The power of research in executive search

Posted 11 August 2022

Executive search is a highly specialised area of recruitment that relies on experience and connections to find and attract highly skilled senior people to new roles. At Howgate Sable, we have excelled in this field for more than 30 years, building a solid reputation as an executive search partner for clients spanning multiple sectors.

Key to our success has been the strength of our internal research team, spearheaded by Liz Shay. Here, she explains more about the power of research in the executive search field.

“Research is the engine that drives the search process,” she says. “It’s absolutely fundamental to the success of an assignment; without thorough research performed by a senior team which fully understands the brief, a search will never uncover the hidden gems who so often walk away with the top job.”

A powerful research team is adept at finding that hidden talent. By going the extra mile to get under the skin of a brief and put in the legwork to find people who fit the bill, researchers help partners create exceptional shortlists for clients.

“A good researcher is dedicated, experienced, a strong communicator, tenacious and focused on finding the candidates,” explains Liz. “They provide an intellectual and structured approach to a project, working closely with the partners who have the client relationships and understand exactly what they are seeking.”

Liz Shay, director of research
Liz Shay, director of research

Howgate Sable has always invested in an in-house research team. Partner Neil Humphreys says: “We’ve always valued the benefits of having our own in-house researchers. It’s a huge advantage to our clients as we are able to provide high quality shortlists from in and outside their sectors. Because researchers are constantly reviewing the playing field, we can introduce potential talent from other sectors who show the right aptitudes and skills. The success of executive search is determined by the strength of the research, which is why we have always placed significance on it.”

The presence of a research team allows the firm’s partners to concentrate on client relationships, with peace of mind that focused activity is ongoing to support the search mandate. Working closely with partners and the wider fee earning team, researchers keep track of potential candidates across many sectors and maintain knowledge and awareness of the firm’s key sectors.

The current Howgate Sable research team has over 25 years’ experience, both in the UK and with significant international experience. Liz – as Director of Research – is also the Co-Chair for the Executive Research Association, the not-for-profit organisation which represents the research and talent professions, sharing her considerable knowledge with the team and for the benefit of the firm as a whole.

“There are plenty of indicators that our clients see the true value of excellent research,” says Liz. “Howgate Sable has a high rate of repeat business, building client relationships that last for years thanks to the quality of work produced. One area I’m particularly passionate about is aiding diversity and inclusion advancements by providing shortlists that transcend multiple ages, races, locations and experiences. We have a really strong record of placing women in senior roles – in fact around 40% of roles we placed last year were women. As a woman in a senior role myself, this is something that I’m really proud of.”

The firm is further investing in its research capability with the expansion of the team. For an informal chat about the role of research and to find out more about how research aids executive search, get in touch with Liz.