Answer: I think too many senior comms executives fail to involve themselves in the process of evaluating and selecting search firms. Ask to be part of the conversation at your company since search firms are different and have different strengths. Make recommendations to the decision-makers (most likely in HR) based on your experience working with search organizations.
Remember, your company is being represented by the search firm and its staff. If a candidate is treated casually or unprofessionally, it reflects on your organization.
To avoid problems, ask for references about the search firm from their clients and candidates. Ask those references about the recruiter’s ability to communicate regularly and be an effective manager of the search process. How timely were they, for example?
Also, does the search firm have a mission statement that talks about its values and how they respect and treat people they recruit? Describe your expectations about how you want the search firm to perform. These are in addition to the normal requests that HR makes when they check search firm references (if they even do that.)
Does your company have a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) policy? Does the search firm have one? What is their approach to presenting candidates from diverse backgrounds? (if that is a consideration) If the company is focusing on D&I hires, is your search firm diverse?
If you are being recruited by a search firm, ask if this is a fully retained search and ask what the recruiter’s role has been, when the search started and how long it has been underway. Has the recruiter or the firm consulted with the hiring organization to create the job description? What does the recruiter know about the history of the job? The Company?
What steps are involved in the search process? How many candidates will be interviewed for the first round? Second round? Is there a timetable? What is the recruiter’s expectations about staying in touch and updating you about how the search is proceeding? If the recruiter becomes impatient or the answers are unacceptable, do not become a candidate.
Be clear that you expect to be authorizing searches and at that point you would be recommending firms to HR that you have worked with previously. Since you want your organization to be respected for hiring a reputable search firm that reflects well on the company, you are looking forward to working collaboratively with this search firm.
I think that recruiting firms should be held to a high-performance standard and there is no reason to accept disrespectful or discourteous treatment. Let’s not forget recruiters are working with professionals, asking them to take risks and make critical decisions that affect their lives and their families.
By indicating there will be consequences to poor treatment, communications executives should be able to change unacceptable behaviors. Make it a top priority to select search firms that treat candidates with respect. The advice to accept the status quo and disrespectful treatment is wrong. The fact that communications leaders fail to demand the treatment they deserve casts doubt on their ability to counsel their clients about strategy and leadership. Let’s fix this.
Here is a link to my Values Statement. http://www.jc-a.com/our-values/