On the surface, if you need to recruit an executive in a hurry, you’ve done something wrong.
Poor performance? That doesn’t appear overnight. As soon as your suspicions were confirmed, you should have been talking to a headhunter. (Remember, the Retained Search firms work in strictest confidence when needed; it’s hard to keep a secret with contingency recruiters).
Bad fit with the team? That should have been apparent in the pre-hire investigation and evaluation. Someone dropped the ball.
But sometimes it just happens. if a senior leader suddenly buys a Honda Gold Wing, yearns for the open road and walks out of the door, there’s not much you can do. You are left scrambling for top talent to fill a suddenly imminent void.
Where the rush-to-sign gets a bit out of hand is with day-to-day expectations. Sophisticated technology and particularly AI, is slashing the time once need to find and evaluate key leaders. That, in turn, has turned into a competitive issue for recruiters. If headhunter “A” says he can give you a list of candidates in 21 days, headhunter “B” sets out to do so in 14 days.
In the Retained Search arena, the most comprehensive and complex (and successful) of them all, eight weeks was, for a long time, the industry norm for submitting a verified list of qualified candidates. Today, many firms promise fulfillment in 20 business days. Some promise a preliminary list in 10 days.
Does it matter? Is it that much better to recruit an executive in three weeks instead of six? Is the delivery timeline important enough to you to influence a decision which firm to retain? Let’s take a look.
On the pro side. Efficiency is a valued attribute and speed is associated with efficiency. So, in general terms, filling a leadership void as quickly as possible is a good thing. Also, other things being equal, the sooner you get your new exec contributing, the better off you are.
But that comes with a big “if”, as you will recall from your schoolday Shakespeare: “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”. Quick is only a plus if you get it right. If it unravels in a trail of not-quite-what-we-thought-it-was, it suddenly jumps from the pro side to the con.
What technology is good at is finding people fast on a formulaic basis. But that is no longer the primary challenge. As our president Larry Shoemaker is fond of saying:
“It used to take 80% of the time to find the candidate, now we find them in 20% of the time. It takes the other 80% to verify the fit.”
And that’s why executive search should at least leave enough time to make a phone call.
The guiding consideration when you recruit an executive is the future of the company. In any business, the organization is only as good as the people running it. Growth, profit and working environment come from people, not systems. So setting out to find the best person for the job in the shortest possible time can add to the inherent challenge of the task for marginal, if any, benefit.
As they say in the woodworking shop, “do it right, not over”
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