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Ian Dodds Consulting’s (IDC) Monthly Best Practice: Apr 2013

Building best practices in Executive Search Firms

IDC is sometimes asked by executive search firms to review their processes for meeting client talent search needs and to offer recommendations for enhancing their effectiveness and impact. In particular, they often want us to evaluate how well they operate in relation to underrepresented groups, especially women. In conducting such reviews in the UK we are particularly interested in how search firms take account of: the voluntary code of practice for executive search firms; unconscious bias; gender and cross-cultural differences; the challenge of finding high potential candidates from underrepresented groups.

In carrying out such reviews we examine all of the documentation clients have relating to their executive search practices and discuss with their staff how they operate these. In addition, we always discuss with them a range of client case studies that illustrate the variety of the approaches which they take.


The practices we like to understand and examine are:

-         How the initial brief is taken;

-         Their methods and practices for advertising for candidates;

-         The content and coverage of their candidate packs;

-         How they handle and respond to enquiries;

-         The criteria that they adopt to generate both long and short candidate lists;

-         How they go about the search process;

-         Their methods for compiling a long list for a client;

-         The content and coverage of the long list candidates’ discussion with the client;

-         The criteria that they adopt for selecting candidates for preliminary interviews;

-         Their arrangements for checking preliminary interview candidates’ backgrounds;

-         How they prepare for the preliminary interviews and the competency frameworks and other criteria that they use;

-         Their processes for conducting the preliminary interviews;

-         Examples of the candidate reports that they generate following the preliminary interviews;

-         The psychometric and other tests they administer for short listed candidates;

-         Their referencing processes;

-         The guidance they offer to final selection panel members;

-         Their practices in following up with clients how new appointees are faring.


Finally, we generate a report detailing our findings and recommendations, including those for any potential new product offerings, such as offering new recruit onboarding services. We then discuss the report and recommendations with the client’s partners and any colleagues that they wish to include in that discussion.


In carrying out these reviews we have sometimes found that clients’ staff are unskilled in carrying out cross-cultural interviews. We have also found instances of their staff being unaware of gender differences that need to be understood in interviewing and comparing male and female candidates. Moreover, we sometimes need to raise awareness of the impact of unconscious bias and how to take account of it.


If you are interested in finding out more about this service that we provide to executive search and recruitment firms please contact us.


Dr Ian Dodds,

28 Mar 2013,


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