The Executive Search industry has gone through some pretty hairy changes over the past decade and, from what I can tell, promises to continue to do so. How will we in the industry, cope with these changes? What are we looking for when it comes to meeting our corporate and financial goals and is the future in our ability to network “mano a mano” or will we abdicate to the “machine?” Or may it be both?

When I first entered the Executive Search field in 1990, my first responsibilities was to automate the organization. It was quite apparent that our industry alone was responsible for the decimation of the eastern forests; what with all the resume paper we accumulated. Also, the massive amount of envelopes and stamps we were using was the cause of some serious paper cuts on tongues and “sticky mouth syndrome” due to stamp licking and envelope closing. Needless to say, something had to change. Little did I know that corporate life, as we knew it, would be changed forever with the introduction of the desk top computer.

Our Search industry depends heavily on its research capabilities. When I started out, we went to libraries in order to source candidates, looking up lists and trying to find the people that we felt may be the right choice. We would send them a letter or call them by phone. Most of the time, we would be rejected by these people and would feel defeated because we felt that this job was the best damn job for them and only them. We wouldn’t stop. We would double back later on to make sure that they had not changed their minds and throughout that whole process, we learned more about these individuals and their capabilities, their professionalism. And sometimes, we made the case that our client could use someone like them and they agreed to move forward. And we did that with all of our candidates which is why we loved what we did and built long term relationships with, not only our clients, but also our candidates.

Today, most of our business can be conducted in a Starbucks with the use of a good laptop, a strong wifi connection so that we can connect to LinkedIn and a really good cup of White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino Blended Coffee. The addition of LinkedIn has virtually eliminated the need to conduct in depth candidate searches. All you have to do today is pay more money for the service, plug in a search request for the industry, the position and the area and, voila, you got a pile of potential candidates. You then ask to be connected and 9 times out of 10 you get a positive response because who wants to deny a connection to a search firm. You send out massive amounts of emails to your new buddies explaining the position and once again, voila, interested candidates.

Now here is where the hard work kicks in. There is a responsibility to answer each interested individual. Most of them don’t really meet the specs because the system picked a word in their job title that was the same as your position title. You need to explain to each individual why they are not a good match and hope to heaven that they don’t dump your connection…you might need them in the future.

Once you whittle down the applicants to a comfortable number that you can deal with, you now start to converse about the position via email. What is the full title? Where is the position located, specifically and do you think you would like to move to a small town in Kansas? What are the dollars and how do the benefits look? Many questions and responses but once you have decided that this individual may just fit, you decide to move on to the face to face interview stage.

Like I said, you can do everything while sitting at a Starbucks. The only step that cannot be replicated or replaced is the interview.

So, after all of this, we realize that the process really hasn’t changed. We still have to source; we still have to weed our way through endless amounts of resumes and we still have to interact with the candidate while also working with the client to ensure their satisfaction with the process.

The only difference is knowing that we have made it better for the forest, wildlife and our tongues.

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