Sally Manager has been working to fill an opening on her team for more than 60 days, and she just can’t seem to “post and pray” her way to the right candidate. She’s looking for a Senior Accounting Manager, nothing too complicated, but these postings are just not working. She finally decides to hire an executive search firm – they’ll know what to do and will get the right person into this job…

executive recruiter

Fast forward another 30 days. Sally hired a great executive search firm, but the position is still open. She’s now interviewed 7 candidates, and they’re much better than those who applied to the online ad, but not quite hitting the mark. She’s used this firm before and knows that they do a great job – why’s it taking so long to get someone she can hire? Is she asking for the impossible? Well, there are “purple squirrel” positions out there, but Sally’s is not one of them.


The most likely problem is that the search firm does not have a complete and accurate profile for the target candidate.

Suppose a baseball pitcher is throwing to a catcher who’s located about halfway to first base. Wonder how many strikes he’s going to throw? Sandy Koufax, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez – among the best MLB pitchers of all time – won’t ring up a single K in that situation. Until we get the catcher behind home plate where he belongs, we have no chance at all. Finally, after about 9 balls, the pitcher and catcher will line themselves up correctly and the pitcher will start ringing up strikes.

The situation’s the same for executive search consultants: Until we know we’re pitching over the plate, we’re going to throw some that are out of the strike zone. After a few candidates are submitted but not hired, search consultants will finally get the information they need through candidate feedback, and then they’ll eventually find home plate. But that’s a time consuming, frustrating, and expensive way to get there.

When working with an executive search firm, hiring managers must be certain that consultant partners are crystal clear about the target candidate profile in order to ensure the best search outcomes.

Hiring managers, share everything that you’ll be looking for when you see a resume and when you meet the candidate. Don’t assume that you’ve given consultants a clear target by providing a title and a few random comments. Your particular position and target candidate are unique. Make sure that your consultant partner understands the nuances of the role and the in-depth profile of your target candidate.

Equally important, remember that consultants will be talking with candidates who will have plenty of questions that go well beyond the position itself: About you and your team, your business unit and company, what your team does and how you do it, how this role fits in and why it’s critical to the team, and who knows what else. Just as hiring managers are looking beyond the resume to assess candidates, top candidates are looking beyond the job duties to evaluate opportunities.

Want to have a faster, more effective search? Empower your search consultant partner with everything they need to know from the beginning. Tell them everything, then dig deeper. Be sure it’s understood.

Don’t miss out on your top candidates because you’re too busy for a thorough intake call that paints a complete picture for them. Show them home plate. Otherwise, you’ll be forcing your consultants to throw balls when they could be throwing strikes from the first pitch of the game.