The Townsend team recently took over an unsuccessful search from one of the largest search firms in the world. That firm was paid top dollar to place an executive at a private equity-sponsored portfolio company; the company got mediocre results from the search firm and hired someone who ultimately did not work out.

When Townsend was engaged to restart the search, we realized a significant percentage of relevant candidates for the role had not even been touched. The initial firm had simply not been thorough or proactive in mining its executive talent pipeline for the best possible candidates.

Finding the right executive for the right position at the right company requires a rigorous, thoughtful and tailored approach, grounded in a deep understanding of the organization’s history, outlook, culture and goals. Today, we are providing some insight into the Townsend philosophy for building a pipeline that works.

Different positions and industries require different approaches. Here are two examples of our process and methodology in action.

Top-Down Search Pipeline

With sector expertise, significant connectivity within the M&A ecosystem and a deep understanding of the verticals that private equity professionals work in, we typically apply a top-down approach to searches in the sector. Each member of our team has built up a sizable network of relevant relationships to leverage when a company retains us, which provides a solid start when we go to market.

Our relationships are such that we are typically able to source referrals from our network who might not be interested but are happy to refer a friend or two in the industry with relevant spheres of influence. This often results in several qualified candidates to add to our pipeline, many of whom make it to the final rounds or being extended an offer to join the company.

In parallel, we apply our robust suite of analytics, research and outreach solutions to ensure we are fully covering the candidate market.

Bottom-Up Search Pipeline

In other executive searches, often those in new, smaller or broader markets, we source candidates with a grassroots approach—building out a target profile and utilizing our suite of resources to assemble a pipeline from a broader pool.

Throughout the process, we leverage our existing networks to find additional qualified candidates and glean  relevant referrals from them. The further the pipeline is narrowed, the more fruit we are able to harvest for our clients. These conversations are also an organic way to introduce the Townsend brand and process from another perspective.

While the starting points are different, each reaches the same center to achieve success.

Talk About Timing

A talent pipeline should not be limited to people who are actively looking for new opportunities—proactivity is key to a thorough search. By simply picking up the phone and having conversations with qualified people, regardless of whether or not they are currently “happy,” good things typically happen.

In some cases, especially with private equity searches, we talk to people who may be “interested,” but the timing is just not right. Maintaining an active relationship, and staying in touch to know when the timing and circumstances are right, is critical.

This process helps build out our network, expanding our pool of potential candidates for future searches and paving the way for new opportunities for the candidate.

The Importance of Storytelling

We have talked before about the vital importance of storytelling in search. The Townsend team understands that when we go to market, we are ambassadors for our clients. For each search, we spend a great deal of time familiarizing ourselves with the objectives of the business, what the role entails and how it will influence organizational outcomes.

We extend the same approach to potential candidates, taking the time to understand their background, expertise and career goals.

That depth of understanding allows us to have more holistic conversations with candidates, helping them to get a clear picture of the opportunity. Whether or not the candidate is interested, our engagement with them directly represents our client’s brand. Being well-informed, accurate and articulate is critical.

By connecting authentically with prospective candidates, we ensure that their first touchpoint with the organization is a positive one—building credibility for our client and establishing rapport with the candidate.

Preparation is Key

Preparing for a search takes time, diligence, research and creativity. When we go to market, we need to fully understand the organization and the sponsor (as applicable) and be able to answer questions beyond most recruiters’ capabilities.

Where many search firms may not be as thorough and tend to focus on volume of candidates, Townsend takes complete ownership of a search, to the point where candidates often assume we work for the company internally. Acting as an extension or ambassador of the business helps us establish the credibility, trust and rapport required to build a world-class talent pipeline and a meaningful client relationship.

The Townsend Difference

Through our proven process of establishing an executive talent pipeline, Townsend Search Group can help your companies unlock enterprise value by finding the best leadership talent available.

If your organization is ready to place changemaking talent, get in touch with any of us on the Townsend Search team and experience The Journey to placing top executive talent.