What to Consider When Hiring a Security Management Recruiting Firm

When talking to people about my work as a Security Management Recruiter they tend to glamorize my job and often I feel as though I have to point out the less glamorous parts of the role that tend to make up the bulk of the day-to-day activities of what I do. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job in spite of the fact that recruiting has many challenges.  The most common question I am asked by potential clients is “How many CSO (or fill in the blank for the security role) searches have you conducted?” I get the idea that the number of searches conducted for a particular position has some relevance. However, there are far superior ways to determine the effectiveness of a security search firm, and to ensure you are working with the very best.

The vast majority of the recruiters that I know who recruit for the security industry didn’t begin their careers intending to become a security recruiter. Colleges don’t offer a major in recruiting, and executive recruiting is often seen as an end of career or mid-career move rather than a career path to another position. Recruiters, as individuals, tend to fly under the radar acting somewhat anonymously and are frequently referred to by our firms rather than as individuals. You see this in media releases which report that “Pinnacle Placements conducted our CSO search” instead of “David Lammert conducted our CSO search” So, you might ask, given this typical level of anonymity, what individual qualities separate superstar executive recruiters from the others that they compete with?

1. Meaningful Business Experience. An effective recruiting partner is far more than an order taker for your firms hiring needs. The best have a varied business background with a rich history of working with a wide variety of people in different settings. This experience often translates to them being able to determine a good fit for their clientele. It is important to understand how businesses function and how various security management positions interact within an organization so that you can ask the right questions. Also, having a long career in security does not mean an individual will be a good recruiting consultant for you. In fact the opposite may be true. They may bring preconceived notions to the process or their industry relationships may not allow them access to the broadest talent pool.

You would do well to seek a security search consultant with experience recruiting many different types of security management roles. A recruiter with experience recruiting in corporate security, information security, electronic and contract security and not just corporate security for example, gives them access across a wide range of industries to identify and attract top security professionals to your organization. Avoid firms or recruiters operating in silos.

2. A True Understanding of Customer Service. All recruiting firms tell you that they offer excellent customer service; however, many lack a full commitment to it. Most searches require hundreds of calls, hours and hours of time, research and preparation, networking, and meetings to find top-level candidates. The very best recruiters know to keep grinding ahead on the tough, seemingly impossible searches because they are ultimately focused on the long term relationship and not the short-term potential. A couple of years ago a friend of mine who owns his own search firm conducted a public search for a top management executive in his area of expertise. The company’s management changed its mind several times and my friend and his firm accommodated the requests and various changes to the position requirements and job description. I recall from our discussions that he considered telling his client that the search called for a new contract (and increased fees) because of the changes. In doing so, he would have been within his rights. However, he knew if he stayed focused on the needs of the client, it would all take care of itself. In the end it worked out that way, as he has since conducted several searches to help the new CEO develop more talent on his team.

3. Oral and Written Communication skills. This may sound cliché; however, it cannot be overlooked in recruiters. Your recruiter must be able to communicate with you and potential candidates. The recruiter needs to be effective communicating in all mediums. Perhaps most importantly, the recruiter must communicate with employers and candidates in their preferred style and be able to recognize these. A successful recruiter must be able to tell a client articulately in writing the strengths and weaknesses of candidates and provide a persuasive assessment of why they should be considered as a viable option. Verbal communication is equally important. Successful search consultants realize that it is better to over communicate than under communicate and that if a hiring manager phones to inquire about how the search is progressing, the executive recruiter has failed to communicate effectively. Perhaps most importantly, your recruiter must be part salesman and part psychologist in order to communicate a compelling reason for the candidate to consider the clients job offer.

4. Thinking outside the Boundaries. In today’s workplace the lines between functions and industries are blurring more than ever. Top security executive recruiters are able to think outside the traditional boundaries and offer solutions by presenting refreshingly different candidates to consider. Businesses and security management professionals are looking to hire people who are adaptable, problem solvers and able to see the bigger picture. Look for a security search firm that offers the same qualities.

5. Drive, Desire and Motivation. Most often the best candidate for the position is not looking for a new job. The successful executive recruiter knows that they will have to turn over a lot of stones in order to find the best candidate. Sourcing candidates means having a wide network and using today’s technology and social media channels to the fullest. A search firm that tells you they already have all the key players in their database or they know everyone in the industry who is looking will not provide you with the best selection of talent to select from.

6. Integrity, Integrity, Integrity. Over the course of each search assignment, more than one opportunity to operate with complete integrity or not will present itself.  The annals of executive search history are filled with stories of recruiters and firms that neglected to tell the client about the bad reference they got on a candidate or why a candidate was really let go from a prior job.

7. Judging Overall Talent and Culture Fit. This may seem like a no-brainer and it is, but, it is still important to mention. This ability separates the average recruiter from the ones who are able to really make a difference for their clients. The top notch security management recruiter can give you the statistics citing what percentage of repeat customers they enjoy, average number of candidates they have to present to you before you hire one, as well as what percentage of candidates they place who are no longer on the job after 120 days. The best recruiters can cite the placements they have made who have been on the job for several years and who have made a dramatic impact on their employers’ organization.

The recruiter’s ability to assess talent is only meaningful if it is partnered with assessing the cultural match within an organization. Today, the cultural fit is a very important consideration for both the employer and the candidate. A valuable security management recruiter will work hard to identify your corporate culture and assure that all candidates they present for your consideration match the qualifications you seek and are a potential cultural match as well.

If finding superior talent for your security management staff is your goal make your first step finding the best security management search firm available.

David Lammert

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