AESC retained executive search firms all have unique methods, tools and approaches to managing client relations, completing deep market analysis and screening candidates. However, in the same way each member firm of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) adheres to a high level of ethical standards, a common outline for the executive search process is often followed.
executive search steps
Executive job candidates should understand this process clearly as it will better position you as a partner to the search consultant throughout the hiring process (and help you reach the final stage – the executive job).

1. Initial client meeting

The hiring client meets with the search firm to outline search requirements, timelines, future organizational strategy and mission, and get an idea of corporate culture.

2. Deeper client analysis

The Search firm will then begin a more thorough analysis of the hiring company, identifying key opportunities for the new executive, and defining a candidate profile that fits into the corporate culture and organizational structure - often this stage includes meeting key executives at the hiring organization.

3. Market analysis and creation of a candidate specification

Following this process, the executive search firm will complete a deep analysis of the market and create a compelling executive job profile. Market analysis will outline the competitive environment and influence the type of executive the search firm will look for.

This process often includes a team of highly skilled researchers and results in a document that will be a reference throughout the entire search process – the candidate specification. The candidate specification (job description) will contain detailed information about the role, responsibilities, the hiring client, key opportunities presented by the executive job, and outline career and educational requirements.

4. Search strategy

This stage will include a deeper analysis of the market, outlining key companies they may wish to research for executive talent, and documenting all avenues that will be exploited in order to gain access to the top talent in the marketplace. The research tools that form part of the search strategy will often include their own database, BlueSteps (a database of senior executives, free to access for AESC members), previously conducted market analysis, alternative internet sources such as social networks, and of course, their own network and contacts.

5. Name generation and candidate identification

Within the executive search industry, the process of creating an industry/function wide map of talent and long-list of potential candidates is known as ‘name generation’ or ‘talent mapping’. After they have a number of high potential executives listed (sometimes 100+), executive search consultants and researchers will begin qualifying the potential targets and identifying whether they are suitable candidates.

6. Approach, qualify and interview to create a short list

A series of internal meetings will continue throughout the candidate identification process and the number of potential candidates will be reduced to 10 at most. This shortlist is achieved through detailed interviews that discuss the specifics of the executive job, and explore the candidates’ background, competencies and interest in the role. Many firms apply their own specific methods of client qualification at this stage.

7. Basic referencing, present short list to the client

Before any candidate is presented to the client, AESC search firms will complete basic background checking to verify their qualifications and executive career background. Provided there are no problems (modifications if there are) the shortlist will be presented to the client.

8. Narrow to 3-5, thorough referencing

Following meetings at the previous stage, the client will work with the search consultants to narrow the candidate shortlist to just 3-5 potential senior executives. At this stage the search firm will begin thorough reference checks (often using specialist firms such as Kroll), and provide final thoughts on strengths and weaknesses about each candidate.

9. Offer and negotiation

After a series of interviews and consideration of external references, the client will select their preferred candidate and the process of salary and offer negotiation will commence. Often the search consultant will act as a mediator in this process to ensure both parties’ needs are being met.

10. Onboarding and integration

Finally the search firm will assist with the integration (onboarding) of the successful candidate into the workplace - the degree of involvement varies depending on the wishes of HR and agreements made earlier in the search process.

Finally, although the search has been successfully completed, the search firm will continue to maintain close ties with the hiring client and senior executive to ensure long term satisfaction for both parties.


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