Maintaining A Search Consultant Relationship

May 20, 2016


Smart Business
Baillie Parker + John Coutts interviewed by Adam Burroughs

Parker - Coutts



Search consultants are brought in to help companies strengthen some aspect of their business with a critical executive hire.

With so much at stake, hiring candidates for these positions takes an expert approach.

“A search consultant is an extension of the hiring company in the market,” says Baillie Parker, a partner at ON Partners. “That’s why it’s important the consultant understands the drivers of a business, its strategy, challenges and competitive landscape as the company looks to hire the right fit for an executive position.”

“The candidates a search consultant will approach are likely already making positive contributions to their respective companies,” says John Coutts, a partner at ON Partners. “The more informed a consultant is about the hiring company and the position that needs to be filled, the more positive the impact the consultant will have on the potential candidate pool.”

Smart Business spoke with Parker and Coutts about how to facilitate a good relationship with a search consultant to land a top candidate for a position.

What are the keys to establishing and maintaining a good relationship with a search consultant throughout the hiring process?
It’s important that the consultant understands the drivers of the business, its strategy, challenges, competitive landscape and its culture to get a sense of the working environment.

That’s best accomplished by a meeting between the search consultant and the company stakeholders directly involved in the hiring decision. In this meeting, the company can clearly map out the short- and long-term challenges the executive should expect to encounter in his or her role.

The search consultant’s primary responsibility is to listen to the hiring company and understand the criteria it has for the position, why that’s the case and how that criterion relates to the business.

Stakeholder and decision-maker input will be used to create a position profile and search strategy, which will define what the company wants and guide how the search is executed. This can only be accomplished with clear, honest and direct communication.

What is the role of the hiring company once the search process is underway?
Executive hires are mission critical, so the search consultant needs to penetrate the market and identify strong candidates quickly.

Early feedback helps the hiring company calibrate what it’s looking for. As competition for top candidates increases, search consultants must move faster than ever to fill open positions. That requires accuracy and transparency from the outset.

Why is open and honest communication so important?
Once engaged, the search consultant becomes an arm of the company that’s reaching out into the market.

When conducting senior-level searches to reach high-profile candidates, it’s important that the search consultant positions the company and the role correctly because the first approach sets the tone.

Establishing a good relationship with the candidates is essential to a successful hiring process. That can lead to getting input from the candidate pool regarding the opinion the market has of the company.

The consultant’s interactions with potential executive candidates should be handled with a great deal of sensitivity because if they don’t accept the position, they could potentially become an important client of the company down the road.

In what ways can the search process be derailed by a poor employer/search consultant relationship?
Once the search consultant begins to identify candidates, it’s important that the hiring company schedules interviews on a timely basis. Scheduling delays can derail the process, so viable candidates must be presented to stakeholders quickly.

If the search consultant and hiring company aren’t in sync, it means lost time and too many treks down the wrong paths. That results in significant setbacks and is why communication, trust and honesty are critical to the process.

The fit between the consultant and the hiring company must be strong. A unified team is the only way to have success. ●


Resources: Smart Business Online

Explore: Our Resources

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

Untraditional by Choice. Original by Design. Since 2006.


If you want to create a new path – ON Partners knows how to help you get there.