Entry-level associates help with basic tasks during the candidate sourcing stage of an executive search. This is meant to save your senior recruiters time. But junior associates lack the experience needed to add value to the sourcing function right away. Without the right system and tools to support them, this delegation may end up costing you more in the end.

And it can set your search up for a rocky road ahead, too.

The quality of your sourcing work may be the biggest determinant of the success of a search. A recent survey by the benchmarking organization APQC reported that sourcing is the most important area for innovation in talent acquisition. But in order to scale sourcing operations efficiently, executive search firms must find a way to help their junior associates get up to speed quickly.

You can do this with a little help from the right tools and a commitment to some basic tenets.

1. Involve your junior associates before you land the contract

Ask your associates to help plan for a pitch. That way, they’ll be ready to start sourcing when you secure the business. With this insider knowledge, they’ll understand the nuances of the customer’s needs, and they will be better equipped to recognize a candidate who’s a good fit.

To involve them upfront, get their help conducting the initial research, like pulling together competitor lists and developing the search profile, so they can learn about the industry. Consider bringing them with you to the client’s office, so they can get a firsthand feel for the company culture. The time you spend together prepping for a meeting can also be an opportunity to share your knowledge. This cuts down on the amount of time they will need to ramp up once you’re ready to begin sourcing candidates for the search.

2. Keep all your search data in one spot

Collaboration is easier, and people can jump into the details faster, with a “single source of truth” for a search. When your junior staff can access all they need in one spot, you cut down on the time and energy they need to spend finding information. Important information is also less likely to fall through the cracks.

Although most firms have customer relationship management (CRM) software and/or applicant tracking systems (ATS), data often doesn’t make it into those systems. Many are outdated and clunky to use, or staff develop their own workarounds, collecting information in Google Docs and Excel spreadsheets. Important details may stay stuck in email threads.

This fragmentation adds to the time it takes junior staff to get up to speed. It can also lead to confusion that crops up when a candidate is contacted for multiple positions by the same search firm, as a recent article by Human Resource Executive points out. This can happen when sourcing staff and recruiters lack access to the same data.

If you want your staff to use your database and tools, they must be easy to learn and intuitive to use. Your people will be more likely to adopt your system when it fits and enhances their real world workflow instead of requiring them to do things differently. This adds efficiency immediately and increases your returns in the future, too.

Look for a database with modern capabilities like Thrive, which was developed with input from executive search recruiters. It integrates with your email and calendar applications and offers tools for collaborating on things like candidate assessments, so all the work can happen right in the system. This makes it so much easier to keep data all together in one spot.

Once you have a system that fits with how your staff works, a single source of truth can develop naturally. A documented training program can also help ensure everyone follows the same process and collects information in the right spot.

3. Share past searches for similar companies

Junior staff can become productive faster by looking at searches your firm has conducted in the past. As your firm completes more and more searches, you should be collecting more and more data to build your internal database. Then, when you take on a new search project, you can check out the similar searches your firm has completed. Sharing the process and data from similar past searches helps new associates ramp up, showing them the steps and information your firm has used to reach success.

Access to past searches can go a long way toward building a culture of productivity. When you capitalize on past work, it equips your team to tap into higher-order skills. If they can see notes on the candidates who were considered in similar searches, it cuts out the legwork they would have needed to discover the same information on their own. By taking out as much ground-level work as you can, you’re helping your team hit the ground running faster.

4. Invest in your associates’ industry knowledge

It’s important for your staff to understand the client’s industry if they are to succeed at sourcing an executive candidate. Finding the right VP for a medical device company, for example, requires a deep understanding of the companies that operate in the industry and the unique challenges they face.

Regular opportunities for junior associates to learn about the industries for which they’ll be sourcing candidates helps them get up to speed more quickly. When they understand the nuances of these industries, they can also evaluate candidates more effectively.

Shally Steckerl, president and co-founder of the Sourcing Institute, says that sourcing staff can help broaden the pool of candidates by “living where the candidates live.” This means joining associations and following influencers on Twitter and other social media platforms. Some other ways to build that knowledge and help your junior staff onboard more quickly include sending them to industry conferences and recommending industry newsletters for them to follow. They will acquire insider knowledge faster by learning about the companies that make up an industry and what each company is known for.

Consider implementing a mentoring program that gives your junior associates valuable face time with senior recruiters at your firm. Even if they are not active in a current search, you want them to be ready when you need them.

A modern executive search platform like Thrive helps associates learn an industry quicker. The tagging feature, for example, lets recruiters quickly call up a list of candidates tagged with experience in a certain industry or skill set. Recruiters can search on these tags and also build Thrive networks, which are groups of similar candidates. These groups cut out legwork that would otherwise slow down their research.

Improve your margins by investing in your people

Investing in your employees can build their competency — and your margins.

When you help associates onboard quickly with activities like those above, your firm and its clients benefit from better sourcing that’s also done faster. Equipping your staff to find outstanding candidates faster leads to stronger margins and more repeat and referral business. It also frees up senior staff and improves operational efficiency. Data management that’s baked into the process helps preserve and build this momentum for future searches.

The above activities also add further, less-visible benefits. New associates are more likely to enjoy their work when they can make meaningful contributions. When you help them become productive quickly and invest in their knowledge and the right technology to support them, you make them feel valued.

By investing in your junior staff members like this, you can make it more likely they will stay and grow with your firm. This builds value for your firm over time. It accumulates a base of people who are engaged, committed, and knowledgeable, for a strong internal candidate pool that will carry your firm into the future.

Talk to Thrive today about how the right tools can help your staff get up to speed quickly. To learn more, download our e-book: The Definitive Guide: How to Use Your Executive Sourcing Process to Build a Competitive Advantage.

Additional resources from us on the challenges and solutions around executive sourcing: