Talent Acquisition

The Art of the Pivot in Executive Search

A key piece in identifying the right executive candidate happens before the search begins, during the engagement launch. We identify the desired education, skills, experience and cultural fit of targeted candidates and use that to bring the client an ideal set of candidates from which to choose.

The art of the pivot in executive search is the process of taking that initial engagement data and creating alternative theses based on the ways the search may morph or modify. This might be caused by what the client is telling you today and what the market realities dictate in addition to how the client’s rethinking changes in the future.

By intuiting these challenges and creating alternative theses, you reduce:

  • The time it takes to find an ideal candidate
  • Frustration related to lack of well-fitting candidates
  • Deficient outcomes from going to market incorrectly

At Comhar Partners, we believe strongly in this strategy and think every executive search firm or in-house executive recruiter can use it to create a more memorable and successful engagement. Let’s take a look at how it works and how it can be applied practically with your client’s hiring needs.

The A Ring and Beyond

During “A Ring” development, we’re collecting a prime ring of data that relates to a specific thesis we have for launching the client engagement. Inevitably there are geographic limiters, must-have and nice-to-have skills, competency, culture, elements of the job and more. This includes:

  • Evaluating the size, scope, and scale of the company.
  • Relevant shifting of the role we are going to be sourcing based upon size. For example, when sourcing candidates for a billion-dollar, we may be looking for a manager or director of a 100M business, either regional or national. This is the scope-scale element.
  • Educational level. What does the client require? Does the candidate need an advanced degree? We often look at past or current employees to evaluate where we see common threads in the kind of person they have historically recruited and build that into the profile.
  • Experience in leadership, strategy, international versus domestic business, and cultural sensitivity to international corporate locations in another country, for example.
  • Experience with very specific direct competitors versus someone with less industry knowledge who knows the type of function versus business itself.

With all of this initial data, we’re able to develop our “A Ring”. This is what the client asked for, but it may not be what they need or want. To strategically pivot before the client does, you need to then make alternative theses based on this data, your knowledge of the market, and the ways in which you know clients commonly want to modify the search.

The Pivot Search Strategy

The goal of our extensive intake and strategic researching process is to develop very tight parameters that allow us to create a set of data that matches the ideal profile of what the client is looking for. It’s been our experience that the clients must-haves and nice-to-haves evolve based on the lifecycle of the search, so our ability to anticipate where we think the search may evolve or modify is critical.

In pivoting, we modify the research data parameters and as a result, get another pocket of people that fit into the A1 Ring. Then we pivot another way in our thesis to develop an A2 Ring, so on and so forth.

The launch of our research thesis then incorporates alternatives that might look like:

  • A1 Ring: A broader level of hires because we are staying focused on specific firms or competitors.
  • A2 Ring: A broader set of industries because we are focused on a specific geographic requirement.
  • A3 Ring: A broader set of geography because we have to stay within a tight industry or level of leadership.

Let’s consider a company in the perishable cheese business that’s on a growth path. They’re looking for a VP of Marketing but the candidate doesn’t have to come from the cheese industry. They can have experience in any fast-moving consumer goods that would appear on the grocery store shelves, as long as they have prior branding and marketing experience.

In this case study, the location is the challenge—it’s remote and thus the candidate must relocate to this less business-centered city. What defines this search is the potential candidates’ interest and willingness to live in a more remote location that perhaps allows for a greater “quality of life.”

As we look at the alternative rings, we see that:

  • A1 Ring may look at more junior candidates; maybe a director, not a VP, from a larger revenue firm.
  • A2 Ring may look at a broader set of industries, not even in fast-moving consumer goods because the right candidates can still have branding and marketing experience.
  • A3 Ring may look for someone that’s even more of an outlier but wants to be in that geography; related to a “coming home” strategy, e.g. went to college nearby or grew up in the area.

By pivoting ahead of time, we lead the search with a broader set of data and a more transparent client experience. They understand the areas in which a pivot could be beneficial and we are anticipating potential marketing and client changes ahead of time.

This style of executive recruiting research is all about knowing what the client needs and using data and experience to anticipate what that secondary data looks like. In mastering the art of the pivot in executive search, you provide your client with a better experience and create a more impressive engagement, all of which drives value now and in the future.

About the author: Managing Director Bernard Layton and the team at Comhar Partners are recognized national leaders in retained executive search, professional recruiting, and talent advisory services. Comhar, derived from the Gaelic word meaning “collaboration,” was formed with the intention of providing recruiting expertise in deep partnership with the client in order to solve talent management challenges. Comhar Partners is headquartered in Chicago with specialized recruiting consultants based in 7 offices across the United States

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