A perspective by Richard Lear

Most executive search firms use a leveraged search model to execute searches. This entails having a search leader, who usually sells and leads the search, plus at least one junior- level execution person, who makes the initial contacts. It provides great economies to the search firm but how well could it serve you?

Leveraged Model drawbacks

The leveraged model breaks down when the initial contact lacks the gravitas and savvy to attract top prospects. If you lose a top prospect at the initial contact, you may never get them back! Most exceptional candidates, who are at the top of their game, have little patience and time to listen to one more headhunter’s pitch. The problem: most searches require a good deal of background along with a fair amount of nuance to effectively portray the opportunity. Yet, who has time to listen? And how well equipped are these junior people— operating on the front lines of a search—in capturing the imagination of impact payers, while overcoming the typical misconceptions?

Is an alternative approach better for you?

At Vantage Partners, we employ two search execution models. For more straightforward searches, we use the leveraged model effectively. These are searches within a defined marketplace where we are pitching a recognizable brand and where competition of top talent is high, but not fierce.
When your search is a “high profile” role in a highly- competitive talent marketplace, or one where we’ll need to substantially educate candidates and possibly overcome pre- conceptions, we recommend the dual-principal approach.

The Dual-Principal search approach

The dual-principal search model entails assigning two senior-level people with deep roots within a particular domain, who both actively recruit top candidates. Tough searches in highly-competitive domains demand substantial fire-power and rely upon a foundation of strong industry relationships and deep market knowledge.

In order to attract top candidates, you’ll need much more than a fancy pitch. You’ll need a partner, who can quickly identify the target candidate’s core motivations and career goals, and effectively map that criteria to the mission of the role and the overarching opportunity. When evaluating search firms, it’s a good idea to meet the folks on the front lines of the search. It takes a team to land top talent and every touch point will be critical to your success.