There’s a question that every company will consider when engaging an outside search partner: “How do we manage this search partner so that we make the best of it?”
We’ll start by stating the most important part of our answer: the fact that an organization has to “manage” a search firm says a lot about the kind of deal and expectations that were set in the first place! If you have to manage a search firm, then we do question whether they are the right fit for you. Their role is not just to find the best candidates, but to act as a consultant that lays out a clear path to hiring the “needle in the haystack” candidate for you.
The difference between managing a vendor and being consulted by a firm also can be pictured as (1) a very basic buy and sell agreement, or the latter (2) as two partners working towards a common goal. Anything less than a win-win attitude will lead you to an imbalance of benefits in that relationship.
Before you can talk about tools and processes, you need to clarify the conditions of engaging a search firm.
Choosing the right search firm can enable a high return on your investment. That can only happen when communication and transparency are both guaranteed and mutual, which help build trust that doesn’t need to be managed but relied on.
Define what success means for your partnership before starting anything. Aspects such as the conversion of presented candidates into hires, time that a position was opened until a hire is made, cost per hire, etc.
Clearly state your expectation that you need to be in the loop at every stage with clear goals, milestones, and progress. That can take the form of weekly reports and reviews, KPI measurement, as well as feedback from the candidates.
Require that both your team and the search firm team act as one. There’s nothing more confusing to candidates than to be passed around by multiple parties in the process of being interviewed/hired for the same role.
Go beyond job descriptions and resumes. Perhaps one of the most costing mistakes is to reduce jobs to job descriptions and candidates to resumes. Every job has different complexities including who the person will interact with, how, when, etc. It will also be subject and cause to the organizational culture – it will either contribute to it or affect it. When it comes to candidates, resumes are a great start, but beyond those 2-3 pages of summarized experience and skills, there’s a human being. A person with aspirations, wishes, dreams, family, and complex personality.
A search firm partner needs to complement what already works in your process. One of the challenges of today’s labor market is to identify enough candidates to go through your hiring process. The unemployment rate has been at its lowest at 3.8% since 2000. That’s particularly true of the top tier professionals. If your current process gives you the right outcome but not fast enough or doesn’t get you enough hires, then engaging a search partner to help at the top of the funnel can provide you with what you need.
Use technology to fit and improve your own processes. Software tools support all of the above, but important nevertheless. We have seen status updates in ATS client portals, as well as simple and clear-cut summaries delivered via email that worked for everyone involved. A search partner has to provide the client with a few options and go for the one that best reflects the communication preference of the client.
So whether the client organization asks the search firm to use their ATS or the firm’s ATS, or both, is really dependent on the terms of the deal. For instance, a client organization might want to and agree with the search firm to access all candidate profiles that were sourced in the process, not just the ones that were shortlisted or even hired.
To summarize: engage with partners, not vendors, set the right expectations upfront, keep them accountable, have them provide you with options and recommendations.