Speed as a Strategic Maneuver

The best matches almost always arise early in a search.

Consider this: Costco rotates 25% of its hard goods—appliances, electronics, jewelry—so that only 1,000 from among 3,600 SKUs are for sale at any given visit. This rotation is a strategy of perishability. It instills a sense of urgency stemmed by the fear that the item you had your eye on will be gone if you wait to reconsider.

While we can all relate to stories of the deal that got away, I cite this example because the retail industry provides an apt metaphor for the search for world-class tech expertise: Wait too long to kick the proverbial tires, and stellar candidates will have moved on. That’s not only because moving fast is endemic to this industry but because speed is critical to the type of talent our clients seek—specific, extraordinary and global—and the methods we’ve developed that uncover it.

Here, Kevin Williamson, partner and co-founder of executive search firm Parker Remick, explains why moving quickly is so important not just for speed’s sake, but as a strategic maneuver to secure the highest caliber and most appropriate expertise.

Introduction by Steve Jackson, Managing Partner.

Speed as a Strategic Maneuver

By: Kevin Williamson, Partner

Though it may be counterintuitive, it’s best to quickly make an offer when presented with a gem of a candidate disarmingly early in your search. Nine times out of 10, data show, a search firm’s deep research and broad global network will net strong candidates toward the beginning of the process, yielding the most appropriate if not superb matches.

The alternative strategy—waiting until an executive search period ends to kick as many tires as possible—isn’t as successful. Here’s why: It comes down to quality over quantity. The best matches almost always arise early in a search. Reviewing more candidates doesn’t mean you’ll secure the best. It just means you’ll see more. Time and again, candidate acumen does not increase but often diminishes as the search marches on. So while you may wait for greater comparison, those candidates who were compelling, qualified, and interested toward the start will have gone elsewhere while you peruse further.

It takes two.

Two sources of information, considered together, generate candidates quickly: Market mapping and comprehensive research, and a deep, responsive network in a specialized industry. Engage a search firm that interprets and leverages information culled from both.

And, while a hidden gem of a candidate occasionally surfaces later on as the assignment progresses, a solid search process and proven network naturally yields the majority of best candidates within the first few weeks. Our 18 years of experience have proven, search after search, that this is indeed the case.

Knowledge is power.

Knowing now that the cream rises early, prepare your organization’s internal process ahead of the search launch to most aptly and quickly assess candidates. A buttoned-up process not only benefits your organization’s decision-making, its efficiency and thoughtfulness impresses upon candidates that your organization is enjoyable to work with and, ultimately, for. Here are tips to do so:
Define each interview stage in advance of the first interviews, determining how each will build upon the other.

Each interviewer should pose unique questions and topics within an appropriate timeframe. Determine if candidates will be informed ahead of time about the topics to be discussed or about a specific question that will be posed to them.

Establish a protocol so that subsequent interviewers will be alerted to candidate concerns meriting further investigation.

Plan ahead to vary the format—panel interview, presentation with Q&A, collaborative problem solving—to evaluate candidates in different ways. Present candidates with an activity or discussion to run to assess leadership acumen.

Identify your decision makers and clarify what criteria, when met, will result in a final decision.
The ability for your organization to move quickly and nimbly shortly after a search is launched is critical to securing the best candidates, who invariably present themselves early. Establish a protocol ahead of the launch to process candidates thoughtfully and efficiently so you’re best prepared to make an offer. Understanding the arc of tech executive searches will underscore that speed on your part is a strategy to secure the best possible match.

Kevin Williamson co-founded Parker Remick in 1998. His 20 years of executive search experience includes leading numerous successful C- and V-level searches for Google, Amazon, eBay, Square, and Pinterest. A native of the United Kingdom, Kevin’s British wit has been put to work on Parker Remick’s business development and its most senior searches.

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