THE TRADITIONAL SEARCH MODEL
When we refer to the “traditional search model”, we mean the method of engagement and measurement of success common in most retained search projects. In most instances, it looks like this: A client has a specific role to fill and needs an individual with a specific array of skills and experience to fill that role. Due to limited time or access, the client chooses to hire an outside firm to search and recruit qualified candidates to the role. The success of the project is most often measured by whether or not the search firm was able to identify and ultimately attract a desirable candidate.
For those clients whose sole goal is to fill a narrowly defined “box”, the traditional search model works well. However, in today’s business environment, the traditional model of retained search has become increasingly ineffective due to its narrow and inflexible scope and definition.
If I were to ask most clients why they were hiring us, they would answer, “To fill the role with the right person.” If I were to ask them how they would ultimately determine if the project was successful, they would most likely say, “If you placed the right person, it’s a success. If you didn’t, it’s not.” The expected outcome is straightforward and fairly predictable and in this instance, the project can be viewed more as paying for a product than a service. The client has a well-defined role to fill and the search firm produces a “body” to fill that role. Pretty simple, right? Not always.
In today’s lean business environment, many clients either begin a search with more complex requirements or discover throughout the search process that what they really want and need is different than what they originally thought.
This complexity necessitates flexibility from both the client and the search consultant. Yet, the traditional fee arrangement and success criteria rarely take this scenario into consideration. This tends to result in one of several outcomes.
Each time the criteria for a role changes significantly during a search, the search firm must basically start from scratch in identifying candidates. At this point, the search consultant may ask for more money, stop the search and suggest that they start a completely new search, or because they know they are losing money on a constantly moving target, pull out of the search entirely.
The client, unaware of how significantly the changing criteria has impacted the search, feels as if they’ve already...