We find that the Executive Search Process is vitally important in achieving the desired outcomes and exceeding our clients’ expectations. At The Carter Group we utilize our Proprietary Process, called Dimensional Search®, which was developed soon after the inception of Sanford Rose Associates International® in 1959 and it has been continuously optimized and refined since then. As depicted in the diagram below (Dimensional Search® Methodology), ours is a multi-dimensional process that looks for a match by aligning the Client Company’s needs and requirements with the experience, attributes, and skill-sets of the candidate:
Dimensional Search® Process:
We find that process is vitally important in achieving the desired outcomes and exceeding our clients’ expectations. With Dimensional Search®, The Carter Group assesses the following criteria from the first time we talk with the candidate and throughout the continuum:
Expectations: The Client’s position and expectations with those of the candidate, such as title, compensation, relocation and amount of travel…we have found candidates who appear to be a “perfect” match (with respect to the other criteria), but there can be a major “disconnect” with respect to an “expectations gap” – with respect to title, travel or some other item that must be identified and resolved as early in the process as possible.
Technical Fit: “Technical” requirements, such as education, relevant industry experience and managerial experience with the candidate’s relevant background and experience…we clearly want to understand what the “must have” requirements versus those that are “important” or would be “nice to have”.
Culture: Cultural fit of the company with the candidate’s experience and success in similar cultures and/or his likely adaptability to the company’s culture…we have found that some firms interchangeably mix “Culture” with “Chemistry”. We believe that Culture relates more to environments and organizations, while Chemistry relates more the fit between hiring executive and candidate.
Chemistry: The chemistry between the candidate and hiring manager as well as the candidate’s attributes to the subjective traits required in the Position Profile…this is why we feel it essential to meet with the hiring executive, if possible, prior to initiating the search.
Experiential Translation: How “translatable” the candidate’s experiences and capabilities are to the company’s expectations with respect to responsibilities and major projects….this attribute largely relates to the ability of the candidate to translate and scale from the past to the future.
Leadership: For most of the executive search assignments, we find that this is the most important of all the search elements, as well as the most difficult one to assess. Therefore, in The Carter Group the Principals do not delegate any of the steps during the entire process, so that we are constantly evaluating the top candidates for Leadership qualities during each and every phase of the search and not solely dependent upon one search form or algorithm.
The Steps We Take:
Once we have an Executive Search Engagement Agreement in place between the Client Company/Hiring Executive and us, we generally follow sequence of key milestones/events as depicted in diagram above (“The Steps We Take”). For any search engagement to have the desired outcome(s) all parties (namely Client Company, Search Firm, and Successful Candidate) want to achieve, we believe that the “Three C’s are critical: Commitment, Candor, and Communications are critical. We recommend that there be a weekly scheduled call between Client and Firm from initiation to completion. This simplified diagram (above) is actually a distillation of the 50+ defined steps that we undertake within The Carter Group to ensure we have an efficient, consistent and thorough process that yields the outcome for all parties. The following is a description of the key steps/milestones during “The Steps We Take”:
Understanding Client Needs: This is the most essential phase of the search engagement. However, our research has found that this is the root cause of most failed searches. Although needs and requirements may sometimes change during the course of a search engagement, unless there is a clear mutual understanding or anchor point established up-front, the search process and results may be compromised. It is critical that we understand your company’s culture so that we ensure that our candidates represent the right “cultural fit.” Furthermore, we want to establish a comprehensive understanding so that we conduct the search efficiently and effectively. It is important that the search firm be perceived by candidates as being well-informed and professional since this indirectly reflects on the company as well.
Engagement (Client): Once we have a clear understanding of your needs/requirements, we will send you a simple, easy to understand, two (2) – page Search Engagement Agreement for review and approval. Since our office is locally owned and managed, we have the flexibility and authority to negotiate whatever terms and fee structure that is mutually agreeable. Also, we commit to only accept those assignments that represent a high probability for mutual success and will inform you of any potential conflicts. In addition, we commit to limit the absolute number of search engagements we conduct at any given time, as well as limit the number of Clients we work with in any niche with the Life Sciences industry so that you are assured that we are not unreasonably restricted from accessing 95+% of the top-tier talent pool within your company’s specific niche.
Position Profile: after we conduct a detailed meeting with the Client Company, as well as receive relevant internal documents, such as a “Job Description”, The Carter Group quickly integrates the needs and requirements into a comprehensive document called a “Position Profile”. The Position Profile is created so that we achieve the following key objectives: accurately reflect the Client’s needs/requirements, provide a comparative tool whereby the candidate can compare his/her background and experience to the responsibilities and requirements described in the Profile, as well as provide compelling information to prospective candidates regarding the uniqueness of the position as well as the Company’s “sizzle”. In addition to the Position Profile, we work with our Client to create and provide additional compelling information that will aid in the recruitment of “passive” and highly sought after, top-tier candidates.
Candidate Identification and Engagement: Once we clearly understand our Client’s needs and requirements, as well as its culture, key competition, etc., we develop search algorithms which we use in both our proprietary database, as well as extend the research on the internet and other databases, so that we can construct a targeted list of the most qualified potential candidates. However, regardless of the search tools and techniques employed, we have found that the most important and fundamental element is the quantity and quality of the candidate pool available for your position. Analogous to fishing and the optimal fishing techniques and executive recruitment, there first must be “fish present in order to catch fish”; similarly, in executive search/recruitment, there must be a suitable pool of qualified talent for you to find the very “brightest and best” candidate. Generally, we find that, the more clients a firm has established, especially within your industry/niche, the more the talent pool shrinks due to “off limits restrictions”. These restrictions are in the agreements in place with existing client companies and affiliates, which precludes the search firm from recruiting employees within these entities. As a result, the larger search firms will try to navigate around this problem by recommending that clients consider candidates outside its industry sector and therefore, not from direct competitors, or in other words, recommending that the client consider “fresh new candidates with new insights”. However, it has been our experience that most clients want us to selectively identify and surgically recruit top-tier, highly-valued executives from the ranks of one of the best companies, often their chief competitors.
We find that many clients try to obviate this “off limits” problem by turning to smaller and typically more specialized Boutique firms that have demonstrated “success” in recruiting top-tier candidates in the company’s niche …..however, as Boutique firms grow and demonstrate success in a particular industry niche, the same “hands off” problem emerges and, as a result, the more “successful” and larger boutique firms end up having limited access to the desired talent pool. At The Carter Group our pledge and commitment is to limit the number of clients in a given industry niche so that you are guaranteed access to 95% or more of the talent pool. Furthermore, we pledge to limit the number of search assignments we perform at given time so that your work will receive the focus and attention it requires.
During this critical phase early in the search process of engaging the top-tier candidates, our experience is that most Senior executive Search Partners or the person that the Client company hires to conduct the search, oftentimes is not the one who actually engages the candidate(s). We find that the Senior Partner or Principal usually focuses his/her time on either the front-end of a search or in closing the search and usually delegates the activity of contacting and engaging potential candidates to more junior recruiters or other less senior members of their team. We find that “who” makes contact with a very busy, top-tier candidate initially and “what” they say, how they describe your opportunity and company, handle objections, as well as forming the initial impressions are items of paramount importance in the search process. We have found that once an initial, negative impression has been made by a candidate, it is definitely a hard, uphill battle to change them. Therefore, the Principals of The Carter Group do not delegate this critical stage or any other key activities to other people. Also, in contrast to many recruiters and search professionals, the Principals of TCG attend many of the professional congresses and meetings within the Life Sciences Industry. We find that this focus and time truly spent “living within our industry” facilitates our recruitment process in many ways. Although for most search assignments, the TCG Principals will typically contact literally hundreds of candidates during the candidate identification and engagement phase; however, our process is facilitated due to our name and familiarity in the industry. For example, we often find that the best candidates come from referrals by colleagues in the industry who know us and refer those colleagues whom they feel would represent an excellent match for the opportunity.
Apply Dimensional Search®: We believe that Process is of paramount importance in ensuring consistency, thoroughness/rigor and that we present candidates who are truly top tier and who meet/exceed our Clients’ expectations. As described above in Diagram #1, the Principals consistently and constantly assess each and every candidate’s experience, skillsets, cultural fit, demeanor, and other attributes from the very first interface and throughout the entire time frame versus the needs and requirements established by our Client and via our Proprietary Dimensional Search ® process. Prior to the presentation of candidates, one or more of The Carter Group Principals either meets a candidate in person or via video; this way, we ensure that candidates are assessed visually prior to presentation.
Presentation of Candidates: As described in the Timeline (below), we schedule and target a call or meeting with our Client, an initial Calibration Call Slate of candidates to ensure that we are “on the right track”. This is because, no matter how “perfect” the communications and information appear to have been up to that point, we have found it important to “test the hypothesis” by presenting “real” candidates (along with their resumes and other pertinent information) as early in the process as possible. Bottomline, we need to ensure that the Calibration Slate is in actual alignment with the Clients’ expectations (versus the traditional approach of presenting the initial slate of candidates 4-6 weeks after initiation). Since we are a specialized, “boutique” firm that is “laser-focused” and that knows our industry, we can present top-tier candidates in such a relatively short time-frame. In fact, we find that in over one-half of our search engagements the candidate who is ultimately hired was presented on this initial Calibration Call Slate. If there are any “tweaks” or adjustments we need to make to the Position Profile or in other aspects associated with the search, we can do so at this time without unduly delaying the timeline. If there are one or more of the Calibration Slate of candidates who represent an excellent match and the Client wants to interview them, we will work with the relevant parties to schedule the Client – Candidate Interviews. In parallel, we will continue to engage and assess additional candidates and in 2-4 weeks post the Calibration Call, we present the Final Slate of Candidates for consideration (therefore, Presentation of Candidates is actually a two-step process).
Interview Process and Debrief: Prior to presenting candidates to Clients, our Principals assess not only if the candidate is a good match for the opportunity, but also the candidate’s motivation for making a change and if the candidate is genuinely interested in the opportunity. After we present the candidate to the client for consideration, we believe in “sweating the details” with regard to the candidate trip, logistics and other related details before, during and after client-candidate interviews. We are trained to sense any “red flags” that might occur during the candidate recruitment process and, not only inform clients of such issues, but work with client and candidate (if possible) to resolve them expeditiously. Prior and Post each and every interview we have a debrief with both Candidate and Client. This way we ensure that we manage expectations and determine if there are any misunderstandings or disconnects along the way and expeditiously resolve them.
Test and Present Offer: After many weeks of hard work, a top candidate is selected and an offer going to be made; however, in the war for top-tier talent, “A Players” typically have several career pathway alternatives, including possibly staying with their current employer. In fact, for some niches where candidates are in big demand, it is not uncommon for a candidate to be considering multiple offers – some will share with us their other options, but others will “keep their cards close to their vest”. Therefore, it is imperative that the Client and search firm work together to ensure that not only offer is presented effectively (and successfully), as well as having proper contingency plans in place and clearly defining the next steps. The Principals at TCG over the past 20+ years have partnered with Client companies to place literally hundreds of candidates in the Life Sciences Industry. We have worked with a wide variety of companies and cultures, ranging from start- ups and Pre-IPO opportunities (i.e., with more money than people!) to well-established multinational corporations with tens of thousands of employees. Therefore, we have a wealth of experience at your disposal and we are committed and are in alignment with your goal to find the best possible match for your position, as well as have a happy, placed executive who thrives in the position and company.
During the many days we interface with the “lead candidate”, it is important for us to test – on an ongoing basis – the candidate regarding their motivations for making a change, their commitment to making a change, expectations, etc., as well as ask, repeatedly, “has anything changed since we last chatted”? Likewise, we work with the Client to ensure that there are one or more contingency candidates or plans available and ensure that we keep all “back up” candidates engaged, interested, and prepared to receive an offer, should things with the “lead candidate” not lead to a successful outcome.
When is an offer is ready to be made to a candidate, there should not be a large expectations gap. Normally, the offer is reviewed between Client and TCG principal, so that if we sense there could be any discrepancies or disparities, we will sort them out prior to formal presentation of an offer. We present the offer – either in full or parts – to ensure there are no major disconnects or gaps. Once we have confidence that a formal offer (in writing) from the Client will be accepted, we will recommend sending the offer to the candidate’s review and acceptance. During this sensitive and tenuous phase, we are in frequent contact with candidate and client so that any issue or concerns can be swiftly and delicately managed. We also provide guidance to the candidate (as well as Client) regarding counter-offers, start-dates, onboarding, resignation letters and many other critical elements of the final stages of the search.
Again, the Principals at The Carter Group do not delegate any of these critical interactions and activities to others…..
Reference/Background Checks and Post Placement: We establish with the Client the defined process with respect to the details and timing required for reference and background checks. Normally, one or both Principals are involved with conducting the reference checks and a written report is prepared by our office and provided to our Client. We also provide guidance with respect to other issues involved with the hiring process, such as other background checks (sources, which checks are appropriate, etc.), relocation-related issues (particularly our experience with relocation policies and practices for companies of all sizes), onboarding guidance, etc
Resignation Consultation: Resignation can be a very stressful and harrowing experience for candidates. It is important that we coach and work with the candidate during this delicate period, especially since current employer counter-offers are commonplace in this “candidate driven” environment.
Post-Placement Follow Up: Prior to the candidate’s start date, during the early phase of employment, and for months after the candidate’s date of hire, we find that it is important to follow-up with both the Client and the placed Candidate to ensure that things are progressing satisfactorily. It is important that an effective on-boarding program be established with the client and that if any “issues” surface, that they be dealt with swiftly.
Regretting/Releasing Other Candidates: we recommend that there always be contingency plans in place for any and all search engagements. At the appropriate time, The Carter Group will notify any and all other candidates who were in consideration for the Position – on behalf of the Client Company and our firm – and, thank them for their interest, as well as tactfully and sensitively let them know that the position has been filled.
As indicated in our Timeline diagram (above), the time from the initiation of a search engagement is typically 90 days or 12 weeks from our Start Date (or “SD”) to the time an offer is made and accepted by a candidate. This aggressive timeline can only be achieved if there is a true partnership between Client Company and The Carter Group. The Three C’s: Commitment, Candor and Communication must be in place throughout: we all must be committed to the same goals and outcome; there must be complete candor with respect to the position, potential challenges/issues, as well as feedback and concerns need to be directly addressed; and communications between the hiring executive and Principal must be unfiltered and ongoing. Furthermore, assuming there is a true Partnership and the other caveats are in place, since the Principals at The Carter Group do not delegate important Client-candidate steps to others, we achieve the following milestones in the time indicated on the Milestones Diagram:
-First 2 Two Weeks: Creation and approval of Position Profile and other key Recruitment tools/documents; initiation of targeted research of our databases; initiation of calls to candidates and referral sources.
-Two-Four Weeks: “Calibration Call” with Calibration Candidates; Identify Potential Candidates and Action items from Calibration Call; Make Modifications (if necessary) to Search Approach and/or Documentation; Continue to contact and Assess Candidates; Carter Group meets Candidates face-to-face.
-Four-Six Weeks: Present Final Slate of Candidates; Client screens selected candidates; Select Finalist Candidates; Schedule and Prepare for Onsite Interviews.
-Six-Eight Weeks: Client-Candidate interviews (continued); Lead Candidate(s) Identified; Contingency Plans established; Second Round of interviews for Lead Candidate(s)
-Eight Weeks+: Review Potential Offer (Consultant and Company); Test Verbal Offer with Lead Candidate; Obtain References; Make Formal Offer (Client to Candidate); Offer Acceptance; Reference and Background Checks; Continuous Contact with Client & Candidate; Keep Contingencies in Play; Lead Candidate Acceptance – establish Start Date, etc; Regret/Release Other Candidates; Transition Coaching; Continuous Contact with Client & Candidate before Date of Hire; Follow Up with Client and Candidate periodically post placement.
There is not only a War for Top-Tier Talent, but the cost of not hiring the “right” fit can cost a Company or Program substantial delays in commercializing a blockbuster compound or in missed opportunity costs or have other substantial, financial repercussions….do you want to engage the Principals at The Carter Group for that Critical, Next Hire or do you want to go with another alternative?