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Choose the company carefully.

Recruitment firms have different networks and different specialties. Michelle Delcambre, operational partner at Felicis Ventures, recommends working with highly specialized companies. Find search partners with a rep search list – a history of recent searches they’ve done – that’s as relevant to your company’s search as possible.

“Most startups have their own network, or they have investors who have a network,” Delcambre said. “If they’re leveraging executive search, it’s to access a wider network and someone who understands the market.”

Beyond that, the right recruiters can help inspire top talent to consider a new job, Delcambre said.

The going rate for a search at most companies is 28% to 33% of the CEO’s first-year salary, and it’s increasingly common for search partners to seek equity. Not all companies want to give equity, so decide if that’s a dealbreaker when evaluating companies.

Finally, don’t dwell too much on the costs of a search firm, said a VC talent partner: If the right sales manager can grow your firm from $500,000 to $25 million in revenue, is it does it matter that you paid $50,000 more for a search? firm with a better network or more relevant expertise?

Align expectations early.

Communicating openly and early about the process will help clients know what they are getting into and recruiters know if they will be able to meet the client’s expectations.

Discuss with recruiters the market, role, compensation, and other search expectations. This conversation should take place before the contract is signed, Delcambre said.

“The better we do this, the more we avoid situations where the client is unhappy with the level of candidates they are receiving,” said Mike Foley, Regional Managing Partner of Heidrick & Struggles’ Technology and Services practice in the Americas. . “Having that partnership and that relationship to be able to give tough feedback back and forth, I think, is helpful in coming to the right conclusion.”

Arrival throughout the week.

Treat your staffing firm like a partner, not just a supplier, said Frank Cumella, partner at staffing firm Daversa Partners.

“It’s your research partner, your strategic advisor to what we all agree is the most important part of your business: your people, your talent,” Cumella said. “It’s not some sort of once-a-week check-in relationship.”

According to Cumella, founders should exchange “constant feedback” with their research partners on mediums such as text and Slack. Holly Rose Faith, executive talent partner at Greylock, recommended calling the search partner immediately after meeting with a candidate to share feedback.

“The quicker you are able to act both in giving and getting feedback, the more beneficial it is for you to close your search,” Faith said. “Bringing [search partners] as close to the search as possible will ultimately have the best result for you.

Be comfortable with comments.

Founders should both be able to trust their research partners and expect some pushback if they disagree, Cumella said.

Be prepared to give your search partners negative feedback about applicants — and receive the criticism applicants pass on, Faith said.

“Our human nature is that we are sensitive to how we give feedback,” Faith said. “The best thing you can do is create that open line of communication so that you both get positive feedback, but you also get critical feedback.”

It can help you improve your search and interview process, improve how your company is presented to candidates, and refine how you assess potential hires.

Know what you want, but keep an open mind.

Be clear about how you define success. Being clear with recruiters about what the role should look like will speed up the process, Delcambre said.

But sometimes customers take too prescriptive a view of the framework they’re looking for, Foley said.

“Don’t get me wrong: it’s our job, to try to find that,” Foley said. “But outside of that, I think they need to have — especially in this market — an openness to look at different avenues to solve the search.”

It could be moving from a regional leader to a global leader, or considering an executive at a much larger company, Foley said.

While your search partner may not know your business as well as you do, you don’t know the talent market as well as they do – and they have the prospect of hundreds or thousands of past placements. Some founders have never even hired an executive before, and it’s the search partner’s job to serve as an advisor.

Try to be patient.

Everyone wants to find the ideal candidate in a minimum of time. This includes recruiters: Executive search contracts are typically paid in three installments over 90 days, so recruiters have an incentive to complete the search as quickly as possible.

But search companies are brand-conscious, and in some cases recruiters will continue to work on a difficult search for six months or even a year, Faith said. The duration of a search varies: a company may only need to meet four candidates before finding the right person. In other cases, it might take 30 intros, Faith said.

Delcambre advised clients to optimize hiring the right executive, even if it takes longer to find them.

“Of course it makes sense to do them as quickly as possible,” Delcambre said. “But it’s a very tight talent market. Talent is really considered before moving.

Speak up if you’re unhappy.

Low-quality search partners can’t hide in this talent market: with so many opportunities, it’s harder than ever to reach the best candidates.

A VC talent partner said she’s seen three companies walk away from recruiting firms in the past year for shoddy work. Good candidates weren’t moving forward, too many bad candidates were surfacing, and search partners weren’t handling client relationships well.

In one case, the research firm agreed that the work was so poor that it reimbursed the full cost. A second company got a partial refund. A third company, a Series B startup looking for a VP of engineering, heard objections from the research partner about the difficulty of the market – but when this company approached a another research company, it was introduced to a steady stream of candidates.

On the other hand, companies that aren’t recruiting the right candidates could be to blame, Delcambre said.

“Companies have a responsibility to be the kind of company that talent wants to go to work for,” Delcambre said. “The best executive search firm in the world will help you find talent, but it can’t make you a better or more attractive organization.”

Think long term

Leadership teams evolve over time as companies grow. Venture capital firm talent partners can help advise on how companies should plan for this at different stages, Delcambre said.

“Roles, motivations, outcomes, expectations change on both sides — both for the company and for the person you put in that role,” Delcambre said.

If founders look to the future, they can be more proactive in filling important roles without a sudden time crunch.

“It’s important for companies and founders to understand not just what they need today,” Delcambre said, “but what it will look like in a few hundred million more revenue streams or a few years from now.”

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