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Dedicated Partnership – The Need for Executive Search

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Published Date: 18th June 2024

Over the past few years, New Zealand has faced a talent shortage across all levels, making it challenging for organisations to find suitable candidates. They've relied heavily on agencies like Beyond Recruitment for specialised search and assessment, recognising that simply advertising roles aren't sufficient for their needs.

More recently, however, the dynamics of the job market have shifted considerably. A combination of public sector cuts and broader economic pressure means there are fewer jobs for an increasing number of unemployed New Zealanders to consider. We now see an abundance of highly qualified candidates available, both actively seeking roles and passively considering opportunities. With unemployment rates set to peak in December 2024, this employment supply/demand dynamic looks set to continue for a while.

When organisations are empowered to recruit, they now receive a large influx of applications for advertised positions – including positions at the leadership level. For hiring managers who have struggled to attract interest over recent years, the sudden wealth of choice has brought (initial) relief. Employers are trusting their ability to handle recruitment without external help, increasingly choosing to go directly to market rather than engaging a search partner.

There’s a temptation to equate the choice of candidates with an ultimately successful appointment, especially when going direct means bypassing external recruitment fees. However, real problems are now emerging for organisations running their executive search and recruitment in-house, stemming from some fundamental misconceptions around what a sophisticated leadership search process involves.

So, does “doing it all” in-house really mean doing it all? And what is the opportunity cost of getting it wrong?

Issues with Leadership Briefs

Executive and specialist search processes should involve end-to-end partnership between the employer and their recruitment partner. This starts with a detailed and accurate brief.

There are often intricacies to a leadership job brief that require a consultative conversation (or series of conversations) to fully develop. When the Beyond Recruitment team commences a search, we work closely with hiring managers to understand the unique context of the organisation and how the role has come about. We bring sector and functional expertise to provide guidance around which competencies and capability areas will best serve the role and its strategic objectives. We bring insights from our leadership networks and experience from delivering to synergistic roles and organisations. And, unlike many internal recruiters, we’re empowered to (respectfully!) challenge hiring managers to ensure the brief is accurate and sufficiently detailed.

Once the job brief is scoped, the Beyond Recruitment team can then develop a compelling recruitment narrative that accurately conveys both the opportunities and the challenges of the role. This is a crucial step to engaging the right candidate – yet how often do we encounter totally generic adverts and job descriptions?

Inadequate Candidate Assessment

Another concern, which we’ve recently highlighted in detail, is that many employers are unable to effectively assess applications – either through lack of expertise, or capacity. Receiving a large volume of applications might initially appear as a positive, but the challenge lies in identifying the most suitable candidates from an ever-growing pool – an issue that is magnified substantially for leadership roles.

We’ve had internal recruiters tell us they’re shortlisting candidates based on a single phone screening, after receiving hundreds of applications for an executive-level position. This is not actually a productivity win; for leadership roles, deeper evaluation is vital. A thorough assessment of candidates is the only way to make a sensible hiring decision, and avoid the serious problems that arise from unsuitable leadership hires.

Evaluation goes beyond technical expertise and experience. It’s worth noting the impact of an employment market in which many people are losing their jobs. So, when candidates apply – what are the push factors that have led them to the market? Is this a role they’re genuinely suited to and want to do? What will their appointment mean for longevity? What is the ongoing cost of poor retention? Due diligence during the assessment stages can save a whole load of grief (and money!) in the medium term.

Our Beyond Recruitment assessment processes are designed in partnership with hiring managers and internal recruiters, to reflect the specific brief. We do the mahi to identify the right candidate for your specific context. And we ensure that evaluation parameters are realistic and allow us to accurately determine each candidate’s leadership capability and potential.

The Celebrity Leader Effect

Just because a leadership candidate is well-known in a particular field, doesn't automatically mean they're suitable for the position. There's a risk of organisations falling into the trap of hiring for leadership positions based solely on the candidate’s ‘star power’, without assessing their suitability for the specific role and context.

Existing relationships can make it awkward for hiring managers to conduct in-depth assessments of candidates who they consider to be peers. There is a real advantage to an independent third party – such as the Beyond Recruitment Search team – conducting the necessary due diligence and assessment. It’s also easier for us to manage rejection conversations and pass on constructive feedback!

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Equity, diversity, and inclusion are also crucial considerations. Organisations relying solely on active candidates who respond to advertisements for senior roles risk excluding many other talented individuals, particularly those from underrepresented groups including Māori and Pasifika communities.

When we partner with organisations for executive search projects, we proactively disrupt these norms by providing tailored support and consultation guided by diversity, equity and inclusion best practice. We recognise the barriers to entry at leadership level, which are particularly prevalent in certain sectors and functions.

Our search process involves market mapping (typically 150+ people per search) to engage with talent from a broader range of backgrounds. We want to avoid simply moving the same chess pieces around New Zealand’s business leader community. Often, the candidates we work with are senior managers aiming to progress into general management or deputy chief executive roles. We are able to assess these aspiring candidates against our highly experienced leadership networks.

Our approach also involves conducting workshops and other initiatives focused on nurturing aspiring leaders to promote diversity within leadership roles. These efforts aim to create environments where aspiring leaders feel supported and empowered to advance in their careers.

Candidate Care and Feedback

Managing candidate expectations and providing substantive feedback is crucial, especially at leadership levels. It’s time-consuming and resource-intensive for internal recruitment teams – but it is something that candidates reasonably expect. And with many people feeling sensitive right now, high-touch, mana-enhancing engagement is more important than ever.

The Cost of Getting It Wrong…

Organisations handling their executive search and recruitment internally are encountering significant challenges. When considered altogether, these issues – poor job briefings, limited search, inadequate assessment, and minimal or no feedback given to candidates – can seriously tarnish an organisation's reputation and deter potential candidates from applying for future leadership positions.

With 160 New Zealanders currently leaving the country per week, it won’t be long before we’re once again in a talent shortage. And with post-budget decision making set to formalise new leadership structures, the competition for top talent will once again heat up. Therefore, undertaking a robust process with an external Search partner is more important than ever – to ensure leadership teams are established and solid in the years to come.

Whilst it may seem expensive to outsource recruitment, the cost of internal resources dedicated to the task is worth considering. Organisations should recognise the value of investing in external executive search and assessment expertise, to avoid the risks associated with hiring leaders who don’t deliver. 

Connect with Our Executive & Specialist Search Consultants

Ultimately, our goal is to help organisations around Aotearoa New Zealand to appoint amazing and diverse candidates into leadership roles. By extension, we help them to avoid the costs and disruptions that come with poor leadership appointment decisions.

Ready to make a change and start hiring great leaders for your organisation? Beyond Recruitment’s Executive & Specialist Search practice is ready to help your organisation thrive with the right people in your leadership team. Contact us today for a confidential discussion about how we can help.

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