Candidate Research – The Foundation

Ignoring the work of quality candidate research is much like buying a beautiful home without hiring an inspector. The very structure you may have marveled over at first sight could well be the nightmare that you can’t seem to sell because it had cracks in the foundation…and it went undetected!

Candidate research is the solid foundation and careful inspection of a successful placement. Uncovering the pretty trimmings that decorate the work force, and separating them from the true backbone of a sturdy corporation, is not a chance of luck. It is a delicate, and at times a labor intensive skill.

Good research understands the clients’ needs. However, expert research not only understands the clients’ needs, but demands a knowledge of what makes competitors worthy competition. Every competitor has something that your client wants. It is the job of a research expert to uncover what/who that is, and is it worth seeking out and paying for. That kind of energy takes tenacity. It is not in the quick kill. A researcher must be determined, yet ethical; savvy yet teachable, knowing enough about the industry but always needing to know more. After all, it is curiosity that keeps the expert researcher hunting – always thinking that there may be something overlooked – like any careful inspector diligently searching for tangible evidence that is sustainable.

We call that process, candidate sourcing. The researcher must be able to move in and out of a company, identifying its structure as if he/she can actually visualize where the prime candidate is sitting at this very moment. The key is remembering that uncovering the passive candidate is an urgent pursuit. The researcher must be able to listen, truly listen, and use the information that is being provided at all times. Every piece of information is valuable. For the researcher, understanding how the competitor’s structure is laid out is even more important than determining that they have two software engineers. What if the software engineer is called something different in company X? You will never know if you didn’t respect the competitor’s organizational structure, and Joe engineer was tucked in an unexpected spot, easily overlooked by the novice.

The expert researcher understands that he/she is building something, and every fiber is important. A novice might dismiss conversations in search of aggressively uncovering a quick hit. The true researcher understands that one potential name is not worth sacrificing the time it takes to uncover 20 possibilities.

Research is a cost effective alternative to traditional search. It is typically billed on an hourly basis and provides the client with a pipeline of pre-qualified candidates, which allows the client to develop those in the pipeline and avoid the high cost of a placement fee. Every bit of information uncovered during the research process belongs to the client. Exceptional recruiters understand that candidate research is the key tool in their search process – the foundation in which to begin building the house.

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Research can also provide pre-qualification. Pre-qualification allows the researcher to contact the names that have been generated in order to determine whether or not a potential candidate is open to hearing about new opportunities. If a possible candidate is interested, the qualifier takes the next step and obtains a resume and highlights a profile. A profile tells you what the candidate didn’t say on his/her resume. It is a keen extractor, giving the hiring manager the ability to ask the questions that could have set the tone of an interview.

The objective of any great recruiter is to find the hidden pearl, or to persuade the flagrant gem to trade loyalty. It is ideal to have candidates who are driven, hard-working, and completely competent. Many of these candidates come directly through the internet or by referral. But you cannot always trust what you think you are inheriting. There is a reason why some people prefer to build their own homes. And why others hide from a good inspector.

Tiffani Griffith is the Director of Research for Xavier Associates, a national executive search and candidate research firm located in the greater Boston area. Xavier Associates is a leader in customized staffing solutions, specializing in meeting the specific needs of their clients.

As Director of Research, Ms Griffith is responsible for business development, strategic planning, and day-to-day operations of the research department. Under her direction, the research department at Xavier Associates has provided superior results for various Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and large government agencies.


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