Steps and Timing in the Executive Search Process

An Inside Look at the Executive Search Process!

One of the biggest and sometimes most frustrating mysteries for business professionals is how the executive search process works.  During the last two weeks I have offered suggestions on how to identify recruiters to work with, and how go about developing relationships with search firms.  This week I share an insider’s perspective on the search process, steps involved in the search process, and how long it takes.

Steps and Timing in the Executive Search Process:

The following chart highlights the broad steps in a typical search process and parties responsible for each stage. Keep in mind that this is the process for “typical” search.  Actual searches can be considerably longer or shorter depending the on level of client urgency, the attractiveness of the role, and search firm’s knowledge of the candidate base.  During my 30 years with Spencer Stuart I experienced individual searches that were completed in two weeks and others that took over eighteen months.

Assess needs and develop a tailored search blueprint (Weeks 1-2)

-Meet to determine skills and abilities required of the person

-Analyze challenges unique to organization and the role

-Prepare customized position and candidate specification

[Consultant and Client Responsibility]

Identify target companies and potential prospects (Weeks 3-7)

-Examine organizations with relevant skill-sets

-Develop long list of organizations to serve as likely sources

-Present long list of prospects

-Speak to third-party sources to identify and qualify sources

[Consultant/Research Associate]

Attract and evaluate candidates (Weeks 8-15)

-Engage prospects to best their interest in the role

– Conduct competency-based interviews against the position specification

-Assemble the short list

-Progress reports

[Consultant/Research Associate]

Present candidates in client interviews (Weeks 16-19)

– Based on in-depth written analysis and appraisal against the specification, present most qualified candidates

– Conduct preliminary reference checks


Complete the search and post-search follow-up (Weeks 20-24)

– In-depth referencing and background checks

– Assist in or lead compensation negotiation

– Regularly communicate with client and placement during transition

– Conduct client satisfaction survey through third objective third party


In next week’s post I will share insights about the search firm’s development of a typical candidate pipeline for presentation to the client.

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