RTT – The Identification, Engagement and Development of External Executive Talent

Thoughts and takeaways from a Think Tank held at Barclaycard on the 20th July 2011.  For further information and insight please contact Jeremy at Oasis HR – 0207 11 88 444 / Jeremy.thornton@oasishr.com

Last week’s Think Tank on the identification, engagement and development of external executive talent brought together some of the markets leading senior thought leaders.  Following a fantastic case study on the journey Barclaycard has embarked upon to set up an internal executive search function some interesting discussions and debate ensued which lead to these key learning’s:

Stick to your knitting…

It was very clear from the discussion that executive search needs to be treated as just that executive search.  Mid-tier £90k – £120k salaried roles which you don’t currently engage a search firm to fill should not be included in the functions remit. Strict governance is needed to create a clear business shape. Pain staking research, market mapping are the foundations the function needs to be built on.   This requires significant investment to deliver a clear, well planned remit that wins engagement from the businesses most senior population.

You need to beat the competition

The business needs to choose to adopt an internal function.  Don’t mandate it, choose assignments carefully, don’t try to be everything to everyone.  Slowly build on success and get the exec population to internally recommend you.  You’ll never win over everyone; exec’s still like to keep their preferred search partners close for personal career advancement.  You’re not going to break these bonds overnight.

Building your business case

Cost savings are important but should not be the driving factor, at Barclaycard cost was 4th or 5th on the list of advantages of taking executive search in-house.  It needs to be led by adding value to the businesses executive population and engaging the best available talent faster, better and then potentially cheaper.  This is a huge culture change so it is going to take time so realistic initial expectations need to be put in place.  The function needs to have a clearly defined strategy:  Engage and attract key talent, build external relationships, share market insight.

No need to reinvent the wheel

The top tier search firms have been refining their models and process for years.  Copy them, use their methodologies combined with engaging external research partners.  External research is one of the fastest growing areas of the market and being widely used by our members.  One quick win discussed was to invest a few thousand to map your biggest competitors, including some insight on their key individuals, then present this to the businesses leadership team.   It can have a dramatic impact and highlight that it is not only the external partners who can collate this type of information and competitor analysis.  This can then lead to you starting to have conversations about mapping external succession planning etc.


Pipelining and creating pools of key talent is fundamental to success.  It differentiates the internal offering away from the search firms and dramatically reduces time to hire.  Start by asking the top talent at their quarterly reviews what roles they foresee coming up as well as working with HR to understand capability, current talent to recognise key areas of need.  You can then build and understand the marker, identify and approach external talent.    Maintain contact with the external talent throughout the process.  Set their expectations; let them know you’ll get in touch every 3 or 4 months.  They like the direct approach, they like the more in-depth business knowledge an internal function has.

Members’ Q&A

Q: How do you engage people to work for you when a head-hunter can offer 6    – 7 opportunities?


  • Outline expectation to candidate that only have one role and will drop a line in 6 months
  • Pitch ideas and move on
  • Reliant on brand to sell brand.

Q: Exploring new markets – at what point do you need regulatory approval?


  • Engage, bring them to the bait
  • Know audience, events and platform
  • Share knowledge but cannot publish their details but give them industry updates to keep them engaged
  • Merging talent from new areas difficult when you are not in that market yet.  Solution: poach top guys and bring talent within?
  • Companies heading in new territory: – put them in the market for 6 months and learn information.  Graduates who are keen to please and enthusiastic make good researchers and a cheap way to understand the market and find the top players
  • How strong is your research?
  • Getting someone’s interest in an unknown brand that does not exist yet?
  • Using expertise of in house search
  • If no search firm in that country?  Go to distributors, they know their marker, not direct sourcing
  • However difficult to work closely in another country and engage with a potential candidate for a role that is possibly available in 18 months
  • Solution is getting the time frame right.

Q: Social media for execute space?


  • Facebook, technology, people are more willing to engage with people they don’t know
  • Sharing topical issues via articles and videos online to keep them engaged
  • Add value to them, engage everyday, helping them
  • Making talent a customer, portals for debate and discussion.  Online two dimensional blogging for example, getting executives about to join a company can discuss information together online
  • Social interaction builds networks.

Q: How can you get a company to like you?


  • Delivery
  • Quick win
  • Credibility – do what you said you’ll do
  • Insight, competitive edge
  • Changing and adding value to a company.

Q: Advisor v Supplier


  • Noting to win or lose
  • In house: more job orientated relationship, transactional, lacks direct resource availability
  • External: more relationship, honestly, friendship
  • Friendship building?  Friendship v usefulness, do you have to like the search firm?  It’s a balance of the two.

Q: How do you keep candidates happy and continue engaging them throughout the process?


  • Make sure systems are up and running before they start.
  • Do dinner, social interaction
  • Many business, when they hire do not want recruiters to get involved from there, leaving the candidate on their own affecting the candidate experience
  • Few recruiters allowed to keep contact of that candidate once they are offered the job.  Allow them contact for a few weeks in order to maintain a relationship and keep them updated on the job
  • As a recruitment firm: -Talent incubator piece, our engagement doesn’t stop until after the rebate period
  • Define who’s responsible for them, have a single personal accountable who owns the end to end process
  • Assigning someone to them or having an onboard portal, stepping away from sink or swim culture of business
  • At a senior level you need the personal contact.

Q: How to you stop counter offers and candidate rejection after interview?


  • On boarding helps, having a portal online for them to connect to the business
  • People work with people, send messages and keep in contact to keep people engaged.

Q: What’s the future of external search?


  • Depends on capability of head resources and head of talent in driving it through.
Oasis HR

Written by , Network Driven HR Recruitment

Oasis HR is a multi-award winning HR Recruitment Agency based in London that delivers Contingency and Search services within the Human Resource and Business Change Markets. Our client base encompasses all industry sectors and we have a proven track record of delivering permanent, interim and temporary professionals at all levels across all HR disciplines. From a £20k HR Administrator to a £200k HR Director, Oasis HR is well placed to identify, approach and secure the best available talent in the market

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