➢ Search Progress Reports

What You Should Expect

Few clients make specific requests of us in reporting progress on searches underway, and I think more should.  Surveys indicate that clients too often feel under-informed on developments.  Some of this is the nature of the beast, in that all parties are focused on the result, a slate of finalist candidates, and all that takes place before delivering the slate is just activity.  But bottom line notwithstanding, search firms learn a great deal in the process of developing candidates, most of which would be better passed on to the client.

I think it’s fair to say that clients deserve insights as well as regular updates on progress.  And we like weekly reports because search retainers are paid to ensure front-burner treatment from search firms and five business days is a long time.  Search is time-intensive, involves a process, the components of which aren’t particularly interesting, but careful execution of each step is critical.  And trusting that your search provider is executing every week is too much trust, because he or she may not be.  In the press of travel schedules and fulfillment on several assignments, a week with no activity can go by quickly.  Weekly reports require weekly progress or very inventive reporting.

Speed is important and clients should evaluate search providers on cycle time. But search is not an exact science. Careful process execution is no guarantee of success and search partners often have to return to research and run a second plan phase.  This is time-consuming, so early execution of the first phase is important.

Reports should be in writing, not just verbal, so there is an ongoing record of search progress.  This assures your peace of mind, but also provides a record that can be evaluated post-search.  Search clients would do well to go back through completed searches to analyze provider performance by key metrics.  Regular written reports ensure you have something other than memory to analyze.

Content is King

What kind of information should the report contain?  With an open position and time marching on, clients’ first priority has to be the status of the search and having confidence in a date they will see a slate of candidates.  Efficiency of the search firm in developing a slate is difficult to measure, but evidence of progress is best reported with a list of all potential candidates in play.

Our weekly reports are concise and abbreviated to be a quick read, but include critical detail, so you can understand exactly what took place last week.  And, because all potential candidates remain on the reports until the search is completed, it shows progress and evidence of an exhaustive plan.  Listed are specifics on candidate backgrounds, with just enough masking to protect confidentiality. This tells you the kind of candidate the search consultant has chosen to speak with, and it tells you which he has chosen to investigate in more detail.  If the candidate is not interested, the specific reasons are listed, so you can look for patterns.  It tells you whether compensation is an issue, or geography, company reputation, the structure of the position or reporting authority, and so forth.  It tells you why qualified candidates say no.

On the other hand, if we decided against pursuing the candidate further, the report tells you why, so you can check and understand the criteria we are using to rule in or out.  This can stop disconnects between client and consultant early in the game, and it provides food for discussion in regular telephone contact with the consultant.

The Importance of Detail

Other information may come out of this detail. On a recent search for a unit CEO, another search firm was engaged for a parallel search for the same position in another group, and the other firm was reporting heavy resistance on compensation from candidates.  Our reports indicated we were having no such difficulties in speaking with a parallel subset of potential
candidates, and this helped the client manage the other search provider.

Most searches are focused on recruiting from a small list of source companies, and a detailed report indicates the extent to which the recruiter has penetrated those companies.  Detailed reports shed insight on what sources the consultant may be using, and should show evidence of multiple platforms up and running to attract candidates (original research, internal/external databases, search firm network, web-crawling research vehicles, social networking, etc).  Are candidates clearly coming from the original research you asked for, or do these look like they came out of the search firm database?  Both are viable sources, and both should be used.  To tell the difference, original research-generated candidates will most often be working for one of the target companies agreed upon, whereas those generated from internal databases or the firm’s network may not.