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Staffing Advisors Blog

Is This the End of In-Person Interviews with Executive Search Firms?

Posted by Bob Corlett on April 14, 2020

In-person interviews with executive search consultants are suddenly out of step with the times, but they have been out of step with the research for far longer. Years of research illustrates why this type of interviewing is far more likely to introduce bias than to predict success on the job. (See The Case for Evidence-Based InterviewingTM.)

The public health earthquake left behind a digital divide between people who can do their work remotely and others who cannot. We’re seeing massive unemployment rates for people who need to be somewhere specific to work, and a far smaller employment impact on people who can work from home. It’s likely to be a year or more until we can all go to our offices without periodic disruptions. Consequently, a digital divide is slicing through employers in the workplace--if you can achieve your mission with a predominantly remote workforce, you are far better positioned than a restaurant or retailer who cannot. But it's not always a binary choice. What about business models that blend location-dependent work with virtual work?

Executive search firms are only one example, but a familiar one to both candidates and the client organizations who engage them. The finding of candidates (sourcing and recruiting) has been almost effortlessly virtual for decades. But the interviewing process has remained stubbornly location-dependent for most search firms. Until a month ago, most executive search firms proudly continued a clubby tradition of interviewing candidates face-to-face in posh, expensive offices. This (flawed) approach has deep roots in the industry. And despite mountains of emerging research that the practice is counterproductive, the clients of search firms mostly accepted it as an integral part of the service. (Hint: it's not.) And while employers accepted it, I suspect very few candidates will mourn the end of face-to-face interviewing with search firms. They are notoriously difficult to schedule, rarely enlightening, and can occasionally lapse into the truly superficial.

Of course, face-to-face interviewing during a pandemic is next to impossible to deliver. So search firms who relied on it must reexamine that part of their service offering. Ideally, this change would entail moving away from relying on the personal opinion of the search consultant, and migrating to a more evidence-based approach to interviewing. To place their search firms on a stronger virtual foundation, the value of an in-person interview must be delivered in other ways, and there are far more effective approaches. Organizations with deeper expertise in remote work will simply be more effective now. But that sort of business model innovation is incredibly difficult work in the best of times.

As someone who has spent the better part of two decades reinventing the business model for executive search, I do not envy those who are just beginning the journey. It's difficult to challenge the conventional wisdom in any field of endeavor. It is supremely difficult to rethink the entire basis for how you create value for your clients, and then go on to hire the people, build the process, and implement the technology to support it.

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What the Search Committee Should Consider in an Executive Search Timeline

Posted by Bob Corlett on June 14, 2018

Finding the next leader of your organization by serving on a search committee is a long process, full of potential pitfalls. It’s also an honor and a privilege. But although the conversations are fascinating, the daunting complexity of the decision and the risk of making a mistake can weigh heavily on each committee member.   

Happily, having the right decision-making process can dramatically improve your odds of success. Long before you develop the job description, and certainly before you begin interviewing candidates, the search committee needs to develop their decision support process, where the information on the position and candidates is gathered and organized effectively. Although “deciding how to decide” can sound terribly bureaucratic, being attentive to this governance question is important. You need to understand who has the authority to decide, who needs to approve the decision, who should have input into the decision, and what information should be used to make the decision. Most importantly, this process will also need to include enough time to consider all the gathered information.

So what should you consider when you evaluate executive search firms proposals and what should you discuss with each search firm?

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How to Tell if Executive Search Firms are Data-Driven and Evidence-Based

Posted by Bob Corlett on June 11, 2018

From my work with search committees, one question that often comes up is how to evaluate whether a search firm is evidence-based or data driven. Staffing Advisors' entire approach to hiring is evidence-based. But how can that be proven, or compared to another search firm? 

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Why CEO Searches Take 6 Months to Complete

Posted by Bob Corlett on September 22, 2017

In a typical CEO or Executive Director search, the hiring process can take 4-8 months. But just where does all that (elapsed) time go? 

Candidly, some of it occurs before we even know there is a search need. It's not uncommon for a committee to devote a month or two solely to the search firm selection process.  But once Staffing Advisors has been retained to run a search, the largest driver of the search timeline is scheduling.

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A CEO Search Committee Chair's Checklist

Posted by Bob Corlett on September 22, 2017

If you are the chair of a search committee you have a daunting list of factors to consider. A CEO search involves far more than posting an ad, collecting resumes and scheduling a few (virtual) interviews. (This short video outlines how we identify potential candidates, but a search committee's work goes much deeper than that.) 

There are many important governance factors to consider:

  • How will you maintain both confidentiality with candidates, and transparency with the Board?
  • How will you coordinate on compensation and performance expectations with the Executive Committee?
  • How will you involve and communicate with senior staff members, the outgoing CEO, and other  external stakeholders?
  • How will you handle "internal" candidates or an application from a Board member?
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How to Evaluate a Potential Recruiting Firm

Posted by Bob Corlett on September 1, 2017

Several times a week, a potential new client calls our executive search firm to learn more about us. Most people ask us whether we have handled a certain kind of search before, most people want to know our fee structure, and everyone wants to know how long the hiring process will take. 

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Steps to a Successful CEO Search and Succession

Posted by Bob Corlett on May 9, 2017

Three Factors Everyone Forgets When Negotiating Executive Search Firm Contracts

Posted by Bob Corlett on April 27, 2017

The biggest mistake most people make in negotiating executive search firm contracts is focusing solely on the outcome instead of the hiring process. In hiring, your goal is not to merely hire someone qualified; your goal is to hire and retain a top performer, so your contracts need to reflect that.

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When is it Worth the Price to Engage an Executive Search Firm?

Posted by Bob Corlett on December 8, 2016

Why hiring so often leads to disappointment.

Great hiring practices bring hidden issues to light, and provide insight into questions you had not even thought to ask. But most typical hiring practices do the opposite, ignoring more information than they gather, and leaving your hiring decision up to chance. The “insight gap” is what makes an executive search firm worth their fee. It's what justifies the cost of any professional services firm.

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How to Replace an Underperforming Nonprofit Executive

Posted by Bob Corlett on November 16, 2016

Replacing an underperforming executive is one of the most challenging situations that a nonprofit leader must confront.

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