Challenging Searches: A Closer Look at Our Toughest Tasks

At Innovex, we love to be challenged. Which is lucky, because there’s no such thing as an easy search. Over the past year especially, with the extra obstacles thrown our way by the pandemic, we’ve faced our fair share of tough tasks. And despite sometimes feeling like we’re up against a brick wall, we’ve succeeded.

How? I’d love to have a big, elaborate story about how we’ve built groundbreaking processes, never before seen in executive search. Or how we’ve created our own innovative technologies to handle anything that’s thrown our way. But actually, there’s nothing ‘out there’ about what we do. At Innovex, we just focus on getting the core fundamentals right, and knowing where to dig in to ‘get it done’ for our clients. That’s something that a lot of others overlook.

Let’s take a look at three of our most challenging searches over the past year, and how we handled them…

Case Study 1:

Managing Director, North America for a hyper-growth cybersecurity company.

The challenge:

The client wanted to see a gender diverse shortlist – in an industry that’s notoriously very male-dominated. The big challenge here was finding diversity across highly qualified yet niche candidate pools. We had to create a shortlist that was fair and relevant, and yet met the client’s non-negotiable skillset criteria.

Our approach:

We put together an extensive market map of competitors and other relevant target sites. This allowed us to have a view on a candidate pool from just below the Canadian border to the Southern States (a little over half of North America). That totalled 350 potential candidates at Director, Managing Director and Vice President level. But we were still only at 30% diversity. So when it came to engaging candidates, we needed to ensure that our attraction rate was nearing 90%. We ended up with a 40/60 shortlist – eventually leading to two women and one man at the final interview stage.

Case Study 2:

Managing Director for a B2C platform provider.

The challenge:

We were asked to find a global director who could generate user growth in the platform, drive profitability across the extended product suite, and manage all aspects of profit and loss. With marketing, sales, channels, and partnerships experience. And from a financial services background, latterly moving into Fintech. And they had to be an ‘up and comer’ with a maximum of 10 years experience. We needed to focus on diversity from this pretty small pool, too.

Our approach:

Right from the start, this exact mix was going to be near impossible to achieve. So we had to read between the lines; we had to understand that, in asking for everything, the client really didn’t know what they wanted. We were upfront and transparent with the client. We talked with them online and worked out the skillsets that were essential in a candidate, and those that could be learnt.

Although it took us more time, we managed to achieve a diverse shortlist with the ‘experience mix’ that the client was looking for. I’ve worked in businesses that would have just walked away, charging the client a cancellation fee. But Innovex isn’t just about executive search and finding the obvious people; we’re also about advising and helping our clients to hire better, now and in the future.

Case Study 3:

VP of Fintech Sales for a US company based on the West Coast

The challenge:

The client wasn’t entirely sure where they wanted their Vice President of Sales to be located, so the main challenge for us was simply the area that we were working across. We mapped from Oregon up to Washington, down to Texas, and everything in between. It was like finding a needle in a haystack; and once again, we were looking for candidates with a niche skillset across a third of the United States.

Our approach:

Our approach was perseverance. There was no magic solution. There was nothing we could do to narrow the search area without potentially missing out on the right person. And so we just had to accept that this was going to be a big task. We ended up identifying 250 candidates across 200 businesses. We engaged with 75% of them, and interviewed more people than I care to remember! But it worked. We created a diverse shortlist in terms of profile, gender, background, and more. The client struggled to narrow down who to shortlist, so they ended up interviewing the entirety of the longlist – and made a successful hire within weeks.

The Innovex way

As I said at the start, none of this is groundbreaking. We’re not inventing new technology. We’re not coming up with genius new ways of recruiting. But we’ve had over 80% engagement rates in a pandemic, when people are still unsure whether they should make a move or not. We’ve achieved diverse shortlists in candidate-short, niche markets. How?

Firstly, we don’t stop engaging candidates post-shortlist. This means that if any candidate qualifies out, we have further candidates ready for the client. Secondly, we think that sticking to the fundamentals, and being transparent and honest with our clients about what works, is the best approach. Finally, we go over and above to achieve our shortlist time of between 4-6 weeks for our clients – no matter how hard or late we have to work.

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