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What qualities, experience, or attributes do Smart Founders look for in choosing a Search firm?

Given the need to identify and hire rare but essential people with specific skills, what qualities make Founders most convinced of the qualifications of a particular search firm or recruiter to find those people? How do most Founders who use recruiters actually get introduced to the recruiters they end up using?

Given that Google paid Heidrick and Struggles $100 million to find their CEO (who may or may not be the best candidate), I think it is certain that recruiters have enormous value. The question is, what specifically makes them most attractive?

I myself have helped one company go from $200M per yer to $1.4B per year income by placing a key individual, and others in a similar fashion... How do I let potential clients know that I can do the same for them?

9 Replies

d roy
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d roy Advisor
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Peter Johnston
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Peter Johnston Advisor
Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.
Recruiting is an out of date mindset.
The very idea that you create an inflexible job specification, then go out to find someone who matches it is inhuman, never mind that you restrict yourself to those who are looking for work in the month you are looking. That is a strategy designed for the factories of the 19th century - when you scaled your company by adding people and the jobs were simple and designed to suit the machines.

A company is well named - it is a group of people who share an aim and work together to achieve it. The group has a collective view and adding people to it should change the view as the added perspective adds a 3D quality to the vision.

So the job of the people already in the team should be to find the best people in the field and fin a way of bringing them into their team, rather than competing from the outside. In any field there are probably only a few dozen really leading people so the selection process shouldn't be hard.

The trick is to set up some tracking systems. Ones which unearth good work, often hidden within teams, and start to see patterns - all the teams which contain X person do ground-breaking work. Today every leading person leaves a digital footprint - both good and bad.

Once the system locks onto a prospect, an evaluation process kicks in. Should we watch with interest or introduce ourselves now? How would this person work with the rest of the team? How much passion do we feel about adding their skills to ours? How would they change and contribute to the vision - where can their thinking move us forward?

At this stage a personal introduction is often good. See for yourself just what their passions are, how well they structure their thoughts and arguments, are they a driver, thinker, co-ordinator or all three? And see how they need to be gently introduced to the idea of dropping what they are doing - often a passion in itself - and joining your vision. A shared purpose, some 2-way discussions, perhaps a project together.

And a clever onboarding process. One which evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. Which overlaps these with the rest of the team, identifying mentors, training, and interfaces to manage.

The thing is that you should be doing this all the time. Subconsciously, in a culture of constantly moving forward and strengthening your team and your vision. So you should have a pipeline of people you are watching grow, moving closer too and attracting into your orbit, gently teasing them away from whatever else they are involved with. Rather than waiting until they are out of work or looking for a change, you become the change they are looking for.

These needs to be done by the business. It is part of their own emotional intelligence. Recruiters are anathema to that whole process. Stuck in the industrial age, they are a cop-out - an admission that you can't be bothered to know your own market and the people making waves within it. You deserve to fail - they'll help you.
Nicholas Meyler
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Nicholas Meyler Entrepreneur
Recruiter/Broker for "Disruptive"​ Talent. Questing for the Next $Trillion Unicorn.
@PeterJohnston that's a well-written and thoughtful opinion, but it clearly is not an answer to my question. Also, I think it needs to be stated that the idea that recruiters are useless is belied by the fact that it is a $100 Billion industry... a rather frivolous claim, but a common misconception these days, apparently.
Peter Johnston
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Peter Johnston Advisor
Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.
Love the cognitive dissonance, Nick.

There is a thing called the Bell curve. When you're at the top of the Bell curve, you have a "$100 billion" industry. But all the growth and the opportunity is gone - all that is left is consolidation and ever decreasing margins.

And a new Bell curve to take over from the old one.
Daniel-Flavius Lucica
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Daniel-Flavius Lucica Entrepreneur
CEO/CTO at intellmob
I believe that in order to identify a high calibre candidate you need to be one yourself. There's no value in recruitment based on key words you do not understand.

To answer your question in five points:

1) I would look for recruiters that have relevant working experience in the domain I am interested in, in order to fully understand my overall domain needs. This goes both ways as I might also need some education related to latest recruitment trends in my domain. I look forward and always appreciate that kind of feedback. It builds trust for a long term commitment.

2) I would look for recruiters that are on top of their game when it comes with being agile and staying ahead. I look for people that understand the differences in generations. How millennials are different from baby-boomers for example and how to approach them in a customized way, because of the previous understanding.

3) I would look for recruiters that are curious and ask questions regarding the company culture before they go on technical JD details. Hiring the right people is very important, not just the people that can do the job. A good recruiter should understand the culture and project it back to me as confirmation. Further more the recruiter should present to me a method of identifying candidate's personal values and match them accurately against the company culture.

4) A good recruiter should also accurately question, identify and match the soft skills/capabilities of the team and of the candidate. Aspects like: social, communication, attitude are very important to the future long term integration.

5) A good recruiter's relevant technical domain knowledge and experience should also be used to properly identify, understand and match all the technical aspects of the JD.
Nicholas Meyler
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Nicholas Meyler Entrepreneur
Recruiter/Broker for "Disruptive"​ Talent. Questing for the Next $Trillion Unicorn.
@Daniel-Flavius Lucica: Excellent feedback. Very helpful! Thank you.
Nicholas Meyler
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Nicholas Meyler Entrepreneur
Recruiter/Broker for "Disruptive"​ Talent. Questing for the Next $Trillion Unicorn.
@PeterJohnston I like your second response better, but I am still of the opinion that as long as Technology continues to make progress, there will still be a need for recruitment specialists who are skilled in finding rare candidates.

My clients are among the most savvy of all with respect to knowing their fields and the people in their fields, and are well-networked and well-known themselves. All the same, they clearly need my help (or someone else's if I fail) to find key people with skills that are crucial to their organization.

To state that there is no longer room for growth in the search industry is probably incorrect, since 2014 was a record income year for it, and the economy, if still a bit weak, is growing, too. I'm not sure that it makes much sense to assume otherwise, so long as the individual recruiters themselves remain alert, inventive, and industrious, as well as committed to change and improvement.

On the other hand, in defence of your statements,@PeterJohnston, I think your views are held by a fairly large number of people who are not as intimately involved in the Search Industry as I am, and even by some of those who are. I suppose my point, almost entirely, is that my goal is to overcome that perception and make a key difference where I can.
Nicholas Meyler
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Nicholas Meyler Entrepreneur
Recruiter/Broker for "Disruptive"​ Talent. Questing for the Next $Trillion Unicorn.
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/executive-search-science-nicholas-meyler

Nicholas Meyler
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0
Nicholas Meyler Entrepreneur
Recruiter/Broker for "Disruptive"​ Talent. Questing for the Next $Trillion Unicorn.
Incidentally, Peter Johnston, as of today, about 50 days after posting this question, I am fairly swamped with work -- which I think would NOT be the case if Recruiting were really a dying industry. Verbum sap. I would still be interested in hearing other ideas of the most important and sought-after qualities in a Recruiter from other people, too!
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