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Reinventing executive search

March 22, 2016

What counts is the holistic picture

Career Tips from Murat Ayberk, Amrop Jenewein

For many decades Executive Search has been a secret business with the very objective to find the one star for a top management position. But as the world around us is changing, executive search is also changing. Complexity is the buzzword of today’s business world.

Relationships matter

In a complex world, the relationships between people become at least as important as the people themselves. The modern world of today poses multifaceted challenges to an executive. Networks become more and more important. This means that the individual traits and competencies of an executive are no longer the only criteria for candidates.

Modern executive searchers no longer accept just to find the best candidate to fill a position but together with their clients, they analyze the context in which the company is embedded, the relational interdependencies within the company and its interactions with the outside world. A thorough analysis of the client’s needs (today and in the future) and the company’s strategy are key. Thus, facilitation skills for executive searchers become more and more important.

Executive consulting no longer means to tell the client what he/she needs but rather to find out together with the client the best solution. The key word here is “together”! Often, the best solution does not necessarily mean the first obvious solution. This can also mean challenging the client with regards to its organizational context. An excellent executive search consultant engages with customers and their organizations much more intensively than was common in the past.

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According to Murat Ayberk, executive search partners should also make sure that candidates for new jobs match the company’s culture and its style for cultivating relationships. Copyright: Sebastian Freiler Photography

Don’t look back

A candidate’s successful track record shows that he/she has gained some or considerable experience, but that’s not always necessarily what counts.

First, it’s our setbacks and mistakes that make us learn the most. So the executive consultant has to dig deeper under the surface of a glossy CV and find out to what extent someone has gone through the learning curve and whether he or she has developed his/her personality for better or, maybe, for worse.

Second, in a fast changing world, past success doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be successful in the future. Therefore the potential of a candidate becomes more important than his/her past track record. This means that instruments and techniques which measure and predict individual potential are part of the consultant’s toolbox.

Moreover, as mentioned before, even the highest potential can only thrive in the right environment, so it is important to understand the culture of an organization and the way relations are built and maintained therein.

Step out of the box

Besides a good understanding of people's behavioral patterns, industry experience is what is expected from executive consultants. And as a matter of fact, a consultant has to know the ropes in his/her client's industry. At the same time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that only candidates from a specific industry match the criteria of a position.

Especially today, as new digital business models disrupt whole industries it is more than advisable to step out of the box and look for executives and experts who can bring in new ideas and approaches from a completely different world. Again: A good consultant helps the client in the difficult on-boarding phase of these new hires, because – you guessed it – relations are what really counts in the end.

Move on

Constant change means that we are moving back and forth on the learning curve. Sometimes we have to learn completely new things and acquire new competences. Also, we often have to unlearn and abandon entrenched patterns and behavior, which is for sure the harder part.

This applies to all, executive consultants, executives and clients. If they all work together as a team and are open to discover unfamiliar territory, they can break the limits of today’s perceptions and find the right answers to the pressing questions of the complex, ambiguous and volatile world of today.

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