40% of Executive Searches Fail; Clients to Blame for Most of Them
By Tom Sorensen
Tuesday, 1st August 2023

Are you surprised? The research from ESIX says that 40% of executive searches fail and that the clients (hiring companies) are to blame for 70% of these failures.

What is your own experience with contingent recruiters and executive search consulting firms?

I have helped organisations to fill managerial and top executive positions in Thailand for 20 years.

I see a clear pattern when clients are successful in their hiring, and likewise, I notice when companies struggle to recruit.

Some examples of what works for successful and smart client companies.

Great tips from successful clients

The smart client provides the external search consultant or their own Talent Acquisition team with a comprehensive and detailed position description.

The position description includes what challenges are waiting for the successful candidate, what work objectives to reach to be successful, and also the very important and convincing employee value proposition (EVP).

The EVP is in sales called USP, unique selling points that our Sales and Marketing departments use when selling and marketing the company products and services.

In HR, talent acquisition, and recruitment we talk about EVP. It’s a list of what makes the company an Employer of Choice.

The smart client and recruiter have agreed to a timetable, have agreed on how often email or personal updates take place – both between the two but also how the candidates are kept informed throughout the process. There is a clear set of deliveries agreed to.

The smart client will ask the search firm what free value-added services are included in the fee.

  • Value-added services such as warranty or guarantee period if the placed candidate is not working out. Is it months or years?
  • We talk about the use of psychometric and cognitive assessment. Is it a home-made not certified assessment or using one of the global leading tools like Predictive Index?
  • What kind of report will the hiring client receive before the interview? Is the candidate’s resume rewritten or a copy/paste? Will it include the recruiter’s notes and concerns? Will there be a summary of the psychometric assessment?
  • Access to the third-party recruiter’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Reviewing shortlisted candidates

The smart client reviews the shortlisted candidates immediately and gets them in for the first round of interviews within that first week.

The smart client has arranged all two or three rounds of shortlisted candidate interviews on the very same day, back-to-back.

The smart client has set up an internal meeting with the people who will be interviewing, who asks what questions and what scoring matrix to use.

Perception is reality – so be decisive

The smart client knows perception is reality. On the day of interviewing candidates, the smart client has of course informed the receptionist to be at her best, to ensure the meeting rooms are cleaned, chairs put back in place, and the whiteboard is wiped.

The smart client moves quickly and will be decisive. The smart client knows very well that candidates are a perishable commodity these days.

Leave them for long and good candidates will lose interest or perhaps have already taken another job somewhere else.

No low-ball job offer, please

The smart client does not try to throw a low-ball to deceive the preferred candidate but appreciates that anyone moving to a new job expects something better than the current compensation.

The smart client expects the executive search firm to provide psychometric and cognitive assessments of the shortlisted candidates.

The smart client will ask the recruiter to do two things on the successful candidates; proper reference checks as well as a background investigation (like checking with the Bankruptcy Court).

On-boarding starts the day you sign employment agreement

The smart client starts the on-boarding the same day the employment agreement is signed even if this may be months before the successful candidate turns up the first working day.

A well-thought-out introduction programme can play a crucial role in motivating and retaining new employees.

Much of the onboarding is designed to make the hiring manager look like the most thoughtful and compassionate boss in the world.

So, on the day both parties sign the employment agreement you are only half way. It is not the end of the recruitment process – it is only a step along the way.

The second part of the process is to provide guidance to your hired candidate on how to end their current employment. Not always an easy task when counter-offers are so much in use these days.

Source of survey and claim

ESIX, Executive Search Information Exchange, has studied and surveyed corporate executive search practices over the last two decades. Based on ESIX’s survey data the client company is to blame for 70 percent of these failures.

In other words, searches fail when executive search activity is not being properly and actively managed by the hiring organization.

The full article written by Simon Mullins of ESIX is available on the ExecuNet website under 40-executive-searches-fail.

Clearly, this does not make sense and is unacceptable.

We talk about third-party recruiters as external recruitment services for hiring companies.

These executive searches are for the highest echelon in the organizations. Yet , executives, board directors, and shareholders are apparently not concerned.

Or is it that they are just not aware?

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.


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