Can Your Search Firm Handle Your Security Management Position?
Can Your Executive Search Firm Handle Your Security Management Position?
By David Lammert – Pinnacle Placements | January 19th, 2021
When interviewing and evaluating executive search firms for a senior-level Security Management role in your organization, let well-informed intuition be your guide. Start with the questions.
Even before being engaged, the initial questions that a search firm asks—about the role to be filled, your organizations’ culture, your goals, —should display a seasoned and impressive grasp of the security industry and the type of role you are seeking to fill. Ideally, your recruiting firm should have a command of business, your marketplace, and the functionality of the security role. Later, the recruiter will need to leverage that knowledge to explain the role, color it in with context, and present it to qualified and targeted candidates.
Who is Actually Conducting Your Search Within the Recruiting Firm
On many occasions, I have been told about search firms using a senior partner to sell an employer on their search firms’ capacity, capabilities, and accomplishments but once the deal is signed, they move on to the next opportunity to secure business. Unless you are a high-volume client, you most likely will not hear from them again until the final candidate is hired. It is critical that the partner selling the search be intimately involved in each step of the process because the experience is critical when identifying the ideal candidate pool for your position.
When the most crucial search process steps are passed down to junior associates and analysts, the effort to find the right talent and fill your security role will suffer. The individuals now conducting the most important elements of the search process most likely, do not know you or your culture, and without being involved in developing the initial candidate search profile, will have a tougher time identifying and recognizing the ideal candidate. Ask to meet who will be doing the search work – interviewing and assessing candidates, conducting reference checks, etc. Unless the search partner has the requisite experience to know what top talent in the security industry looks like, it’s unlikely you’ll be pleased with the candidates they choose to present for your consideration.
As a recruiter who enjoys the search process, I choose to take on fewer assignments to spend more time with our candidates and clients. This way, I can take the time needed to perform needed due diligence, develop the candidate profile, travel to the client, talk to their team in person, see the atmosphere of their organization and get a feel of their culture by spending a few days at their office with the key people involved.
Is the Search Firm Agile – Do They Understand the Nuances of Security Professionals Backgrounds
Every security search engagement is unique and the drivers behind each role are quite different. Committing the time to fully understand the hiring manager’s objectives and aligning that with the right culture and candidate qualifications can’t be rushed and should be a mutually beneficial process for everyone involved.
Keep your expectations high. The discovery process is a chance for your recruiter to shine, to prove the depth—not just of their database, but of their expertise in identifying and presenting qualified candidates with the right security expertise, background, and skills. It’s an opportunity for your recruiter to show you how they would engage with a potential candidate, and whether they would showcase your organization appealingly and compellingly.
Both Physical and Information Security roles across industries have become quite complex and varied, constantly evolving as the world changes, threats increase and digital transformation marches ahead. Dynamics shift, corporate cultures differ, new needs arise, and requirements or scope of positions in security transform between global, regional, and country-wide organizations.
Is the search firm you are looking to partner with aware of all these factors and differences among security professionals? Are they a full-service search firm offering tailored and adaptable talent acquisition solutions, that consistently recruit top-level personnel for roles including Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Director of Security, Security Manager, and other key corporate security, cybersecurity and risk management roles? Or are they a large firm with generalist recruiters, big quotas, service fees, and administrative charges tacked on to your recruiting fee?
In the competitive hiring environment today, it is critical to hire a recruiter with experience in security recruiting because it ensures they have the expertise needed to understand candidates’ varying qualifications. It also means they’re more likely to have the connections needed to uncover the best candidates. We’ve found that candidates are more likely to take our calls when they’ve met us heard of us or know us from various security industry events and conferences.
The larger the recruiting firm the more clients they need and therefore more passive candidates are “off-limits” as reputable executive search firms will not recruit from their client’s employee base. Before you engage a firm on your critical security role, take the time to understand who their other clients are in the industry similar to yours. Take note of the key competitors and possible targets for your next key security employee to see where there may be a conflict. These possible conflicts will limit their ability to get you access to the absolute best talent. If they claim to not have any client restrictions – beware…they are likely unethical in which case your organization could be their next source for future candidates.
Ensuring Success After Hire
With employee turnover rates already high, the post-COVID-19 landscape is expected to drive these numbers even higher. Research suggests that more needs to be done to help ensure the new hire makes a successful transition from candidate to a fully integrated member of their team and the organization. A proactive follow-up approach by a search firm can dramatically increase the likelihood of a successful transition. It also strengthens the relationship between the company and the search firm, and it maximizes the ROI for both parties.
The best search firms don’t see the end of the engagement as acceptance of an offer by their candidate, but instead when the new employee is fully assimilated and performing at a high rate. “Whether you prefer to manage the on-boarding process internally or are open to external support, leveraging the best practices of a search firm with a proven track record of successful placements and transitions is another critically important factor in selecting the right search firm.
If you find a recruiter who can handle the job, go with your instincts. Don’t just hire them—keep them as an ongoing partner. The right search partner will invest in becoming a true extension of your company. This means both investing the time getting to get to know your business, values, and future strategy, as well as conducting a thorough and efficient search process that cultivates an engaged slate of qualified and interested candidates.
During our 17 years of conducting security management and leadership searches at Pinnacle Placements, we have found the most successful searches are forward-looking, process-driven, and led by senior recruiters who have years of experience in competency-based assessments and a network of trusted professionals to thoroughly reference all candidates presented.
We invite you to share your own advice and experiences with selecting or hiring a recruiting firm.