A good executive search firm can make a huge difference in the quality of the candidates you’re able to consider for a key position in your organization. But to get the best results, you can’t just sign the contract and forget about it. Here are a few things you need to do to ensure a successful search

Be prepared – To find the right person, the search firm needs to know exactly what they’re looking for. Members of the management team often have different opinions on what skills and experience the candidate will need to be successful, so make sure everyone who will work closely with the new hire is involved in defining the job specification.

Be realistic – Differentiate between essential skills and those that would be nice to have, and make sure the characteristics you’re looking for aren’t contradictory. A person who works well independently isn’t going to be a great collaborative team player, and a creative problem-solver isn’t going to play by the book. If you try to find everything in one candidate, you’ll end up with someone who’s okay at lots of things but not great at anything.

Be self-aware – Be brutally honest with the recruiter – and yourself – about your organization and its culture. If the department’s a mess and the first priority for the successful candidate will be clean-up, you’re not doing anyone a favour by withholding that information. And, as much as you may wish your organization was more welcoming – or entrepreneurial or technologically cutting-edge – representing it as something it’s not will almost definitely result in a mis-hire.

Be open-minded – In-house recruitment efforts tend to be fairly narrowly-focused, but a good search firm should bring a broader perspective on where to look for candidates with the skills and experience you need. Talent can – and does – migrate, so be open to possibilities you may not have thought of before.

Be decisive – Although the process usually takes longer when you use a search firm, you still need to move quickly when it’s time to make decisions. Search firms generate higher-quality candidates because they’re pursuing people who weren’t looking for a new job until they got a call. That often transforms a passive candidate into an active one, and if you don’t make timely decisions, your perfect candidate may have already accepted another position by the time you get around to making an offer.

Although using an executive search firms will greatly reduce the burden on internal resources, finding the best person to fill a critical, high-level vacancy is still time-consuming and labour-intensive. Committing to full and honest participation in the process is the best way to ensure you do it right the first time.