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When it’s Time to Get Outside Help for a Hire, Follow These Steps to Maximize Success

Building a strong network and creating a pipeline of stellar industry professionals is an effective way to bring the next senior hire into your company. However there can be reasons for engaging with an external professional executive search partner in such cases as: limited time, drained resources and or confidentiality.

When you decide to go external for a search assignment, you want to follow a few simple steps.


  • Determine the expertise of the firm.  What is their sweet spot?
  • Contingency or retained.  Director title roles and above roles have reasons to be retained.  Anything at a manager title and below can be hired via a contingency contract or identified on a job board. 
  • Ask about the firm:
    • Understand the level of searches the firm typically conducts
    • Recent examples of searches by title
    • Average length of each search assignment so your expectations are properly managed 
    • Recruiter’s history--how long have they been recruiting  
    • Who will actually be doing the sourcing--take me through your recruiting process 

First time meeting with firm. Share honest information. Give the recruiting firm the good, the bad and the ugly on the company, the role and Include such information as:

  • Why the position is open
  • History of the role
  • Who will be a part of the interview process
  • Expectations expected from the recruiting partner


Follow this recruiting process:

  1. Agree upon contract.  There are many ways to pay besides percentage; such as a flat fee, capped fees and/or equity. 
  2. Collaborate with the firm to write a compelling and enticing position description.  Supply your recruiter with good marketing information to help “sell” the job.
  3. Have the search firm develop a target list of companies; this should be anywhere from 40-60 companies that you have collectively agreed to go after.
  4. Develop candidates that match to the spec by title, responsibility and years of experience.
  5. Establish the questions you want the vetted candidates to be asked. 
  6. After approximately three weeks from when position specification is approved, schedule 30-45 minute phone meetings every week, with weekly reports that will outline the status of the search, so as to keep the assignment on track.
  7. Determine how you want candidates delivered and when (singularly or as a group).  Again establish an interview process.
  8. Consider assessment testing such as Birkman.  There are many other external testing sources.
  9. Work with the recruiter to help negotiate final offer-have open communication at all times.
  10. Reference checking-make sure you are asking the right questions in regard to the specific role.
  11. Work with the recruiter for on-boarding.  Ask the recruiter to check in with you after a month to see how it is going.  From there you can decide if it should be more or less frequently.  The recruiter should be checking in on both the candidate and the company for the first 120-180 days.

Properly vetting senior-level talent for a company is essential. Whether you are conducting the search yourself or are working with an outside search consultant, know that it is a defined process and that to do it properly and successfully, there are no short cuts. Remember hire thoughtfully, systematically and strategically.

Don Leon is the founder and managing partner of Donald Leon Search. He has been an executive search consultant for 18 years and has worked for an international and global search organization as well as a boutique search firm before he started his own search practice in 2016.

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