Leaders at several of the GovCon sector’s largest players gave us the names and backgrounds of recruiters they believe everyone in the industry should know for our “Top 10 Recruiters for 2014” story published Monday.
Of those 10, ESGI President Evan Scott volunteered to share his views and perspectives on the executive recruiting landscape for an industry that has seen the budget environment change and consolidation by companies.
Scott also offered ideas for steps recruiters can take to build a successful practice and the role executive recruiters play in the interview process.
ExecutiveBiz: What makes the federal marketplace unique from other marketplaces?
Evan Scott: The word “search” in executive search has become a misnomer. When specializing in the federal market, the network a knowledgeable recruiter has built will typically produce highly sought-after talent for clients. Companies recognize that at the time they have a senior level position to fill, the best candidate for the role is likely to be employed, especially in the current market. It is important to be known within this community and work at developing relationships every day.
The demand for executives is not only coming from U.S.-based organizations but foreign companies as well. Having a competent search partner in the DC region is the most effective way to compete for this sought after talent.
The federal market is unique and the type of executives who are succeeding have been able to adopt to the dramatic changes in how the government spends money and handles procurement. Unless a recruiter has been focused in this market for many years, they are at a disadvantage in recognizing these changes. This is especially true when it comes to hiring business development executives.
In this town, it is the business development function that is on the front lines with customers, identifying and crafting opportunities. Based on the long sell cycles in federal — typically between 12 and 18 months — the success of the BD function will not be realized until programs are won or lost. The ability to evaluate executives in this function has become more challenging and is vital to hiring companies.
It is widely accepted that when looking for talent in this market, retaining a search firm that specializes in federal contracting brings a distinct advantage. Those who do not engage the expertise of one of the top rated firms in federal recruitment are at a disadvantage in the competition for talent.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the skills and components needed to build a success executive recruiting practice?
Evan Scott: The art of recruiting is more centered on making successful marriages than finding candidates. Helping client’s attract talent that performs on a consistent basis is how you build a strong reputation and succeed. The ability to understand your client’s business and strategy is critical. A recruiter must have the intuitive skills to recognize talent and how they might fit in with their client’s particular challenges and environment. Add to that the ability to conduct behavioral references and you increase the likelihood of success.
A skilled search professional will recognize that developing trusting relationships with potential candidates is every bit important as relationships with clients. Reputation is the currency a quality search firm brings to every engagement. The approach must always be to work toward a win-win for all parties. Many hires fall apart during the offer stage and this is where a third-party professional can make all the difference.
Then, brokering the compensation package is where rubber meets the road. When an offer is extended to any candidate, it should already been agreed upon by all parties. Communications between company and desired executive is best handled by a third party who has earned the trust of all involved.
I always believed that where a skilled executive recruiter earns their fee is during the interviewing process. Facilitating communications in a timely manner with a crisp process leads to better results. Understanding how to conduct behavioral referencing that focuses on the character and competencies of an individual is best predictor of future performance.
Recruitment in federal contracting is not something you move in and out of. This must be the sole focus of your practice. The same can be said of companies who sell into the federal government.