5 Key Milestones In The Executive Search Process

When imagining who to hire next, most businesses paint their ideal candidate with broad brushstrokes, often envisioning a multi-talented applicant, with proficiencies across numerous disciplines, who will address all the enterprise’s issues with ease. If that weren’t enough, it’s often expected that their search will be fulfilled in four to eight weeks.

While it’s fair to have high expectations, it pays to be realistic as well; finding a master of all trades is nearly impossible. For that reason, we’ve developed a highly efficient approach to executive search that begins by distilling an organization’s vision for their new executive into its essence. After that, we engage in rigorous research, in-depth interviews, and extensive onboarding to refine that essence into reality. The following are the major milestones to hit in order to ensure a successful search process.

1. Learning & Evaluation

Instead of diving into hiring headfirst, it’s important to begin by spending time getting to know the organization and industry. Details such as how a company’s reporting structure works, if they follow industry trends, and how they initiate employee education are all extremely important in understanding how an organization operates. Other key factors to establish are the morale of the company, how it carries out its mission, and the styles of communication it uses to do so.

All the data collected through this investigation is then used to map the exact specifications for the position. After that, realistic metrics and milestones are determined to measure a new hire’s success up to three years after onboarding them. Through this refinement of the job description, the future strategy of a company and the anticipated executive’s performance objectives can be shaped with far greater precision.

Additionally, it’s important to conduct interviews with the key constituents in the search process to make sure they are committed to in-depth interviews with numerous potential candidates.

2. Research & Identification

In the next phase, research is conducted to assess prospective candidates. Through this process, more knowledge is gained on market conditions and trends. Through these new insights, the job description and qualifications are further refined to more accurately attract the best talent in a given industry.

3. Pre-Qualifications

After identifying potential candidates, it’s important to conduct a deep dive into their backgrounds to determine their skill levels and achievements, as well as their leadership style, drive, initiatives, and overall character. These details are all paramount because cultural fit is just as important as experiential match to ensure the long-term success of a hire. Through this deep-dive, a comprehensive overview of each candidate is prepared.

4. Presentation & Interview

Next, the ideal applicants are brought in for an extensive interview process, generally consisting of two to four meetings. Here, transparent information is exchanged between the company and applicant. It’s important to convey key information about the organization such as its culture, management team, current financial condition and objectives, and the strategy for the new role. Further, it’s expected that the applicant is open and honest about his or her core competencies as well.

Choosing the candidate who the interviewers personally like, rather than the one who is objectively the best fit for the role, is a costly mistake many organizations make. For that reason, throughout these meetings, it’s helpful to ask the same questions to every applicant and to keep a scorecard on each of them to easily organize your assessments.

Negotiate Executive Compensation Early

Rather than waiting until the end of the hiring process to begin negotiating a working relationship, it’s important to start early in the interview process. Touching on a candidate’s expectations for their personal life, professional life, and financial compensation will make the formal negotiation process easier later on.

Executive compensation is crucial to address early because many top candidates will only change jobs if offered a substantially higher salary. Most companies have a relatively fixed compensation structure, which can slow down the search process if not disclosed early on. For that reason, it’s important to identify any conflicts early on to avoid wasting valuable time.

5. Placement & Onboarding

After the finalists are selected and the initial compensation structure is mutually agreed upon, professional references, financial, education, and criminal background checks are conducted to put the finishing touch on the evaluation process. After this, the ideal candidate can be determined and formal terms of an offer detailing compensation, financial incentives, relocation, and key performance objectives for success in the first 18 months of employment will be provided.

Through careful onboarding, retention is significantly increased. In this process, extensive introductions and education must be conducted to bring the new hire up to speed. In this final phase, executives will be tracked for up to eighteen months to ensure their progress and valuable contribution.


Overall, the executive search process typically takes around four to five months to complete. While this may not be the ideal timeframe that an organization desires, staying practical is the best way to avoid mistakes and to ensure future success. If you take time to pragmatically approach the search process, your new executive will lead you to success in no time.

For more information, read our ultimate guide to recruiting and hiring top executives.

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