Siddharth Verma |

Tuning the Executive Search Consultant

Technology, Social Media, TA teams of large enterprises have in recent times challenged executive search Industry. But the unique nature of demand has kept the search consultant resilient.

The social media invasion took away one premium aspect of executive search Industry. Access to Senior leaders. The ability to find senior executives from nowhere was no longer a premium. However, they still had to be won over and recruited. This is a revered skill which executive search recruiters pride upon. The executive search recruiter’s skills have been continuously tested by the buoyancy over the last few years. The VC backed startup world, the unicorns, Jio’s entry to Telecom, the brief wave of NBFCs and the continuous entry of Global In-house Centers (GICs) to India have ensured there is enough demand of CXOs. This has been complemented by a lack of internal options for succession or a lack of preparation by enterprises.

Every new disruption has brought in significant displacement or aggregation of senior leaders in a new Industry or a single company. Jio assembled many senior leaders from the Telecom Industry in what is becoming a juggernaut in the media Industry. Oyo, Swiggy and Zomato in combination hired senior leaders more than 100 large enterprises of FMCG. NBFCs hired over 300 senior leaders in a span of one year before the crisis put a pause. GICs have hired over 200 leaders in the last 2 years. Not to forget the replacement hiring these sectors have caused from the sectors they have hired this talent from.

The Recruiting Skill

The recruiter sources options, the HR stakeholder narrows down, the hiring leader evaluates, it is supposed to be that simple. However, it’s not. Every search is unique and the hiring is almost nothing more than a trial and error process. Let’s examine what’s at stake, and what is it characterized by. A search role is unique, meaning, for which there will be no other substitute or parallel in the organization. The decisions made or policies introduced are going to have short and long-term impacts on multiple stakeholders. These may include customers, employees, an entire function, partners, the brand equity and positioning, to name a few.

Goes without saying, that it requires a lot more than spotting a similar title flashed somewhere on the internet. It needs a much, much deeper evaluation process in order make an expected performance or business outcome happen. Experience and acumen based judgement thus remain timeless to this profession and are unlikely to get disrupted easily. Unlike, some of the other industries age/experience is a huge asset in the search Industry.

The Assessing Capability

Assessing or evaluating choices at this level is Science and Art at work together. What we are trying to decode through instances of the past, is a pattern which can help us predict outcomes. The expectations can range from assessing capabilities of driving financial performance, culture shaping, market making, or brand reinforcement. The established, tested instruments and methods such as assessment centres and systematic interview architects reduce the probability of go errors. However, a significant proportion of the decision is based on the Head-hunters acumen, coupled with instinct and intuition. The science in the game can be captured and applied through a system, and can be sharpened continuously. The art is a reflection the professionals’ unique edge to the process.

The Consulting Expertise

It is not without reason that Executive Recruiters came to be called as Consultants. It is more so relevant now in case of Executive Search. Irrespective of whether the hunt is for a replacement or for a new role, there is a bidirectional Consulting capability demand on the recruiter. A search consultant’s work often involves suggesting alternative industries and functions not traditionally considered by the client. This requires working at a higher consulting orbit with the client and one that requires both depth and width. The democratized access to digital information mentioned earlier places a larger challenge of cognitive speed and differentiation. A consultant who regurgitates what the client or other consultants already know from the public domain is pegged a notch lower than those who ride on original content and pointed insights.

The bidirectional demand arises as the search consultant also needs to engage with the potential senior leader at the same consulting orbit.

The Tech Assistance

Tech is a huge enabler. The time to source and reach has been definitely been cut short by Technology.  The predictive analytics instruments, thus, don’t come in the way of the Executive Search professional domain. They can rather become important tools to further aid and abet the decision making of search consultants and reinforce conviction in their choices.

AI-based tech products and the self-learning algorithms are great tools. They should provide immensely critical inputs and factors of determination which senior consultants can put their fingers on. It’s collaborative and inter-dependent if you see it that way. RPA, in the long run, can be an immense help to source talent. But, the consultant always consults for potential. Not sure how the machines can aid in that.

In conclusion, an executive Search consultant’s job is not about finding senior talent alone. It is a lot more about discovering possibilities in people. It’s a fine game of connecting the dots, to make the shape visible, to figure out that constellation in a galaxy of stars.

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