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What HR Needs to Know About Executive Search & Executive Compensation

, |By Caitlin Allen

Executives significantly influence how quickly companies thrive or flail — so much so that independent surveys from Stanford and Harvard, each of nearly 900 VCs, revealed that execs contribute to a startup’s success or failure more than the product itself.

Joining the podcast this week is Kate Bullis of SEBA Executive Search, known in Silicon Valley and beyond as a go-to executive search firm. Kate leads the marketing and revenue practice. Together, we dove into common misconceptions that disrupt the executive search process and how to redesign a mecca-like experience for all parties involved, whether hiring an external firm or leading the search internally. It's designed for HR and People leaders.

This blog is adapted from that conversation and covers:

  • The difference between executive search and executive fetch
  • How to design a stellar executive search experience for candidates
  • The 4 guiding principles for HR to always keep in mind, even if you’re recruiting yourself

Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Don’t miss the full episode: Reimagining the Executive Search Experience for Everyone Involved

Ensure your executive compensation is consistent, fair, and competitive with OpenComp for free.

How HR can misconstrue the terms ‘executive search’ and ‘executive fetch’

The war for talent is real. Recruiting the best and brightest to elevate your company is challenging for HR and CEOs alike.

According to Kate, ensuring that HR and organizational leadership is equipped to identify, recruit, and select executive talent that aligns with company values is of the utmost importance.

But many mistake executive search by treating it like executive fetch, says Kate.

“Conducting an executive search is a process and a journey that takes a village,” she says. “It’s a process we launch into the world, much like a marketing campaign or a product launch.”

“When my husband says, ‘Could you go to the grocery store and get coffee, bread and sugar?’ That’s fetch.”

Executive search balances art and science. It takes effort to utilize storytelling and creativity to present the company in a way that attracts the right prospects — whether they are searching independently or with external help.

Evaluate your executive compensation for free with OpenComp's compensation software .

How HR can evaluate executive search firms

When partnering with an executive search firm, assessing whether the firm aligns with your business — and the experience you want to portray — is critical.

The current market is highly competitive when it comes to recruiting high-skill executives. Where potential executives once competed for positions and sometimes negotiated heavily for positions, now,  they get their pick of several offers.

Because of the high competition, ensuring that the candidate experience reflects your organization and optimally fits prospective candidates is essential. Therefore, when selecting an executive search firm, organizational leadership should vet for alignment and focus on candidate experience.

“Who you work with as an executive search firm should be an extension of you and the brand experience you want any of your partners, customers, and employees to enjoy,” Kate explains.

So, before looking for an executive search firm to partner with, organizations should speak with firm references and candidates — both placed and unplaced — that have experienced the process. Ask what the process felt like, whether or not candidates felt heard, and how natural and aligned the process was.

By doing due diligence to ensure executive search firms are aligned with your business needs, values, and goals, you can find a partner fully enabled to find the perfect executive candidate.

Ensure your executive compensation is fair with OpenComp for free.

Four principles for HR & People leaders to prioritize for executive search

When partnering with an executive search firm, or running the process internally, four principles are essential.

1. Alignment and prioritization

Leadership should establish clearly defined priorities and communicate them across all levels of an organization before an executive search. Goals and values should be determined and communicated clearly with any executive search firm.

2. ‘How’ fit

With the highly competitive state of executive search, there is no question as to "if” a candidate can fill a position. Instead, it’s important to understand how they will function within the role — and if that ‘how’ fits within the company.

3. Importance of communication

Executive search is not a system of ‘fetch’ where the firm seeks out candidates with a defined set of characteristics. Instead, organizations and leaders must communicate and collaborate effectively to create a narrative to guide the search and shape the candidate experience in a way that attracts the right fit.

4. Open-mindedness

It’s important to understand your business goals and how they translate into the qualifications and priorities of the winning candidate. But, while executive search firms can recruit based on partner expectations, Kate stresses that they should also be flexible.

“We have to do our best to keep an open mind because you can achieve the goal in different ways,” she says.

It’s essential to work with a firm where trust and confidence go both ways.

Want to see if your executive compensation is competitive and equitable, use OpenComp for free.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The High Growth Matters Podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for The High Growth Matters Podcast in your favorite podcast player.