02/17/2018 12.30 EDT
I was fortunate in my corporate career to have retained executive search firms call me many times as a potential candidate, client and source. It afforded me the opportunity to hear what was going on in the talent marketplace, build relationships with search consultants who I respected, and, in several cases, help my colleagues’ careers by connecting them with these firms.
So now, having joined the executive search world as a search consultant two years ago, I’m often asked this question by leaders from all different industries and functions:
“How can I build relationships with retained executive search consultants that have contacted me?”
When I ask these leaders what their interactions with search consultants are like, I tend to cringe when I hear their responses. Answers range from:
“I didn’t have time to call them back,” or, “I wasn’t really looking to make a move, so it was a short 30-second call,” or, “I said I wasn’t interested and couldn’t think of any other people in my network or talented people in transition to pass along.”
And, of course, the one that really hurts:
“I never dreamed I would be affected by a merger, reorganization, or downsizing, so I didn’t think I needed to build relationships with executive search consultants.” Ouch! (As a very experienced search consultant in our firm has often said – don’t be one of those leaders who only reach out to search consultants once they’ve been affected).
Clearly the market for top talent is red hot. And, yes, a large piece of your career development should be internally focused on the talent management and leadership development programs your company has in place. However, keeping your eyes and ears closed to the external world is a big mistake. Developing relationships with retained executive search firms consistently should always be a part of your career strategy.
Having said that, here are several suggestions that can strengthen your connections with executive search firms of all sizes. These tips might sound simple, but trust me – after the comments I’ve heard from very talented leaders – they might just help you land the right future opportunity.
So – as you’re off and running in 2018, make sure you take time for your own career. They could be folks with the large firms, (often referred to as the SHREKs*) or the many great medium and small boutique, retained search firms.
And, always remember – return those calls from executive search firms! It could be the career game-changer call that leads you to your next great leadership role!!!
*SHREK Firms – SpencerStuart; Heidrick & Struggles; Russell Reynolds; Egon Zehnder; and KornFerry