Taking a Deconstructed Approach to Executive Search

3 min

The same quality as traditional executive search but packaged, priced and delivered differently.

No matter how well-developed, capable and integrated an internal talent acquisition team is, occasions arise that require external support. Contingent recruitment agencies are able to support many lower-level and sometimes specialist role requirements. But for niche, scarce and hard-to-attract talent, as well as those mid to senior-level appointments, the support of an executive search provider can be vital.

Feedback from senior talent acquisition leaders mentions issues such as the opaqueness of the executive search process, the tone and manner of external partners, pricing, cancellation fees and a lack of flexibility. The fundamental service is valuable and necessary, but the model has problems and failings.

"Flexibility isn’t just a sales hook. And transparency isn’t just an empty promise. At Armstrong Craven, we have worked hard to create ways to deliver the component parts of executive search to our clients. Sometimes we’ve found it hard to explain. We needed a framework: Deconstructed Search™"

How Deconstructed Search™ works?

We want to make executive search more accessible for all our clients around the world. A search project is comprised of four stages. Deconstructed Search™ means you don't have to commit to a full end-to-end search; you can commission the different stages as you go through the decision-making process. 

Stage 1: Talent Mapping

Talent Mapping is a comprehensive and systematic search of the market. In our early history, Armstrong Craven was a research house, so all our work is based on research-driven talent solutions. Many headhunters don’t share their talent map, and others only conduct a search using their own database.

With the support of our Insight & Talent Analytics team, we map competitors and related organisations before identifying relevant people within them. Therefore, this picture of the talent pool is the most comprehensive one possible and provides a starting point for Stage 2: Engagement.

Stage 2: Talent Engagement

We undertake engagement aiming to have a career conversation with each target to gain an outline of what a person is responsible for in their current role, what their prospects are for progression and, more importantly, what their aspirations and ambitions are. This provides a measure of the target talent pool. If the recruitment need is not confidential, we might share details of the role, ask about perceptions of our client, explore issues of location and remuneration and confirm onward engagement.

This stage adds a layer of qualitative insight and begins to narrow down the talent map. If Stage 3: Shortlisting is commissioned, the results of Stage 2 serve to develop a longlist of engaged and interested people ready for deeper interview and assessment in Stage 3.

Stage 3: Shortlisting & Screening

Decisions need to be made about those who fit the brief and those who don’t; it’s not just the ability to do the job but an individual’s fit with the team, hiring manager and wider company and culture. Stage 3 is interviewing before the interviews.

Career experience and achievements, working style and characteristics, developmental milestones and core skills and experience; we conduct a thorough assessment and interview before selecting the strongest group to create a final shortlist of candidates.

Stage 4: Candidate Management

Often overlooked, this stage is far more than just administration. Candidates should be briefed and de-briefed, and clients too. The headhunter works as a close partner to both to ensure that issues arising are addressed, candidate experience is positive, and ultimately, the offer process is smooth and successful.

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What are the benefits of this approach to executive search?

These stages may well seem familiar. But we hear clients telling us that they rarely have them broken down and presented with such clarity.

"If we can identify the volume of work and value in the process at each stage, why shouldn’t we offer the flexibility for our clients to commission and receive only the stages that they need? So that is exactly what we do."

If there’s a candidate already in discussions with you, it would be great to have a fall-back option to avoid a cold start if that process is unsuccessful. Or perhaps there are questions as to whether the immediate requirement might change. By commissioning Stage 1 and/or Stage 2, our clients can progress as far as two-thirds of the way to a shortlist without commissioning a full search.

Your talent acquisition team might have the capacity to undertake one or more stages of a search. Would a comprehensive talent map provide them with a starting point? An engaged talent pool offers them warm contacts to follow up and develop to candidates. Or delivery of a shortlist ready for you to manage candidates through your own interview process to offer? Our clients regularly take advantage of all those and many other positives by commissioning one or more stages without commissioning a full search.

In those instances where you are able to think proactively about future talent needs, such as for succession, internal progression, flight risk, retirements, etc, Stage 3 can be commissioned as Pipelining. This is used by our clients where an appointment might be 9-24 months away. We work through the same Stages 1-3 but with lighter touch engagement and candidate ‘socialisation’ rather than full assessment. We reduce the fee slightly to reflect this.

How much is Deconstructed Search™?

Even our pricing is straightforward and simple: the total fee is fixed against base salary, each stage is priced as a proportion of that total fee, and there are no cancellation charges if your requirements change and you don’t need as much support as you originally thought. You can even make multiple hires without additional fees because we don’t retain any ownership of data.

This is Deconstructed Search™ It’s flexible and it’s transparent, and it is already starting to disrupt the traditional model of executive search. We hope it is a reason for you to talk to us about how we can support your recruitment needs.

We’ve already introduced our deconstructed approach to organisations of all sizes around the world, and they’ve been delighted by the flexibility that it offers. So, if you’re looking to partner with us on your next project or you want more information, contact us today.

Speak with an expert

If you want to learn a little more about what we do and how talent research can help you make better-informed business decisions, our team of talent research and consulting specialists are happy to help.