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The Executive Search and ID Work

The executive search method requires you to find a small group of outstanding individuals who have interest in pursuing the opportunity that you are presenting to them. It is important that the search is comprehensive. You must utilize various sources of information, including all available published directories relevant to the search, as well as industry contacts. You should also conduct extensive original research.

The first place you should start looking is in your file of previous searches.

These sources may identify as many as several hundred potential candidates. But, only a small number of these people will be interviewed in person. The goal when making calls is to find quality; the bottom-line goal is to come up with the best possible candidates. How many you call or interview is less important than who you come up with. It is therefore of great importance to make quality calls. Your goal should be to come up with no more than five qualified and interested candidates at the final round. However, in order to get these numbers, you have to interact with many people.

Documentary sources are the starting point in this process.

If you use an executive search firm, it should have its own extensive libraries of directories, trade journals, and publications in order to target companies and potential sources and prospects. Be aware that almost all of this information can also be found at a modern library or on the Internet.

The higher the level of the search, the more likely you are to find a good amount of published material (directories) that will be of great help. The rule when using published material is that people high up on the corporate ladder are the easiest to identify.

Often you will find that no published material exists about your prospect-you will not even find the person's name in the listings. The best (and only reliable) way to get what you want is by picking up the phone. This process of identifying candidates is called ID work (identification work).

ID work can be time-consuming, and thus demands persistence and a high level of creativity.

A good starting point is company directories. In most cases you succeed in finding the companies through these directories. The information that you often lack is the name or even the correct title of the person you are seeking. How long the name search will take depends very much on whom you are seeking and what codes or rules the receptionist or secretary has to follow. If you are seeking the director of manufacturing or director of human resources (HR), it will be a straight shoot. But if you try to map out a sales department, it will be trickier.

To avoid wasting time, always try for the easy names first. This means you should start out with the line, "Who is the director of HR?" Do not represent yourself; just ask the question. If you are asked why you want the information, just say that you do not know yourself, as you are just an employee who has been told to do a job. This plain, straightforward approach should get you as many as 80 percent of the missing names on your list. If you focus, you should be able to get the appropriate names and titles of as many as sixty to eighty people a day.

For the remaining 20 percent, just try a day later with a new tack such as, you are sending a letter from your boss who is traveling and you cannot remember the name and title of the person to whom you are to send the letter. On this second round, you should be able to obtain most of the remaining names. If you still have not gotten everybody, on day three you can try something like: You are calling from a consulting company and you are putting together a list of speakers for a particular symposium, and you have been told that a particular person at company X is a terrific guy, but you are not sure of his name and title. By now you should have gotten all the names.