The Art of the Pivot in Executive Search

A key piece in identifying the right executive
candidate happens before the search begins, during the engagement launch. We identify
the desired education, skills, experience and cultural fit of targeted
candidates and use that to bring the client an ideal set of candidates from
which to choose.

The art of the pivot in executive search is
the process of taking that initial engagement data and creating alternative
theses based on the ways the search may morph or modify. This might be caused
by what the client is telling you today and what the market realities dictate
in addition to how the client’s rethinking changes in the future.

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By intuiting these challenges and creating
alternative theses, you reduce:

  • The time it
    takes to find an ideal candidate
  • Frustration
    related to lack of well-fitting candidates
  • Deficient
    outcomes from going to market incorrectly

At Comhar Partners, we believe strongly in
this strategy and think every executive search firm or in-house executive
recruiter can use it to create a more memorable and successful engagement.
Let’s take a look at how it works and how it can be applied practically with
your client’s hiring needs.

The A
Ring and Beyond

During “A Ring” development, we’re collecting
a prime ring of data that relates to a specific thesis we have for launching
the client engagement. Inevitably there are geographic limiters, must-have and
nice-to-have skills, competency, culture, elements of the job and more. This

  • Evaluating
    the size, scope, and scale of the company.
  • Relevant
    shifting of the role we are going to be sourcing based upon size. For example,
    when sourcing candidates for a billion-dollar, we may be looking for a manager
    or director of a 100M business, either regional or national. This is the
    scope-scale element.
  • Educational
    level. What does the client require? Does the candidate need an advanced
    degree? We often look at past or current employees to evaluate where we see
    common threads in the kind of person they have historically recruited and build
    that into the profile.
  • Experience in
    leadership, strategy, international versus domestic business, and cultural
    sensitivity to international corporate locations in another country, for
  • Experience
    with very specific direct competitors versus someone with less industry
    knowledge who knows the type of function versus business itself.

With all of this initial data, we’re able to develop
our “A Ring”. This is what the client asked for, but it may not be what they
need or want. To strategically pivot before the client does, you need to then
make alternative theses based on this data, your knowledge of the market, and
the ways in which you know clients commonly want to modify the search.

Pivot Search Strategy

The goal of our extensive intake and strategic
researching process is to develop very tight parameters that allow us to create
a set of data that matches the ideal profile of what the client is looking for.
It’s been our experience that the clients must-haves and nice-to-haves evolve
based on the lifecycle of the search, so our ability to anticipate where we
think the search may evolve or modify is critical.

In pivoting, we modify the research data
parameters and as a result, get another pocket of people that fit into the A1
Ring. Then we pivot another way in our thesis to develop an A2 Ring, so on and
so forth.

The launch of our research thesis then
incorporates alternatives that might look like:

  • A1 Ring: A
    broader level of hires because we are staying focused on specific firms or
  • A2 Ring: A
    broader set of industries because we are focused on a specific geographic
  • A3 Ring: A
    broader set of geography because we have to stay within a tight industry or
    level of leadership.

Let’s consider a company in the perishable
cheese business that’s on a growth path. They’re looking for a VP of Marketing
but the candidate doesn’t have to come from the cheese industry. They can have
experience in any fast-moving consumer goods that would appear on the grocery
store shelves, as long as they have prior branding and marketing experience.

In this case study, the location is the
challenge—it’s remote and thus the candidate must relocate to this less
business-centered city. What defines this search is the potential candidates’
interest and willingness to live in a more remote location that perhaps allows
for a greater “quality of life.”

As we look at the alternative rings, we see

  • A1 Ring may
    look at more junior candidates; maybe a director, not a VP, from a larger
    revenue firm.
  • A2 Ring may
    look at a broader set of industries, not even in fast-moving consumer goods
    because the right candidates can still have branding and marketing experience.
  • A3 Ring may
    look for someone that’s even more of an outlier but wants to be in that
    geography; related to a “coming home” strategy, e.g. went to college nearby or
    grew up in the area.

By pivoting ahead of time, we lead the search
with a broader set of data and a more transparent client experience. They understand
the areas in which a pivot could be beneficial and we are anticipating
potential marketing and client changes ahead of time.

This style of executive recruiting research is all about knowing what the client needs and using data and experience to anticipate what that secondary data looks like. In mastering the art of the pivot in executive search, you provide your client with a better experience and create a more impressive engagement, all of which drives value now and in the future.

About the author: Managing Director Bernard Layton and the team at Comhar Partners are recognized national leaders in retained executive search, professional recruiting, and talent advisory services. Comhar, derived from the Gaelic word meaning “collaboration,” was formed with the intention of providing recruiting expertise in deep partnership with the client in order to solve talent management challenges. Comhar Partners is headquartered in Chicago with specialized recruiting consultants based in 7 offices across the United States


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