What is restrictive about Executive Recruitment

Ever wondered why Executive Recruitment companies are seldom able to appoint good staff to growing or changing businesses?

XeroA few days ago I noticed an advertisement by Xero, looking to recruit a senior manager in their company. It occurred to me that with the rate of growth that they are driving, and the with focus of senior management being on that growth, why would they advertise directly rather than look through an Executive Search or Recruitment company?

Looking through the PD and criteria for the job, a few things stood out, but in particular one of the expectations was something along the lines of a degree in “something interesting”.

I thought about these points and some of the characteristics of growing companies, as opposed to than relatively static companies. In my experience Executive Recruitment companies look to get highly specific qualifications, experiences, and “character” types from their clients, before building a specific profile of the sought after candidate. This saves them from wasting effort and time by restricting the range of candidates as far as possible, and reducing their risk by being able to get the client to sign off a specific profile, and then meeting it.  But is this risk reduction and time saving the best approach for the company?

One of the strengths of big companies is the ability to reduce risk through having developed processes and policies, and having executives that do not go outside those policies. This means that under normal conditions, fewer mistakes will be made, as risk has been minimised. In that situation, the above recruitment strategy will work, as in many ways the positions are “Gatekeeper” roles rather than roles requiring work “outside the box” or taking risks. However, even the largest companies will be vulnerable to change in their competitive environment, and having a culture of “gatekeeping” will prevent necessary changes happening.

In my previous blog I discussed IMB not being able to move fast enough into the cloud – almost certainly because they did not recognise the significance early enough. There are many similar examples, possibly even Telecom in New Zealand – did they recognise the significance of internet and mobiles fast enough?

In changing environments and in growing companies a higher degree of risk taking and/or imaginative thinking will be needed. People with those characteristics probably did not make the choices in their careers that will put a tick in all the check boxes required for the “gatekeeper” role. These people will be riskier placements for Executive Recruiters, but the right placement will reward the client company much more than a “gatekeeper”. In the extreme growth phase that Xero is in, where if they do not grow quickly enough other companies may take their market, gatekeepers may well be lethal.

In my view Xero have probably recognised that the type of person they need will be best identified through their own process rather than the Executive Recruitment process, and have acted accordingly. Well done Xero.

What about all the other New Zealand companies that want to grow either in New Zealand or overseas? Are you really likely to find the right types of people through Executive Recruitment? Are you better off by the person driving your company recognising the right person directly?