the front and center person responsible for just about everything.

The Role of the Recruiter

The Recruiter is the second chair to the Partner and falls between the partner-client and researcher-admin team. Depending on your expectations and level of involvement, you'll tend to communicate primarily with the partner and occasionally with the recruiter. The Recruiter is usually responsible for:

  • Candidate outreach
  • Management of candidates & expectations
  • Communication between candidates and the company
  • Acquiring candidate information that the company needs to make a decision
  • Pitching the opportunity in a way that is informative and appealing to the candidate
  • Knowing how to position the opportunity correctly to the candidate
  • Finding out if the candidate is not only interested but qualified and available
  • Ensuring that all gathered info is made available to the client

When it comes to the actual search strategy, the higher-level strategy could be created by the partner but is executed by the recruiter to turn it into a reality. This is where they determine the best course of action — when to delegate and who to delegate certain tasks to.

The Role of the Researcher

If you were a recruiter, how would you reach out to candidates if you don't have a list of candidates to reach out to? With a strategy set in place, it's time for the Researcher to step in. They're typically responsible for finding candidates who meet the criteria of the strategy.

Now, it's important to realize that a researcher cannot just magically conjure up a list of some of the best candidate profiles in the market. You don't really know what you're looking for until you start looking.

The Recruiter and Partner can sit there on LinkedIn and clarify what profiles to look for, however, this must then be communicated to the Researcher. The Researcher can then narrow down their research strategy to create a guideline on what to look for, essentially quantifying what most would consider to be a subjective exercise.

The Role of Administration

The role of the Admin team is equivalent to glue — they hold all the bigger pieces together. Whatever's left that needs to get done, the Admin team does it. Their responsibilities often include:

  • Scheduling interviews, calls, meetings and ensuring they’re kept
  • Drafting documents (status reports, resumes, assembling research in a way that can be presented)
  • Doing the tasks that help the rest of the team stay communicated

Theoretically, every role that we mentioned up until now and their designated responsibilities can all be done by one person. Although, if done by one person, this limits a firm's ability to effectively complete the retained search project. Which is why specialized firms do more work better and faster than those who don't.

How Each Individual Role Comes Together

When all is said and done, someone’s got to be there to lead the team. Someone’s got to be there to say, “This is the process and this is how we’re going to carry out our strategy.” Since this role typically falls to the partner, carrying out said strategy then lies in the hands of the rest of the team.

What this means for your relationship with the firm

A key element that plays into search strategies is managing up. When something is unclear or an issue needs to be resolved, there must be a great line of communication throughout all levels of involvement on everybody’s part.

I’ve worked with a number of different firms who provide research services to firms, and there are partners who you can tell understand what goes into research and are able to articulate their research strategy. Then you deal with junior recruiters who have never done research and let’s just say they’re not fun to deal with. They’re not able to step out and realize how their focus fits with the other roles.

You can’t expect people to know exactly what’s going on in your head. You have to articulate your thinking, document it, repeat it, update it, and keep people in the loop as things change. Your role is exactly that; to stay engaged with the roles throughout the process. With a consistent process, a good search strategy, and your participation, only then will you be able to meet your goal of a successful placement.

Topics: Executive 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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