Mitigating Risks in Executive Search: Willard Powell’s Approach to Identifying, Recruiting, and Assessing Talent

Feb 5, 2023

At Willard Powell, we understand the unique challenges that private equity firms face when it comes to identifying and hiring top-notch executive talent for their portfolio companies. That’s why we have developed a best-in-class approach to executive search that ensures a seamless and efficient process for both clients and candidates.

Our approach begins with a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and the industries in which their portfolio companies operate. This enables us to identify the key skills, experience, and personality traits that will be critical to success in each role. We then use a combination of research, networking, and targeted outreach to build a robust pool of potential candidates.

Once we have a list of qualified candidates, we use a thorough assessment process to evaluate their fit for the role and the culture of the portfolio company. This includes in-depth interviews, reference checks, and behavioral assessments, as well as other tools and techniques that are customized to each search.

Throughout the search process, we maintain open and regular communication with both clients and candidates to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that expectations are aligned. This helps to build trust and ensures that the process runs smoothly from start to finish.

One of the key differentiators of our approach is our commitment to a framework and process that helps mitigate risk for both clients and candidates. This includes thorough due diligence on candidates, detailed contracting and offer management, and ongoing support to ensure a successful integration and transition for the new hire.

Our ultimate goal is to help our clients build stronger, more successful portfolio companies by providing them with the best possible executive talent. By following a rigorous and thorough process, we are able to deliver the best possible outcome for everyone involved. Whether you are a client looking to hire a critical leader or a candidate seeking a new opportunity, we are here to support you every step of the way.

We understand that every client is unique, and that a one-size-fits-all approach to executive search is not effective. That’s why we start every engagement by conducting an in-depth intake session with our clients. This intake session is designed to give us a comprehensive understanding of the client’s firm, their history, vision, mission, goals, culture, and the specific requirements for the open role.

The following is a step-by-step breakdown of our intake process:

  • Introduction: We begin the intake session by introducing ourselves and explaining the purpose of the meeting. We also provide an overview of our approach to executive search and answer any initial questions the client may have.
  • Firm history: We start by learning about the client’s firm and their history. This includes understanding their background, their business model, and their current market position.
  • Vision and mission: Next, we delve into the client’s vision and mission, and how they see their firm evolving in the future. This helps us to understand their priorities and how they see the role of the executive candidate fitting into their long-term plans.
  • Goals and objectives: We then explore the client’s goals and objectives for their firm, and how they see the open role contributing to these goals. This gives us a clear understanding of what success will look like for the new hire and the company.
  • Culture: We also take the time to understand the client’s company culture, including their values, work style, and team dynamics. This helps us to identify candidates who will be a good fit and thrive in their environment.
  • Role requirements: We then move on to discussing the specific requirements of the open role, including the key skills and experiences that the ideal executive candidate should have. We also explore the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, and any challenges or opportunities that the new hire may face.
  • Ideal candidate: Finally, we work with the client to create a detailed description of the ideal executive candidate. This includes not only their skills and experience but also their personality, work style, and cultural fit.
  • Thorough candidate assessment: In addition to evaluating a candidate’s skills and experience, we also assess their values, work style, and cultural fit. This helps us to identify candidates who are likely to have a long-term and successful relationship with the company.
  • Preparation: Before conducting a behavioral interview, we thoroughly review the candidate’s resume and qualifications, as well as the job description and requirements for the role. This helps us to formulate a list of targeted behavioral questions that will allow us to assess the candidate’s past experiences and behavior in relevant situations.
  • Interview structure: Our behavioral interviews are structured and follow a specific format. We start with a warm-up conversation to help the candidate feel at ease, then move on to asking our targeted behavioral questions. These questions are designed to elicit specific examples of how the candidate has handled challenges and successes in their previous roles.
  • Active listening: During the interview, we listen actively and engage with the candidate, encouraging them to provide detailed and specific answers. This helps us to get a deeper understanding of their behavior and experiences, and to identify patterns and trends in their responses.
  • Probing questions: If necessary, we follow up with probing questions to get a better understanding of the candidate’s behavior and motivations. This helps us to fill in any gaps in the information we have and to gain a clearer picture of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Documentation: After each behavioral interview, we document our observations and notes. This includes not only the answers to the questions we asked but also the candidate’s body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues.
  • Assessment: After all behavioral interviews have been completed, we assess the candidate’s overall fit for the role and company culture. We use our notes from the interviews, as well as any other relevant information, to make an informed recommendation to our client.
  • Candidate engagement: We take an active and ongoing approach to engaging with candidates, providing them with regular updates and feedback throughout the search process. This helps us to build strong relationships with our candidates and to ensure that they are well-informed and well-supported throughout the process.
  • Ongoing support: After a successful placement, we continue to provide ongoing support to both the candidate and the client, helping to ensure a smooth transition and a successful long-term relationship. This may include coaching, mentoring, and other forms of support as needed.

We follow a comprehensive approach to executive search that helps mitigate risk at the offer stage. By following our approach, we are able to mitigate the following potential risks:

  • Candidate rejection: Our thorough assessment of a candidate’s values, work style, and cultural fit helps to minimize the risk of the candidate rejecting the offer, as we have already established that they are a good fit for the company.
  • Candidate disengagement: By providing ongoing support and engagement with the candidate throughout the search process, we minimize the risk of the candidate disengaging from the process, which could result in the offer being withdrawn.
  • Inconsistent company culture: By thoroughly understanding the client’s company culture, values, and goals, we are able to identify candidates who are a good fit and less likely to clash with the company culture, which can lead to decreased job satisfaction and high turnover.
  • Incorrect role requirements: By working closely with the client to understand the specific requirements of the role, we reduce the risk of hiring someone who is not a good fit for the job or the company, which can lead to decreased job satisfaction and high turnover.
  • Legal issues: Our thorough and legally compliant process helps to minimize the risk of legal issues arising during the offer stage, such as discrimination or compensation disputes.

By following our comprehensive and risk-mitigating approach, we are able to deliver the best possible outcome for both our clients and candidates, ensuring a successful and long-term relationship.

Willard Powell has a comprehensive and risk-mitigating approach to identifying, recruiting, and assessing executive talent for portfolio companies. Our approach is designed to deliver a best-in-class experience for both clients and candidates, by thoroughly understanding the client’s company culture, values, and goals, conducting a thorough assessment of candidates, engaging with candidates throughout the process, and providing ongoing support to ensure a successful and long-term relationship. By following our approach, we are able to mitigate potential risks at the offer stage, such as candidate rejection, inconsistent company culture, incorrect role requirements, and legal issues. Our goal is to provide a seamless and effective executive search process that delivers the best possible outcome for our clients and candidates.

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David McInnis

President & Founding Partner

David has two decades of global recruitment experience and is Founding Partner of Willard Powell. Prior to founding Willard Powell, David worked with Leathwaite International, a global executive search firm. Before his employment with Leathwaite, David worked for Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo Securities) supporting the firm’s Investment Banking & Capital Markets Technology group. David is a graduate of Lasell College in Newton, MA, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a concentration in Management Information Systems. David also serves as a Trustee on Lasell’s Board.