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Three ways Research Can Improve Your Executive Search

June 11th, 2019 - Posted by Megan Burnside in Information Trends

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The role of chief executive—whether that’s a president, CEO, managing director or some other title—is critical to the success of any organisation. That’s why, when the position becomes vacant, such careful attention must be placed on sourcing new candidates. A new chief executive will have a profound effect (both negative or positive) on employees, customers and partners of the organisation, leaving little room for error in the search process.

Sourcing and selecting a new executive is unlike filling any other position, requiring far more effort than putting up a “Help Wanted” sign and hoping for the best. Finding the next organisational leader requires careful planning and thoughtful research and demands a certain level of outside-the-box thinking to get the clearest picture of executive candidates.


1. Look Beyond A Candidate’s Resume

A resume is a great tool for understanding what a candidate views as the highlights of their career, but selecting a future organisational leader requires a more in-depth understanding of their accomplishments. Seeking out interviews with or media coverage featuring the candidate, as well as biographies previously published on corporate or trade show websites can help provide a more nuanced view of their leadership style and potential impact. It can also offer a birds-eye view of their career’s narrative context and a timeline for professional progression.

2. Take a Peek at How Others See a Potential Executive Candidate

Any interview process—but especially those for high-level positions—can be a delicate dance. Both sides approach interviews with caution and take extraordinary steps to ensure the best impression. Thankfully, exploring the views of professionals who have interacted with your candidate outside of the recruitment process can help supplement the inherit shortcomings of interviews and provide a more realistic view of their day-to-day management style.

Reference calls and letters of recommendation have traditionally been used to fulfill this goal, but 21st century technology brings added depth to the process. Expanded sources that might offer a more authentic view of a potential recruit include past media coverage, social media comments and mentions, trade journals, professional forums and—for certain professions—review websites.

3. Consider Non-Workplace Activities

A new executive won’t just oversee the operations of an organisation. They will be its primary public face and guiding force of internal culture. If a candidate won’t be the best ambassador for the organisation or appropriately embody its vision and ideals, no amount of technical competence will make them the right fit for the job.

Researching some of these interpersonal qualities will often rely on person-to-person interaction, but the right vetting can help eliminate ill-fitting candidates from a short list before interviews begin. Look into a candidate’s activities outside the workplace to better understand their values. Volunteer activities, memberships with networking organisations, political donations and positions on corporate or nonprofit boards of directors can all help establish a clearer picture of a candidate as a person, not just an employee.

BONUS TIP: The Right Tool Brings Your Candidate Research into A Single Platform

There are many places to look when trying to research potential executive candidates: current company websites, professional organisations, press clippings, social media and more. Unfortunately, the scope of executive searches makes these types of manual, piecemeal research methods cumbersome.

Dedicated research platforms, like Nexis, bring all the relevant sources together. Instead of multiple searches across dozens of sources, candidate research can be compiled into a single page with an interactive and self-updating dashboard displaying the information most relevant to your goals.

Read more about media monitoring, media relations and how to launch a successful global media PR campaign here.

What do you think?