Ask any HR Manager and he will tell you what his biggest worry is. It is managing the consequences of a wrong hiring decision. And why is it so? Because the cost of a poor hiring decision has a long term adverse impact on the business itself. Recognizing this concern, most professional organizations today choose to engage an Executive Search Firm rather than carry out the task themselves. It is widely acknowledged that a good search consultant knows well his/her marketplace or industry and his/her job is to constantly connect with talent and opportunities even if there is no immediate mandate to work on. Networking with the right professionals is an end in itself and may become a means later on. This is the reason why a top-notch search consultant can be an excellent business partner too. He brings the insight of an outsider but with an impartial understanding of the wider market.
It is not surprising therefore that a large number of organizations choose to hire the services of an established executive search firm when faced with a critical hiring need. We see this trend getting more and more pronounced even in organizations where a separate talent acquisition team may already be in place. This bears testimony to a growing realization that Executive Search is a discipline by itself, more of an art than a science, and that an external agency to conduct critical searches is as much a necessity today as having an expert doctor on your panel over and above a very efficient primary care nurse in-house.
As a highly specialized branch of management consulting, retained Executive Search Firms and the consultants who work for them are experts in assisting clients with the critical and challenging task of bringing the best professional talent into their organizations. Whereas knowing the benefits of working with an executive search firm is essential since hiring the best executives and board members is vital to the success of any business, identifying which executive search firm will deliver the best candidate for a particular organization may be a difficult task. One often hears complaints from HR Managers that their searches with executive search firms did not yield the desired result. More often than not, this is a consequence of choosing the wrong firm. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to properly qualify Executive Search Firms often with disastrous results. Therefore, understanding how to evaluate a search firm’s capabilities up front is crucial.
Given the criticality of hiring the right person, every organization has the right to demand the highest standards of service from an executive search firm one may choose to work with. And, it is the contractual obligation of the executive search firm to deliver the best possible service. It is in this context that recognition and membership of an industry association becomes highly crucial in checking the credentials of an executive search firm.
There are several key industry associations for retained Executive Search Firms, the most visible and important being the AESC (Association of Executive Search Consultants). AESC members comprise an elite group of top tiered retained Executive Search Firms. All members agree to abide by the Association’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines, and meet strict membership criteria. Membership in the AESC is the only form of quality accreditation that exists for retained executive search consulting.