ExecutiveBiz is pleased to recognize the most significant executive recruiters of consequence influencing the government contracting (GovCon) industry with its seventh annual list of the Top Ten Executive Recruiters for 2020.
Each year, the elite GovCon firms of all shapes and sizes reach out to the most notable executive recruiters to assist them in their search for the right candidates to fill their most crucial leadership positions. Executive recruiters play a pivotal part in maintaining the success of the sector’s most important companies to lead the continued growth of the GovCon industry as a whole.
In addition to being named, Executive Mosaic also spoke with many of recruiters on the list regarding their insights into the latest trends, challenges and complexities of talent recruitment and acquisition facing the GovCon sector.
Below you will find the list of the top ten GovCon Executive Recruiters for 2020:
Cheryl Bedard, Principal for The McCormick Group
Cheryl Bedard came to The McCormick Group in 1999 after 15 years of experience in accounting and operations. She was an accounting systems consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. During the first administration of President Clinton, she served as Chief of Operations and Special Assistant to the Secretary at the Department of Energy (DOE).
Bedard specializes in executive searches for people who make things happen in areas of operations, business development, accounting, finance, and administration. Her tenacity and persistence make her particularly adept at difficult assignments. Cheryl demonstrates great insight into the needs of both employers and candidates, and uses those insights to drive mutually convenient solutions for both parties.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the most in demand positions today? What are the most difficult positions to find talent for in the current market?
“The McCormick Group continues to fill a variety of roles for a wide variety of companies, primarily in the DC metro area. High demand roles continue to be revenue generators…whether business developers, salespeople, or client service executives. People who contribute to top line or bottom line growth are always desirable.
Project managers in all industries (including technology, government services, real estate and construction) are needed. The most difficult positions to find talent for remain key leadership roles in rapidly growing companies.
Finding people good at meeting last year’s challenges is very different from people who will be great at meeting next year’s challenges. Whether our client is a global brand or a small 8(a) government contractor, the challenge is the same.”
Brian Thomas, Partner, Practice Leader of Industrials, Aerospace & Defense, Government Services for NorthWind
Brian Thomas has completed over 500 executive searches for clients that range from small, rapid-growth PE portfolio companies to large, globally integrated companies in the areas of enterprise operations, financial & HR officers, business development & strategy, and technology leaders over the last 20 years.
In addition to leading the firm’s Industrial and ADG practice, Brian manages the Capital Region office for the firm and leads all Financial Officers searches across NorthWind’s practice groups. Brian is also a member of the firm’s Technology and Private Equity practices.
Phoebe Henderson, Managing Director of ZRG Partners
For more than 20 years, Phoebe Henderson has been a strong supporter of the GovCon industry with a decade of executive recruiting experience. She has led and executed numerous director-to-C-level searches across technology, IT, professional services and C5ISR markets for public, private and private equity-backed companies.
Henderson joined ZRG Partners in 2015 as part of the Cybersecurity, Defense and Intelligence practice. Phoebe is the managing director in the Northern Virginia office of ZRG Partners. Together, they bring a data-driven, analytical approach to clients so they can make better, informed decisions.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the biggest obstacles for a company to retain an executive search firm?
“The biggest obstacle I have encountered is the belief that a company has to be a certain size to engage an executive search firm. Over my career, the smallest company I’ve ever worked with was $6M and the largest was in the billions, though today my span is more in the range of $25M to $750M. Each search had its own unique requirements and I’ve approached each one differently – no two firms are alike.
I have many conversations with companies to explain executive search and how it may benefit them. There is always some level of surprise when they find out that search can be employed at their stage of growth, and that it can be custom-tailored to suit their needs. I believe it’s empowering to discover that they can access such an effective tool.”
Denham Hamilton, Senior Partner of Synergy Search Partners
Denham Hamilton is a senior partner for Synergy Search Partners’ Global Search Practice. With more than 26 years of experience in executive search services, he specializes in senior operational roles, sales, business development, capture management, operations, program management, CFOs, CIOs, CTOs, and other key skill areas.
Hamilton joined Synergy Search Partners in April 1994. He’s responsible for many of the Search efforts with large systems integrators, defense firms, technology, and major consulting firms. His efforts are spent with a heavy focus on working with professionals with expertise in cybersecurity, cloud, big data, risk management, analytics, and other niche skills of value to GovCon executives.
Mercedes LeGrand, Managing Director of Raines International
Mercedes LeGrand is managing director of Raines International, a leading talent advisory and executive search firm. She co-leads the firm’s Aerospace & Defense and Government Services practices. She draws from her direct industry experience to find game-changing leaders for her clients across a variety of C-level functions.
Mercedes is especially passionate about the intersections between technology and defense, and about recruiting exceptional female and minority talent to the industry. Previously, Ms. LeGrand led the A&D practice at Russell Reynolds Associates, founded and ran a boutique defense-tech advisory firm, and consulted to Defense and Intelligence agencies.
ExecutiveBiz: What differentiates your firm from your competitors in terms of how you find talent and fill the most coveted positions in the federal sector?
“Raines’ mission is to maximize human potential, and we do this by offering a comprehensive range of talent services from executive search to leadership consulting to DEI advisory. We are driven by a desire to make a difference, and we work with individuals and organizations to match the right difference-makers to the right opportunities.
Raines separates itself from the field by offering a best-in-class search experience backed by our industry expertise and comprehensive service offerings. This allows us to offer clients a personalized approach, unlike any other firm. Searches are faster, and quality is higher. Clients may be concerned they are just a number or transaction with a search firm. The Raines structure guarantees an individualized approach, and Raines is passionate about developing the leaders and organizations of the future.”
Robert McHale, Senior Client Partner of Korn Ferry
Robert McHale joined Korn Ferry in 1998 and has spent the last 23 years with the company conducting multiple executive search assignments within the public sector technology marketplace. McHale is recognized for his superior management of engagements with technology-based companies, including professional services firms, government system integrators, software and product firms.
McHale is a senior client partner for Korn Ferry’s office in Northern Virginia. He’s also a member of the form’s Global Technology Market and Information Technology Officers Center of Expertise. He has also executed multiple CEO searches for private equity backed government technology companies.
Evan Scott, President and CEO of ESGI
Evan Scott is the CEO/Founder of ESGI. The firm was established in 2000 to serve the federal contracting community. Scott brings more than 30 years of retained search experience and established the firm to offer personalized attention to the most critical hires.
Scott has helped numerous systems integrators, high-tech software, IT services companies, and small government contractors hire ultra high performers. The firm’s clients include Tier One Integrators such as ASRC Federal and SAIC along with smaller businesses such as Citizant, Metrostar Systems, GovCio, Figure-Eight and others. The firm is very effective at helping Founders and CEOs at graduating small business prepare for the full and open market.
In addition, Scott is a member of The Homeland Security and Defense Council’s Membership Committee and serves on several health IT company boards. ESGI is a member of NDIA, InfraGard and ASIS. This is the fifth time ESGI has been recognized by GovCon as one of the top ten retainer based executive search firms in federal contracting.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you share the current trends of your sector and how they’re impacting your recruitment process and talent acquisition? What impact has COVID had on your business?
“Back in April we had no idea how COVID was going to impact executive recruitment in the federal market. During normal times we enjoyed meeting executives and clients in person to establish relationships and help with strategic hires. This is how we built our network over the past 20 years. There is no replacement for meeting people in person. Conducting interviews on Zoom can be effective but is not as much fun. I have spoken with my colleagues in the search business and they all seem to have had a very good year. We are all very fortunate to be in the federal space.
The trends in our searches always follows the money. The government is spending at most agencies under DHS, Civilian and DOD. There are still many Business Development searches but they have become more challenging. This is due to the many large players like Amazon entering the market .The talent pool has always been limited in the federal space and now the demand far exceeds the talent.
Competition for the top producers has never been as intense which has contributed to the executive search firms keeping busy. Outsourcing for critical hires has become a more popular strategic tool more then ever.
For the most part, our clients have not missed a beat in hiring talent. They are comfortable with virtual interviews and some will meet finalist candidate in person before extending an offer.”
Mark D’Ermes, Partner of Procession Systems
Mark D’Ermes brings thirty years of experience to Procession Systems delivering the highest priority talent for firms including SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, Microsoft and numerous other vital companies to the GovCon sector. He specializes in talent acquisition, talent sourcing, employment marketing, workforce planning, budget development and management, reporting and executive search.
D’Ermes joined Procession Systems in 2019 as a partner from SAIC. During his time with SAIC, D’Ermes drove recruiting strategy, technology and process transformation for the $6.5 billion enterprise as the vice president of Talent Acquisition. His success led to the company hiring over 6,000 employees per year across national security, defense, civilian as well as the GovCon sector.
Scott Miner, Consultant and Partner of Russell Reynolds Associates
As a consultant and partner of Russell Reynolds Associates, Scott Miner specializes in senior executive and partner searches for clients in industries ranging from management and strategy consulting, IT and systems integration professional services, audit and tax services, IT and business process outsourcing and public sector government technology and business services.
Miner is a member of the Business and Professional Services Practice within the Global Technology Sector at Russell Reynolds Associates. His previous experience includes serving as founder and partner of Ascend Executive Search, Ltd., where he advised clients in professional services. In addition, he also previously worked in executive search consulting at two major global search firms.
ExecutiveBiz: In terms of finding talent, how do you recruit people for certain positions?
“One of the more difficult positions to fill is the chief growth officer or the very senior business development leadership positions. While there are people that work in that space, the exceptional people who are most in demand are the people that have a proven track record of being able to help their companies grow and differentiate themselves.
There is a bell shaped curve in terms of performance. Everyone wants to hire at the top of the curve, where there’s not a large executive base. We look for people who can think strategically in terms of growth. We also look for people who execute for results. Not everyone possesses both.”
Patrick Gray, Managing Director for Raines International
For Raines International, Patrick Gray serves as a managing director for the firm’s Industrial, Aerospace, Defense & Government Services. In addition, he also launched Raines’ Security Officers Practice focused in the areas of physical and cyber security.
Gray has over 17 years of executive search experience and a rich network while supporting his clients as they transition through any leadership change. He specializes in executive recruiting, executive assessment and talent management
Gray began his executive search career as an Associate and Client Partner at Korn Ferry and later as Managing Partner of Northwind Partners’ Aerospace & Defense Practice. Most recently, he served as the Americas Practice Leader for Heidrick & Struggles in Aviation, Aerospace, Defense, and Government Services.