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Choosing a Search Firm

Choosing a Search Firm

The industry is changing, and many of us are looking ahead and thinking about who we need to add to our teams to facilitate positive change within our respective companies. This was made clear when our team recently completed a call with a seasoned produce industry veteran who stressed the importance of surrounding themselves with great people. 

This story is about selecting the right search partner, and I’ll get to that below. But, first, I think it’s important to ask, “Why even use a recruiter?”

One of the aspects of providing search services I enjoy is speaking with produce companies, like yours, about your hiring and growth strategies. A common theme in these conversations is how challenging it can be to find and attract exceptional candidates in a timely manner, who fit their team, within the industry and outside of it. Despite unemployment rates rising over the past year in various sectors, experienced produce industry professionals remain in short supply. Those who fit your company culture are an even smaller subset.

For some companies, these are the times when they consider utilizing the services of an executive search firm. However, there is much to consider and research.

Here are some reasons why your company should consider a search firm:

Matchmaking
Much like choosing tailored versus off-the-rack, a good search firm will identify and attract candidates to fit your company and the role. In many cases, these are “passive candidates” who are not actively in the market, yet are interested in quietly exploring the next step in their careers.

Connections
Professional search firms have a wide network. We are talking to people all day, every day, and conducting several interviews each week. We are involved in the industries in which we work, staying up to date on trends and people.

Targeted Recruiting
If you want to recruit top talent from another company, perhaps a friendly competitor, without “upsetting the apple cart,” the confidentiality with which a professional search firm operates helps. 

Hiring Experts
Beyond “source, attract, engage, introduce,” a well-trained executive search consultant will guide you through the rigorous process of hiring the best person for your job, company, and culture.

Experience
Search consultants are professionals that have time and experience under their belts, including evaluating many successes and mistakes in the hiring process. Because of this, they can proactively address challenges both before and after they occur. They usually have a proven process that is constantly being refined to provide clients with exactly what they need. 

Time and Resource Savings
Hiring great people takes time—in fact, it is a full-time job. Do not be fooled by a firm that sells speed over quality. Your search firm should be working for you with urgency and efficiency, limiting the resources you need to tap into within your organization.

Choosing Your Search Firm:
A checklist and guide for decision-makers who are considering engaging a search firm.

Professional specialty, such as fresh produce

Level of positions the firm typically manages (mid-level, senior-level, C-level)

Average length of time to present the final candidates

“Off-limits” restrictions: a reputable firm will never recruit away the candidate they placed with a client organization and will not approach other individuals within that organization for at least one year after placing the last executive

 

Important Factors to Consider:
Listen carefully. What is their approach and process? Do they understand your business, culture, and needs? Do their priorities align with yours? 

Who does the work? Are experienced search consultants involved throughout the search, or is the work done by junior associates?

How many assignments is every search consultant currently managing?

Is the research done in-house or outsourced? 

What is the firm’s vetting and reference-checking process?
 

Let’s talk about the “elephant in the room”—paying a recruiter to help you fill a job is not cheap. And we’ll certainly be the first to tell you that not all roles deserve that level of investment and/or resource allocation. But, some do! The ROI needs to be evident.

Like most investments, you need to weigh the level of investment versus, in this case, the expense of not filling the role, or worse, filling it with the wrong person. Both may be costly. And if either expense exceeds the price of hiring a search firm, then perhaps you’re ready to take the next step.


Before you go too far down the path, remember: A good firm will take the time to get to know your business, understand your culture, and evaluate your needs to ensure that it makes sense for you to hire them. If they aren’t asking questions, beware. If they are selling more than listening, this could be a sign.

You should be ready to invest time in the process to ensure a successful search and hire. There are easily definable details to look for as you consider which firm to engage, as listed above. Besides what’s noted on the checklist, I recommend that, first and foremost, you trust your instincts.

Ask yourself: Is this someone I can trust? Am I willing to share confidential information with them? Are they someone I’m comfortable working closely with? Do I feel comfortable having them represent myself and my company in the market?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, I would recommend reevaluating the firm. 

As recruiters, we talk and think about “fit” all the time. With that said, the “first fit” needs to be between the employer and the search firm.

Call us anytime to discuss your needs and objectives, and how we might fit. 

Contributing Author

Senior Director, Joe Produce Search℠. Julie leads the Joe Produce Search℠ team, leveraging more than 20 years of experience in executive search. Produce is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. Once you “check the boxes” on skills and experience, the real job becomes matching the people with the culture of the business and leadership. This takes time, expertise, and a robust process Julie and the Joe Produce Search℠ team know well. Joe Produce Search℠ is composed of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Placements range from middle management to C-level positions throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses.