It seemed like, no matter where you turned in late Q3, you couldn’t help but hear the term “K-shaped recovery” when discussing the economy. Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the executive search market experienced the same dynamics.

That said, the dynamics were different:

While a K-shaped recovery traditionally refers to certain market segments recovering more quickly than others, the market dynamics we’re discussing in this post actually had more to do with certain executive search teams recovering more quickly than others, not industries or functions.

(There were, of course, exec recruiting teams in Q3 that rode an industry-wide wave of growth (like technology), while others who specialize in COVID-affected sectors, like travel and hospitality, continued to struggle. That said, the top-performing executive recruiting teams we spotted consisted of both small and large companies, and had industry and role prioritizations that were well-diversified, meaning they mirrored the dynamics of the whole industry.)

Consider: In Thrive’s Executive Search Quarterly Report for Q3, we found that a small fraction of executive search teams in our dataset (13%) saw opened searches increase 78% QoQ, while the rest were flat (they grew just 3% over the same timeframe).

In analyzing this discovery, we found three technology-driven trends that helped propel these high-performers out of a down market before their peers. Though valuable during a turbulent quarter, we view these trends as emerging best practices that will continue to gain footing in 2021.

Stronger Collaboration Aids in Alignment, Shorter Cycles

In Q3, top performers had 2X as many collaborators log into Thrive as the majority of those in our analysis, giving those teams a clear advantage in terms of open communication and alignment.

Though COVID has reinvented aspects of the executive search process (a heavy reliance on Zoom interviews comes to mind), our industry still relies on high-touch service. That’s become more difficult when face-to-face meetings can’t happen.

But it’s also become an advantage.

Search management capabilities in Thrive allow search teams to distinguish themselves by quickly creating lists of candidates, creating collaboration portals, and giving clients the ability to provide feedback outside of the normal weekly status meetings.

This type of alignment doesn’t just create better feedback loops, it also shortens the search cycle.

Pairing Talent Discovery With Outreach Tools Creates Efficiencies

When it came to closing searches in Q3, top performers beat their peers in recovering from Q2, with completed searches increasing 21% QoQ for them versus a more modest 4% growth rate for the majority of executive recruiting teams.

They appear to have done it, in part, by reaching more candidates more quickly: Top-performing teams had 3X as many candidate communications using Thrive than the remainder of the teams we analyzed.

This makes sense.

Relationship management is, of course, the foundation of executive search, and an efficient, organized candidate database can be a competitive advantage in this regard. Often, though, these databases are fractured across multiple spreadsheets, printed resumes, and a recruiter’s personal notes.

Thrive allows recruiters, like Elizabeth Patterson of Sapphire Ventures, to unify these data sources and ensure key details are accurate and up to date before collaboration or outreach even begins.

Collaboration and outreach, of course, are only as fast as the background work is thorough. So, it’s this combination of tools, in a single platform, that allows teams to respond to needs quickly, making outreach not only faster, but easier.

“I may have a portfolio company that says, ‘We are desperate for a VP of Product. This just came up, and it’s the highest priority at our firm. Can you help us?’,” Patterson said. “I very quickly, based on the networks that I set up and tags that I set up within Thrive, can create and get that report out with mapped candidates to one of our portfolio companies in a matter of minutes.”

Data Visualization Allows for Quick Pivots and More Informed Planning

A final point, and a common one between top-performers for opened searches and completed searches, was their use of data visualization dashboards. 

On the opened search front, top-performers used 7X the number of dashboards as their peers, while, on the completed search front, top-performers used 5X as many dashboards as their peers.

This access to data appears to have driven a higher fidelity view into business, giving executive search teams the ability to make decisions faster than their peers. In a difficult market, these types of decisions can prove critical to pushing through a downturn.

In fact, according to a survey of executive search leaders last quarter, we found that those who had better insights into their businesses said they were more optimistic that their businesses would recover sooner:

  • 50% of survey respondents who either don’t analyze data or do less than monthly said they’re planning to decrease budgets
  • 60% of respondents who reported they analyze data at least monthly said they’re planning to increase budgets.

Thrive provides executive recruiters with data on searches (like companies and contacts) and performance across roles, functions, regions and teams, while also bringing into into financial metrics and forecasting. The combination of these insights means teams can make more informed decisions about where to invest, what to change, and, perhaps most critically during a time like Q3, when to make those investments and adjustments.

Purpose-Built for Executive Search

While technology will increasingly become part of every executive search in ways we may not have considered before COVID, it’s critical that executive search leaders think specifically about the type of technology they use to build their practices and improve the experience for all stakeholders.

Based on Q3, collaboration, candidate outreach and data analysis are key areas of technology enablement—and areas we expect to grow in importance in 2021. When thinking about these areas, consider how that technology fits with the unique aspects of executive search.

Thrive was purpose-built for executive search teams, and remains investing in technology that adapts to your unique workflows and improves the overall recruiting experience. If you’d like to see it in action, schedule a demo today!