The Importance of Candidate Research in Executive Recruiting

By David E. Perry, Mark J. Haluska

Research is often laborious — even tedious. But it’s through research — and only through research — that you can tightly target your prospects. Research lets you hone your message and deliver it to exactly the right person. And, thanks to research, you can speak knowledgeably about that person, his industries, and his challenges, enabling you to emphasize the positive aspects of your opportunity.

In this way, you develop a relationship with the prospect. You become a trusted advisor — someone he’ll happily refer to others.

Suppose you wanted to take a dream vacation. You wouldn’t just walk into a busy airport, amble up to the counter, and say, “I want to go on my dream vacation. Could I have a ticket please?” If you did, you’d likely wind up with nothing more than a baffled stare from the ticket agent (and maybe a cavity search by the TSA). No, instead, you would think about what kind of trip you wanted to take — a beach trip, a mountain vacation, a visit to a big city — and then do a bit of research to decide where to go. Well, recruiting top executives is a lot like taking a dream vacation. You don’t just buy a ticket and hope it all works out. You need to do a bit of research first.

In-depth research may be time-consuming upfront. But in the end, this level of research will save you time. Why? Because in addition to helping you identify qualified candidates, research helps you to weed out unqualified ones — before you waste precious hours interviewing them. (As an added bonus, this also helps you limit the number of people who know you’re hiring, which helps you maintain a higher level of confidentiality.)

Look, hope is all well and good. But it’s so unpredictable! You need a more reliable way to efficiently and effectively find just the right person for the job — and research is the only way to achieve that. Like time-management guru Alan Lakein says, “Planning is about bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

When an executive recruiting effort fails, it’s usually because of a lack of good research. No question, good research gives you the ultimate competitive advantage!