When Working With Executive Search Firms, How Would You Describe A "Good Client"?


What a great question! In our field, we often talk about the factors that make a candidate stronger, but characteristics of a “good client” are equally important to the successful outcome of any search. I can offer some detailed examples of “good client” behavior, and then I will share an overall principle.

First, the specific criteria. Good clients:

  • Return phone calls and e-mails in a timely fashion;
  • Give prompt feedback on documents that need approval;
  • Provide enough information to appropriately represent the organization while we search on its behalf;
  • Read the information on candidates we have diligently prepared and provide feedback;
  • Assign an internal designee to prepare the candidate visits and itineraries, and send this information to the candidate/s on time;
  • Keep us informed of organizational changes that impact the search;
  • Don’t assume we know their thoughts — please share;
  • Are not afraid to over communicate — we love it!

This list suggests the guiding tenet: good clients will partner with their retained executive search firm to drive searches forward in an expeditious and effective manner. Remember, retained executive search consultants are, by nature, fairly positive, outgoing people. We enter into a new client relationship with the fervor of building a new business friendship, filled with high expectations of being considered a trusted advisor to our client.

Over the more than 30 years that I have been in executive search, I have learned that clients come in all personality types and interaction styles. The variation these styles present does not bother me because I am an “adapter,” eager to meet the needs of each client. This mindset helps consultants like myself drive the process of forming a partnership, but partnership building is a two-way street — we need the client’s help! Shorter search times and other benefits accrue when a successful partnership is achieved. Good client behavior rewards the client and the search firm!