Your software tools can make or break your executive search success. How you store and manage information, and how you communicate internally and externally, has an enormous effect on your productivity and relationships.

This may come as a surprise to some.

After all, relationships in the executive search industry are built up over time, centered on experience and nuances — not technology. But things are changing. The learning curve and risk associated with technology adoption in the past have shrunken, overtaken by the expectation of seamless, real-time communication.

Technology is now ubiquitous in everyday life. In 2019, 81% of U.S. households have smartphones, up from 57% just five years ago. Even executives who were traditionally immune to tech — the CEOs receiving printouts of their emails — are now using tech in their personal and professional lives. They’ve become accustomed to shopping on Amazon or using Facebook, and they expect all their experiences to hold to a similar level.

Now, the best companies enjoy a clear advantage in executive recruiting by harnessing technology that supports relationship-building and sharing of experience and nuances.

Whether you realize it or not, your firm is committed to the technology you use every day. You and your clients already have a “toolstack.” But is it serving you as well as it could be? Or is it a cobbled-together franken-system of internal tools that bogs down your team?

Here are three scenarios where executive search firms can become much more effective with technology that’s readily available, and, dare we say, expected.

1. A single source of truth for candidates

Candidate information is the lifeblood of the executive search business. Firms risk missing the strongest candidates and failing to properly communicate with their clients about potential hires when candidate information isn’t properly managed.

The typical fragmented system comes with a high cost

If your firm is like most, candidate information is scattered across your company and its employees. It’s stored in multiple places — internal and external spreadsheets, Word docs and PDFs, internal management tools, and personal email inboxes. Everyone tries their best to keep up with what’s happening. Still, despite their best efforts, your search team is always struggling to get an up-to-date and complete picture.

No one can find suitable candidates in your existing database without speaking to others who may have been involved with a candidate previously. And candidates can’t be marked off-limits without yet another email that will probably get lost in the shuffle. Where one person builds out candidate profiles for their client, another redoes that work later because they don’t have access to it. They lack easy access to internal notes, assessments, and history — the kind of intel you can’t find on LinkedIn. Integrating data across teams and searches is difficult if not impossible.

When you do send candidate information to clients, you have no way to update that information without re-sending it. This can clog your clients’ inboxes, limiting your communication’s effectiveness.

How technology can Help You Manage candidate information efficiently

Today’s tech options make it easier than ever to streamline the collection and maintenance of candidate information. Now, your single source of truth can live in a specialized database tool that stores all of your candidate information.

Modern customer relationship management (CRM) software specifically for recruiting carries many benefits. It allows employees to add rich information to candidate profiles, search efficiently and autonomously, and keep everyone up-to-date on every candidate in your ecosystem.

The database benefits the entire team by ensuring that information across multiple searches is accurate, complete, categorized, and accessible in future searches, too. Contextual notes allow your internal team to see how each candidate is progressing in a given search. Information on the candidates that don’t get selected for a search feeds your database for future searches.

As you implement recruiting-specific CRM software, you will want to encourage consistency among candidate profiles and ensure that all employees regularly update information on candidates as a part of their workflow. When teams have been relying on piecemeal systems, everyone will have their own way of tracking and storing their data. This is where the system’s ease of use and workflows come into play. The more intuitive the user interface, the more likely users will be to complete all data fields. Likewise, the more relevant and useful the workflows are, the more likely users will be to actually go through the steps.

Software made especially for the executive search niche can solve these problems. In fact, when you pair a modern CRM system with best practice recruiting workflows, the positive effect compounds over time like this: when the system is tailored to executive search, your team will be more likely to use it. The more they use it, the better your data and the more useful it becomes.

2. Real-time communication between your team and clients

When your primary tool for communication is a jumble of personal and team inboxes, all stakeholders lose transparency into candidate search — including your client. It is next to impossible to keep everyone updated. And easy access to contextual comments is a pipe dream.

Communication mishaps that could be avoided fuel the fire of frustration and can add weeks onto your search.

Unwieldy systems make for slow responses and incomplete information

At the typical search firm, every employee lives in their own siloed inbox, swimming in reply-alls, forwarded emails, and attempts to loop people in. Emailed information must often be copied and pasted into new documents, briefs, even presentations to share with clients — with context added retroactively. It’s a cumbersome process that eats into your employees’ days.

Team members and clients being removed from and added to email threads means that nobody ever has the full picture of your search. It may be unclear who is supposed to take the lead and follow up on any given email, and important conversations can slip through the cracks.

For clients, multiple email chains can make following your search cumbersome and difficult to keep up with. There is no way for hiring teams or executives to quickly update themselves on a candidate, or leave feedback — they may not even be sure who to email with their concerns.

How technology can streamline your communication

Cloud-based systems let you communicate with your team and clients in real time. They can organize activity automatically for easy retrieval by anyone you give access to. And the information that people access is always the latest version. For example, with Thrive you can share assessments and feedback in-app on every candidate in your search. Clients can easily comment and see contextual updates on their search’s dashboard, which is securely and automatically set up just for them.

Stakeholders can then keep up with communication and candidates in the pipeline all in one place in real time.

With a cloud-based document system, your team can easily add notes and feedback that your entire team can see and respond to. You can integrate your email with your candidate search software to help keep track of candidate communications. By incorporating email and feedback right in candidate profiles and specific searches, you will streamline your internal workflow and allow for team members to share information without creating email daisy chains. And this also has the added benefit of improving data in your database that will be referenced in future searches.

3. Client information available for collaboration

Usually one person is in charge of a client relationship. If your best bet is to get information on a given client’s search begins and ends with the search team lead, your team is suffering. Everyone is set back when that person is unavailable.

If a team lead is out sick, on vacation, or leaves the company, they take their valuable information with them. Common piecemeal toolstacks do nothing to encourage proper documentation for the sake of continuity.

When the account lead holds all the information, you’re at risk

Here’s how the typical decentralized system of client information looks for your team:

Team leads are often bogged down with requests for information and the need to oversee or inform teammates’ actions. Team members are hesitant to move forward on anything without checking in with the team lead.

Central documentation is disorganized, piecemeal, or not used. Because there is no widely used hub for each customer or search, you have no way to get an overview of a given search without talking to the account lead. Team members are constantly asking each other for information they should already know or have, and questions often get escalated to the team lead. When a client asks a question, whoever is responding will frequently run things by the team lead just in case, even if it’s routine, because they have no other option for verifying information.

Compounding this problem, each team has their own way of communicating and sharing information that is based on the whims and preferences of team leaders, with little consistency in how they use software or even what tools they rely on. Free tools are adopted by managers without any oversight, often under the guise of making things more efficient. Employees find it hard to keep track of where information is stored, or have to re-learn a system of communication for each new team lead they work under. Your tools aren’t connected to each other and it’s difficult to get information from one place to another.

It’s hard to transfer knowledge without talking to the lead because client and candidate notes are improperly documented or stored in the personal systems (personal inboxes, folders) of search team leads. This puts up unnecessary roadblocks for your teams, who could otherwise move forward in their jobs without having to confirm with their team lead that their information is correct. Or worse, recruiting teams share conflicting or out of date information with a client. This is a bad look for executive search firms that pride themselves on attention to detail and high-touch engagements.

How technology can make client information accessible to the team

An executive-search specific platform can store all the information for a client’s search, including candidates, client feedback, interview notes and comments. Cloud-based computing can ensure that these are updated in real time with collaborative candidate assessments and client feedback so everyone has access to the information they need to move forward without consultation. This will empower your teams to keep moving forward on searches with both speed and accuracy, which can be critical in responding to hiring teams and executives, especially during the earlier stages of your search.

Once you use a cloud-based doc system, you’ll never want to go back. You can use it to work up initial profiles of companies, including their search criteria, timeline, and concerns based off of an agreed-upon template. This living document changes as you gather more information from your client over the course of your search.

By keeping this in a centralized place, every team member can get an at-a-glance view of what’s happening.

If you do decide you need to continue using several of the tools your team has added over the years, chances are, there’s a way to integrate them. Exploring the compatibility of your existing tools — for example, getting a Slack notification when someone creates a new candidate note — can streamline your workflow. Purpose-built candidate search software is likely to have integrations with key channels like email built in.

Tailor your tools with the right technology

Off-the-shelf big box software solutions simply don’t cater to the nuances of this industry. And it’s easy to see the pitfalls of piecing together a stack of technology over time. Without a functional tech stack that works for you, information silos will hamper your ability to get work done with speed and accuracy.

Now, executive search firms can access software tailored specifically to their best practices and workflows. This works to your advantage internally when running your teams and externally to provide a seamless, easy experience for clients.

Tailoring your tools to executive search is the best way to proactively put together a toolstack that works for you. Specialized candidate management systems and integrations make a big difference to teams that have been relying on cobbled systems or in-house legacy software.

To learn more about harnessing the power of technology for effective collaboration at all stages of recruitment, download our ebook, “How to Run Better Executive Searches with Real-Time Collaboration.”