Will executive search ever be the same again?

COVID-19 has very quickly and dramatically changed the way we now interact and communicate. As we move further into a locked down society with ever-stricter social distancing measures in place – this is changing the way we are doing business, and more specifically the way we, as Search Consultants, are managing recruitment processes.

Maintaining process momentum

The good news is, there are some companies which are still recruiting. Whilst we have seen a downturn in the number of new instructions, not all search processes have been frozen and many companies still need to keep critical hire (eg, Board level Executive and NED roles) recruitment processes moving forward, even during this bewildering and changing time. Given that these processes must continue to roll forwards – how can we as help to keep momentum on these executive search assignments in a locked down world?

Most importantly, we can talk to our clients and our candidates. In an increasingly distanced and locked down world where people will be feeling more and more isolated, there is no substitute for picking up the phone and talking, even if there is little or no actual progress to report. A call during this time can be both reassuring for all parties and also helpful. Speaking to candidates and clients during this time when people are perhaps more relaxed and open in the home environment, can help you to build understanding, personal insights and relationships.

The new normal?

We cannot arrange ‘in-person’ interviews for the time being, but we can maintain momentum with video conference interviews on platforms such as Skype, Zoom or Teams. There is still a prevailing sense that for a key hire, a final decision on a candidate cannot be made without an ‘in-person’ interview. This has always been the case, but in this locked down world, we must now re-consider this.

In respect of early and mid-stage interviews, we can keep these moving forwards to ensure that all stakeholders have ‘met’ the candidate. A final interview can still be deferred until ‘we’re out the other side’. However, for critical hires, it may be that we simply can’t delay this decision process and we need to progress to final stage interviews via a videoconference process.

Onboarding and integrating new joiners

For candidates who have accepted offers and are waiting to commence employment, companies and candidates can either agree to defer starting dates until the wider picture becomes clearer, or they can proceed with virtual onboarding and integration. We have seen organisations run highly effective virtual onboarding processes with the participation of team members – resulting in new joiners being made to feel immersed within their new team environment.

Indeed, an effective and well-managed virtual onboarding and integration process can go a long way towards reflecting a collegiate and communicative leadership style along with a collaborative, innovative company culture which is focused on team-play and people.

Communication

In this way, ongoing recruitment processes do not need to stop. At this uncertain time where we can’t yet see an end in sight to lockdown, and where we cannot predict when ‘in-person’ meetings can take place, we can still work with our clients and candidates to keep interview and selection processes moving forwards. The key, as always, is communication. As intermediaries, our role is as vital as ever in ensuring that clients and candidates are aligned and talking – and in establishing new virtual processes with our clients to keeping recruitment processes moving forward and concluding during this lockdown period.

If you’d like to discuss any aspect of senior level recruitment at this unprecedented time, please contact me, Dan Watts, to discuss how best to move your search forward.