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Reflections of an internal talent acquisition leader turned retained executive recruiter

Organizations will continue to need leaders, even amid an intense economic downturn. In fact, at a time like this, lack of the right kind of leadership can be catastrophic. Post pandemic, organizations may see senior executives depart (see Jason Ward’s March 30th Life decisions and demographics post) or will require a more turnaround-oriented leader (see Pat Ference and Sarah Stewart’s April 16th Turnaround Leadership post).  In any case, the human resource team will benefit from using an outside partner who is able to provide the hyper-focus the important event of leadership change deserves.

Two years ago, I was leading an in-house talent acquisition team for an organization. Having transitioned to retained executive search (Industrial Search Partners), I have an enhanced perspective of why hiring an external search partner to do leadership searches is a wise choice. Particularly during a business disruption, an outside perspective brings significant value in the hunt for executive talent.

Consultative Advisory

As third party, external partners, we continually speak with leaders of organizations, gaining insights from your competitors, your peers, and those in adjacent industries that can prove valuable to you. Further, we make observations about organizations, cultures, and leaders’ styles that enable us to identify complementary talent. This exposure equips us to serve as trusted advisers and experts. We don’t only provide candidates; we provide context, knowledge and information that can make you a more effective leader and change agent. 

Dedicated Time

Internal talent acquisition leaders are pulled in many directions – developing strategy, managing your team, collaborating with the greater HR team, maintaining relationships with organizational leaders, and while hiring at lower levels may be on pause, thinking about sustaining a talent pipeline.  With all these other responsibilities, it is difficult, if not impossible, to dedicate the necessary time to identify, attract and manage relationships with countless candidates for a C-Suite position. As a dedicated executive recruiter, I typically contact upwards of 100 viable prospective candidates to present a robust slate and eventually land an accepted offer from the best possible person.


We are continually in touch with executive talent in the niche sectors we serve, and thus, have access to passive candidates. Career-savvy executives are willing to talk with us, as candidates or sources, because the conversations inevitably lead to mutually beneficial relationships with potential future opportunity. A much higher percentage of executives respond to me as an external retained recruiter than responded to me as an internal recruiter presenting a singular, one-time opening. Additionally, as someone with an outsider’s (yet close) perspective, “selling” an opportunity to a candidate is often more effective, believable, contextual, and persuasive than coming from within.

I now more fully understand the value of using external search. I liken it to my friend who takes magnificent photos, but still hired a professional to photograph her daughter’s wedding. Of course, she did! This external “partner” had the ability to dedicate time and attention to the task,  greater access to specialty tools, the ability to employ an outsider’s perspective, and the ability to increase the odds of success – after all,  the professional’s reputation rides on the outcome. 

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