How a research-led approach can fuel your executive search

Emily Wells | 17 May 2022

When it comes to executive hires, it’s easy to opt for the quick fix; to choose someone from an existing network or take a recommendation without exploring the wider market. An executive or board level vacancy can present a challenge for any business big or small, bringing with it pressure to make swift decisions. However, opting for that quick fix probably isn’t the right long-term solution.

At NSCG we believe that a strong executive search solution is more than just accessing a network, regardless of how good that network may be. It’s no longer enough just to understand the industry in which you’re operating and have good connections in that space. Undertaking detailed research to map the competitor landscape is a key part of finding the perfect candidate for a position. Yes, we have sector experts and yes, we look to our networks and seek recommendations, but this is only part of the process. Having access to a relevant pool of candidates is helpful but an executive hire will shape the future of a business. All options should be considered.

Talent is a differentiator, so it’s important to think outside of the box and to access the best talent, not just the available talent. A research-led approach finds talent that gives our clients the edge against their competitors. We think creatively about where to find candidates, devising a search strategy to ensure no stone is left unturned.

Undertaking detailed research is important for finding the right candidate for the job. It also ensures the identification of candidates with a range of skillsets and backgrounds, improving the diversity of the shortlist. Maybe the right candidate isn’t the obvious candidate. Diversity is an important consideration for us and for our clients. To access a diverse pool of candidates you must first identify that pool, which we do through creative research. We explore complimentary sectors and job functions to widen the talent pool, including candidates on the longlist that might have otherwise been overlooked.

The process:

Understanding what you need 

The time we take at the beginning of the process, makes the difference to how the search evolves and the breadth of the talent pool we access. We sit down with our clients to gain a clear understanding of the role and its accountabilities, as well as their organisation. We want to understand what’s important, including the skillset, approach, background and experiences of benefit to the role, and we can use our expertise to help shape that. We look to understand how the hire fits into our client’s diversity and inclusion strategy, working with them to support it. We help clients to think outside the box and strive to broaden the talent pool as much as possible.

Devising a search strategy

We use those insights to devise a search strategy. We map the businesses in which we can find strong candidates, in addition to our clients’ direct competitors. When it comes to attracting talent, sometimes your competitors sit outside of your market and we help clients identify these organisations. We tailor our approach. We think laterally, considering the importance of sector, company size, organisation structure, and business history to find candidates with the right skillsets.

Market mapping

Using our search strategy, we carry out informed market mapping, identifying candidates with strong skillsets for the role, with diversity at the forefront of our minds. Even at this stage we look beyond a candidate’s company history and consider the skillsets they have developed in their roles and what they have achieved.

Approaching candidates

We know the candidate market is competitive and so we make sure we are prepared when we approach the candidate pool. We work with our clients to develop a strong proposition to enable us to stand out in the market. We also use research and networking conversations to understand what appeals to the talent we are looking to attract, so that we know which elements of the role are important to candidates. At this stage, we again ensure we are considering diversity and inclusion and shape the approach to capture the widest possible talent pool. We engage with the candidate pool to ascertain interest and begin initial screening. We refine the longlist, comparing and identifying the strongest candidates.

An assessment with rigour

We carry out a detailed interview process, understanding the candidates’ experiences and achievements. We qualify their interest and capability. We get the full picture to help our clients make an informed decision about the shortlist and ultimately the successful candidate. We are honest, because we want to build a partnership with our clients. We give our opinion, so that together we can make the best decision.

Put simply, the shortlist is only as strong as the longlist. The time we take on the briefing and research at the front end of the project sets us apart from our competitors and our research can set you apart from yours. We never try to put a square peg in a round hole. Skip the research and you may find the quick fix, but you likely don’t have the long-term solution.

Share this: