Q1 data shows why talent pipelining is a necessary component of executive search strategies

AboveBoard | May 16, 2023


New data from Thrive—a talent relationship management software for executive search—shows the time it took to identify a placed candidate dropped 31% in Q1 versus Q4 2022.

It’s the type of step change we rarely see in the world of executive recruiting. In fact, the change in velocity was akin to the early days of COVID’s technology boom, when the pace of hiring accelerated nearly overnight and was followed by a furious volume of hiring activity.

Once that volume hit, however, searches started to lengthen.

We’re not here to prognosticate on whether that pattern will play out again, but rather to highlight how such a significant change in search velocity can put an emphasis on the role building talent pipelines via research plays in being ready for changing market conditions.

Search Duration Before vs. After Placement Identified

Why the difference between research, sourcing and recruiting matters

Even when the market doesn’t change, a stronger emphasis on proactive research builds more inclusive, qualified inclusive candidate pools, improving sourcing efficiency and hiring outcomes. Talent sourcing focuses on identifying potential high-fit candidates via research, while recruiting includes nurturing those candidates and determining which candidates are right for which roles. 

In a reactive executive search process, the two components are often done simultaneously—often limiting research to known networks that might not be as diverse. In a proactive environment, however, research can be a competitive advantage and is a process unto itself.

By running a proactive process, talent partners and search leaders have time to research the market, understand what “good” looks like, and quantify how many candidates may even fit that definition. It also widens networks, creating more inclusive candidate pools.

The executive search team can then source candidates who fit specific profiles instead of fill roles. This might sound like semantics, but it’s an important distinction. 

When sourcing candidates based on profiles, a number of datapoints must be considered: 

    • Firmographic data points (past company stage, size, trajectory, etc)
    • Demographic profile (years experience in relevant roles, compensation expectations, etc)
    • Skills (documented history of tackling specific needs facing business)

Identifying these datapoints accurately, and in the right combination, requires research that builds deeper intelligence of the market.

It is critical to start with a broad talent pipeline funnel, and build market intelligence to identify the high-fit candidates quickly and efficiently. The competitive advantage comes from increasing the efficiency of this process so an unwieldy pipeline does not become a bottleneck for the recruiter, ultimately reducing search velocity.

Role-based sourcing, on the other hand, focuses more so on demographic profiles to widen the net of prospective candidates.

While a larger top of the funnel seems attractive, this is only advantageous when the candidate pool is filled with high-fit candidates. Otherwise, such a pipeline becomes a bottleneck for the recruiter, reducing efficiency and search velocity.


Building talent pipelines to meet sourcing needs

Without a dedicated researcher, talent pipelines often take a backseat to other aspects of recruiting, leaving executive search processes in a bind: either scramble internally or spend a heavy fee to work with an established executive recruiting agency.

The proactive work often goes undone, because it requires so much diligence: 
    • Identify the market
    • Set filterable criteria
    • Refresh the results regularly
For those running dedicated research processes, the first two aspects are done for even the most reactive searches. But that final piece? That’s where research often falls off, sometimes leaving sourcers with stale data. 

A talent pipeline, however, ensures previously identified candidates still remain as prospective high fits and, also, monitors for new previously unidentified candidates who now fit specific criteria. The combination helps executive search and talent teams stay ahead of the curve, while maintaining inclusive pools of candidates. 

In an environment where search velocity has dramatically accelerated, such an advantage becomes critical to ensuring companies are in the best position to work with the best candidates. And, right now, that advantage might be even more pronounced. According to Thrive, certain market sectors are finding search volume is continuing to drop but that median comp continues to rise.

One of the possible explanations for this? That businesses are focused on making their most critical hires—and backburnering everything else until for now. 

If that’s the case, having an increased focus on sourcing and talent pipelines isn’t just a competitive advantage; it’s a necessary component to any executive search strategy.


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