What is a Search Associate?

QUESTION: I am doing my hiring plan for the next year and have heard you mention the role of search associate before. Can you explain that a bit more? – Jeffrey

ANSWER: Absolutely. This is a phenomenal role, especially in the economy we are in right now where openings are pretty plentiful. I am not sure if you are planning on hiring from a position where you are a solo or if you planning from a position of already having other recruiters. Search associate works for both and is actually fantastic for a solo operator who might want just to have a little bit more leverage than him or herself.  

I spend a couple hours training on this in our 2-day recruiting intensives and in our Platinum program, do know that I am conscious that I am sharing an edited version of that training.  

The role of search associate is basically the springboard into the career of executive recruiting. Because in the old model that most of us were taught and a lot of you may have even come out of was having to hire 7 to 10 recruiters to keep 1. I think I was hiring 8 or 9 people in that old model to keep 1. It is so demotivating that most people stop hiring and that is why I think most recruiting firms are either solo operations or they are a matter of 1 or 2 recruiters. When you look at other professional service firms, i.e. accounting, law firms, and consulting companies, that is not the case. There are a large number of boutiques in each one of those, but it seems like those other firms have a lot more ability to scale.  

I had given up and abandoned the idea of ever hiring recruiters because I was so horrible at managing back in the early to mid 90s. The only reason I ended up hiring was I had a couple of companies wanting to hire in bunches and I just had to throw bodies at the recruit function. I did this completely wrong, but I refined it over the next few years.  This role, Search Associate, emerged out of that.

This is how I would bring on a Search Associate. I would put the person through a training process and the goal of that training process is to recruit candidates for openings I already had fee agreements. We found out what the candidate was thinking and where they were in the career. I had a very specific set of diagnostic questions, so that the Search Associate, could determine if the person was going to make a move or not. Then we would have some questions based on, which you probably have, how to take a complete assessment.  

Do not have them present companies and opportunities because then the whole dialog in their 1st week, 2nd week, 3rd week is going to be about the opportunity and they are not going to be qualified to tackle that quickly and think quickly on their feet. The response when my people did a general recruit call was – I work for our managing director, Mike Gionta. We have a number of assignments in the greater Chicago area. I have no idea what your needs are and what direction you seek is, but if you were ever to change jobs or move careers what would that look like for you?

In the first 30 or 60 days, if they were good for the assignment, I would do a 5 or 10 minute conversation when I would dot the i’s and cross the t’s with them, listening to my conversation with them, and then I would tell them I am going to submit this person or I am not going to submit this person and why I was or was not.  

To summarize the steps, train the Search Associate for a day and day and a half on basic 101 recruiting training. Have the Search Associate probe into what the candidate’s successes were, what their background was, their compensation, and things like that, and then the next day, me and that Search Associate having a dialog around them. That provides also the opportunity to do really good daily coaching with people. I found that heightened sense of interaction with them increased their success and the retention rate significantly. 

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