How to Advance through the Executive Search Funnel

An Inside Look at the Executive Search Process!

This week I provide suggestions on how to optimize your chances of progressing through the search/candidate funnel. You will recall the following search funnel construct from last week’s blog. My current suggestions and tips for advancing through the funnel are organized within this same construct..

How to Advance through the Executive Search Funnel

75-120 contacts (tough searches may require 250-300 contacts)
You will optimize the odds of being contacted by search firms if they have a current and well-constructed resume of yours in their data base. Additionally, they should also have information regarding the types of roles and geographies you are interested in, and some idea of your compensation expectations.

Yielding 20 interested prospects
Whether or not you become an” interested prospect” will largely depend on the initial phone screen, typically a 15-30 minute conversation. For this discussion make sure that the search firm has provided you a copy of the position description. Let the search firm know why this particular opportunity is of interest to you and why you believe it could be a very good fit.

Long List of 12-15 prospects
Provided your fit and qualifications are on target with the needs of the client and compare well with other interested prospects you will be included in the “Long List” of prospects reviewed with the client. This phase of the funnel is largely out of your control and dependent on your fit and attractiveness relative to other qualified and interested executives.

Short list of 6-8 likely candidates
Congratulations on making the “short list”! How do you now make it to the final slate of 4-6 candidates being presented to the client company? Simply stated, you need an impressive “showing” during the interview with the search consultant and a strong set of preliminary references. This interview is conducted in person or through video-conferencing. During the interview you will need to succinctly articulate your strengths as a candidate and why your experience and achievements are relevant. Additionally, the search firm will note your executive presence, interpersonal skills, and cultural fit with the client organization. Be easy to work with and return calls to the search firm promptly. Confirm that your spouse/family/significant other are supportive of a potential relocation if required.

Final candidate slate of 4-6 executives
You have made it to the final slate of 4-6 candidates! What can you do to increase the odds of becoming one of several finalists? Many of the things noted directly above for advancing through the short list also apply to becoming part of the final candidate slate – namely, preparation, compelling presentation and interpersonal skills. Based on feedback form the search firm you will want to understand whether your candidacy has any shortcomings and how you might address those with the client company. Prior to meeting with the client company the search firm should provide you with a list of company representatives/executives you will be meeting. Visit LinkedIn to learn more about these individuals. In my experience, the best interviews are those with a balanced interchange between the client and the candidate. Do not monopolize the “air space” or you will talk yourself out of becoming a finalist. Show enthusiasm, interest and energy. Prepare a list of thoughtful questions that you want to ask if provided the opportunity.

You are now one of several finalists! You will be asked back to have further conversations with the hiring executive and probably meet a broader cross-section of the organization including direct reports. Remember, you are still in the process of being evaluated. Continue to prepare and put your best foot forward. Do not act overly familiar with those you have already met. Send short “thank you” notes and reinforce your interest in the role and organization. The search firm and often the client will tag team on “final referencing”. Provide them with a list of relevant references (superiors, peers, subordinates) and contact information. Alert your references and provide them a current copy of your resume and the position specification for the opportunity. If, in the final analysis, you are the runner-up handle this gracefully and let the client company and search firm know of your continued interest. Often times the final selection is a very close decision. The client company sees the runner-up as a very viable placement should the #1 choice not come to fruition. Remember, you have been selected from 120 initial contacts!

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