How to be a Good Client

The successful partnering between client and search firm is a two-sided arrangement that requires substantial measures of trust, chemistry and professional respect. The client's approach to this association influences the speed and outcome of the search process. The single most important factor is for the client to understand the process and their part in it. Clients should follow a clear path towards this end.

1. Select the right firm for your needs; get a good fit. Communication between search firm and client must be open and cooperative. The relationship should feel friendly and comfortable. Reflect on the atmosphere during initial meetings with search firms. 

2. Do your homework before meeting with the search firm. Define long and short term expectations for the job. Think through key organization issues: reporting and working relationships, number of people new hire will manage, with whom he or she will work most closely. 

3. Assemble your client team. The client team is a cross-functional task force that should represent all major constituencies. A search committee of five to seven people is ideal. One senior member should be the designated leader. The client team must agree on the objectives of the position and be willing and able to commit time and energy to make the search effort a high priority. Make sure the client team members are compatible in their thinking. Get feedback from the search firm to identify differences of opinion among the selection committee. 

4. Develop the search plan with the search firm. Client team and search firm must understand the key issues of the job. Provide all the necessary information. Be explicit about the chemistry and corporate culture of the company. Use the expertise of the search firm to get input on the market, organization, and compensation. Ruminate on possible issues that could be stumbling blocks such as style differences, reporting relationships, unrealistic expectations. Do not hide information, be thorough and honest. Disclose both good and bad, positive and negative aspects of the job and have no surprises waiting.  Key elements to define for the job description are:

•    Title
•    Objectives
•    Criteria by which hired person's performance will be measured
•    Major issues new person will be expected to address immediately 
•    Organization charts: including those above, at the same level and lower level 
•    How many (and what kind of) people will be managed 
•    Current budget of the department
•    Salary including bonus, stock options, stock purchase or incentive plans, general details of retirement plan, fringe benefits
•    Career path opportunities.

5. Establish high standards in evaluating candidates, but be sensitive to feedback.  Understand the trade-off between the candidate qualities you require and those you desire.  Do not be impatient with the process.  Keep things moving from the client side: give timely feedback, schedule regular reviews with the search team, conduct candidate interviews promptly, maintain security and confidentiality.

Handle candidates skillfully.  Do not "window shop," but do not compromise either. Keep an open mind. Do not confuse a candidate's former position and company with his or her qualifications. After the search is complete, give the search firm feedback on progress of the new recruit.

Remember, the alliance between client and executive recruiter requires teamwork.  Clients need to provide access to top management and make decisions without delay.  A spirit of partnership will go a long way towards enabling search firm and client to reach their mutual goal.