Adding Value: The Many Roles of an Executive Search Consultant

Most executives know what search consultants do. In short, we find candidates with the best mix of skills,
experience, vision, and character to help our clients meet their leadership needs. We identify executives that
clients may not have known about, or may not have considered for top positions, and shepherd the entire
recruitment process.
But for us to successfully complete a search engagement, and place the right leader into the right position in
the right organization, our job must extend well beyond the basic “search” activities of interviewing, vetting,
developing, and presenting candidates. A day in the life of a search consultant calls for us to play many other
roles, all of which help us to help our clients. These roles include:
1. Advisor
Clients often call, sometimes well after traditional business hours, just to talk about the challenges they face
within their organizations or industries. To be effective in executive searches, search consultants need to
stay on top of what is going on in our focus industries, and carefully monitor market trends and regulatory
changes. We are happy to talk with clients about what we see happening, and share how that relates to their
organizations, whether it is regarding a specific open search or more broadly to their market strategy or plans
for growth or change.
2. Confidant
Clients often bounce ideas off us—needing a sounding board for tactics or decisions they aren’t ready to share
formally or execute in their workplace. Sometimes they simply need to vent. We welcome these conversations
and the trust they inspire. When a client trusts us enough to share new ideas, frustrations, or concerns, it
helps us do our job better. The more we know about a client, the better our ability to recruit the best possible
3. Industry Expert
A professional search firm is uniquely positioned to garner insights into the industries we serve. For example,
through Witt/Kieffer’s search work with hospitals and health systems across the country, our involvement in
industry associations, and our ongoing research about the marketplace and industry trends, we have the ability
to support our clients from a position of healthcare industry knowledge as well as experience. While we don’t 
claim to be the ultimate experts in population health or patient experience, we know these experts when we
see them, and whether they’re right for given positions.
4. Job Market Expert
Search experience constantly informs us about the current job market and what it will take to attract a certain
caliber of candidate to accept an offer. Before a search begins, a search consultant can offer insight on the
challenges to the search — a location that might be less than desirable to candidates, a job description that
may need to be refined to be more attractive or competitive, or a position title or reporting structure that may
need to be tweaked. As search professionals we also know what level of compensation — both salary and
incentive — it will take to secure the right candidate.
5. Mediator
Negotiations between a client and a candidate are never cut and dry. The search consultant will serve as an
intermediary to help keep the conversation constructive and on track. We can help to ensure a successful
transition from candidate to team member.
6. Advocate
As search consultants, we advocate strongly on our client’s behalf throughout the search process, doing
everything we can to persuade the best candidates to carefully consider an opportunity if we believe they
are fit for the position. Often, engaging a well-respected national search firm demonstrates to potential
candidates the importance of the position, and confirms that our client is taking the search seriously by
taking a professional and strategic approach.
Search consultants wear many hats. Playing multiple roles is what allows us to do our best work for clients and
help our clients secure the leadership talent they seek. This scope of expertise and support is the “value add” of
engaging an executive search firm.


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