What makes a retained search campaign successful?

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In the 15 years that I’ve been managing retained search projects on behalf of clients in the Broadcast and Sports Media Technology industries, there are a number of factors that make the difference when it comes to conducting a productive and successful recruitment campaign. When you’re making a significant investment of not just financial resources, but time and energy too, it's critical that the process yields the best results possible.

With that in mind, there are two areas worth highlighting that can really make the difference between success and disappointment when it comes to your retained search campaign:

1. Momentum

There is a notable link between companies who understand and respect the importance of momentum and being able to attract and retain their first choice candidate as a result of that. 

It’s a reality that candidates who are engaged in a hiring process with you, are also forming an opinion of your company based on their experience of how the recruitment process is conducted. Part of my role, as a strategic recruitment partner, is to act as a PR ambassador for the company and help to generate enthusiasm not just for the role, but the company, its vision and the opportunities available to candidates when they join the company. This, combined with the process moving along at a good timely pace, helps create an overall positive, professional impression which can really make a difference especially if someone is comparing your offer with one or two others.  

Where there are delays in the process, from interview feedback, through to preparing the contract of employment, this can increase the risk of candidates losing interest or even respect for the company, and if the delay goes on for too long, it can result in candidates moving further along the process with other opportunities and ultimately accepting one of these.  This situation can be avoided when there is pace, energy, and clarity to the process. 

I recommend the following in order to keep good momentum, and avoid unnecessary delay: 

  • Shortlist of candidates is presented and discussed on a call, rather than simply sending CVs to your inbox. 
  • Interview dates blocked out in advance.
  • Clear dates of the complete process are mapped out (i.e. shortlist interviews; interview step mapped out; an anticipated decision of offer of employment etc.) to help manage candidates’ expectations.

2. Communication

When it comes to retained search campaigns, it’s good to remember that the main strategy for attracting the right talent for your company is a two-pronged approach: headhunting and referral network. Typically the best candidates for a role are individuals who are not necessarily looking for a new opportunity but are flattered by the approach, and with the right research, interested and curious to explore further. In other words, there is an art and science to headhunting, and a significant amount of work is required to reach a point where a candidate is interested in engaging in the interview process. Given what’s involved to get to that point, it’s clear to see why momentum is so important, but equally so is the need for communication. 

Communication is what builds trust and respect, and creates loyalty which is significant, particularly if someone is considering other opportunities, or is comparing this role against their current role. Here are some of the key areas where communication is paramount, otherwise it can jeopardise a successful outcome: 

  • What the budget is for the role, and has headcount has been signed off and cleared for recruitment to go ahead? 
  • What the candidate’s current remuneration package is, and what are their expectations? 
  • Who are the key people involved in the decision-making process? 
  • What is the interview process, so we can plan ahead with blocking out availability?
  • Interview feedback.
  • If there is a delay - what the reason is for that?  It does not matter how significant or long the delay is, but not communicating a delay satisfactorily continually proves the biggest factor that candidates withdraw or reject an opportunity.
  • The offer stage - how you want an offer presented to a candidate?  This is unique to each individual employer but our recommendation is to let us be the ‘conduit’ when making offers to candidates.  We then act as an intermediary where required and make sure the full benefits of an offer are presented.  

Entering into a recruitment process requires time, resources and energy from both sides, and maintaining a level of momentum throughout the process with good communication will help form a positive, proactive, and professional opinion of your company, that often makes all the difference when a candidate is deciding whether to leave what they have to take up an opportunity with you.  In a post-pandemic market place, more than ever is there a need for retained search campaigns to be run in this way.  

Ben Swanton is co-founder of 808 Talent, a company that specialises in helping businesses across the Broadcast and Sports Media Technology industries find, retain, and nurture the very best commercial and sales talent so they can create impact, and achieve exponential growth. To find out more about the ways 808 Talent can help you with your future hiring needs, or your in house talent management processes, please contact Ben Swanton at ben@808talent.com

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash