The Importance of Professional Standards in Executive Research – Mark Senior

Never before have executive researchers been so important in identifying and approaching the right candidates for executive roles.


Companies are more particular and demanding than ever about appointing executives who are exactly the right fit, whilst at the same time the very best candidates often hold the power in the negotiating process and are rarely short of suitors and opportunities.


When they are approached about a role, many candidates are not in job seeking mode – they are happy where they are so the pitch to them has to be attractive, eye-catching and delivered in the right way.


And it is the executive researcher who invariably takes up this challenge and with it the responsibility for finding and approaching the right people – in my judgement the pivotal part of the whole search.


In view of this it is perhaps difficult to understand that many recruitment consultants are still loathe to generously acknowledge the value of the researcher.  Whilst this perception is certainly changing, too many consultants still operate on the basis of the traditional hierarchical order where the researcher does the back room grind, uncomplainingly getting the search to a point where the consultant has a relatively short list of well qualified, interested candidates, from which point the consultant can move the search to its conclusion.


Those of us in the executive research business, whether working inside or outside executive search firms, need to continue to stand up for the value of research and reinforce how important our work is.  To do this we need to stress how professional we are, the rigorous standards we work to, and the well proven methodologies we adhere to.


It is for this reason that the ERA (Executive Research Association) is insisting that all members sign up to work to the ERA Code of Practice.  This obligates members to, among other things, not mislead or use false information in order to access information, ensure that projects and activities are designed, carried out, reported and documented accurately, transparently and objectively, and to always respect confidential information entrusted to them by relevant parties.


Small steps perhaps but part of an ERA programme to raise and formalise standards in executive research, to encourage buyers and users of research to think about how work is being undertaken and to ensure candidates in turn that they too will be treated in the right way. This is part of an ERA programme which also offers researchers the opportunity to engage in training and development workshops led by the UK’s leading training providers. And where discussions are underway which we hope will result in the ERA in the not too distant future being able to offer a formal Development Programme and resulting professional qualification awarded to proven all-round researchers.


We want buyers and users of research to be asking the following questions: Am I dealing with an ERA member who has signed up to the Code of Practice?  And can this researcher demonstrate they have been properly trained (including in the most up to date on-line search techniques) and demonstrate they have the right skills to represent my firm and get the job done in a professional manner?


The ERA’s Code of Practice

New Research Blog – part 2

Josh Kirsopp is a new Researcher at Hays Executive and he is kindly going to blog about his new role, so keep posted for further installments!

Hi, my name is Josh Kirsopp. I’m a Chemistry graduate from the University of Warwick, and I have just started in my new job at Hays Executive as an Associate Researcher. My official start date was the 6th of October, so as you can imagine I’m as green as they come! I came into the role with a vague idea of what was expected of me, but very little appreciation of the effort that goes into each and every search assignment. Over the course of my first week I have; completed multiple online training modules, taken part in lots of on-the-job training and made my first calls.

 For the most part the work has been reasonably straightforward – until I began making approach calls for a benchmarking project. By a long way, the trickiest part of the job so far has been getting past gatekeepers to talk to the appropriate people. Though I’ve not yet done my first pitch to a potential candidate – something I imagine will easily trump the difficulty of dodging receptionists regarding salary analysis work.

Owing to the nature of doing a degree in Chemistry (hours of googling things I didn’t/do not and will never understand) the Internet searching the role requires is something I already feel confident about. It is fair to say that there is one parallel between executive research and a physical science degree – you are presented with things you don’t get off the bat, and you make it your life aim for the next 24 hours to come to terms with the material – whether it’s the corporate language of a job specification or what a role actually entails. To my mind, a career in Research is for those with an inquisitive nature and a staying power far beyond the Wikipedia search function. I’ve enjoyed my first week here, and expect I’ll enjoy the next even more.

Josh Kirsopp – Associate Researcher -Hays Executive

So I’m coming up to a month of working at Hays Executive as an Associate Researcher, and the learning curve so far has been a steep one! Over the last week or so I have; received volumes of training on various things research related, made my first approach calls for an active assignment and faced the occasional despondent response from stressed candidates (the least enjoyable part so far).

The approach calls have been by far the most difficult experience so far, not only because you have so little time to pitch such a big role, but because wording things appropriately while talking to people in such senior positions is quite the culture shock to someone fresh out of the education system. Over the course of many, many role-playing calls with my ever-patient line manager, I feel as though I am ironing out some of the wrinkles…

Another point of improvement I will be focussing on over the coming weeks is time management; something I have, ironically, not found the time for over the last fortnight.

As the closing date of my first assignment approaches, the difference between a strong A+ candidate and an average B candidate is becoming more clear, owing to working closely with the consultants and receiving feedback on the their suitability – something I wish I had understood when first creating the ID list, though I expect this is somewhat to do with my lack of experience in the sector and general unfamiliarity with the services the client offers. It seems that dodging the world of work for 3 years while completing my undergraduate degree is finally catching up with me!

In much the same way as I signed off the last post of this blog, my experience here has only improved week on week and I expect this trend to continue.

Josh Kirsopp – Associate Researcher -Hays Executive


Louise Haines is the Head of Research for Hays Executive, the dedicated search and selection arm of Hays PLC. Louise talks about her experiences with the Executive Research Association (ERA) and how being part of this network has benefited her as a manager and impacted the development of her team.

Louise-HainesWhat is your background? Quick snapshot

So as a brief background, I have over 10 years’ experience working for search firms, from small boutique organisations through to working for Hays PLC, a FTSE 250 company with over 7,800 staff. Hays Executive specialises predominantly in Non-Executive, Board and Senior Management appointments within the public, construction, property, engineering and energy sectors and l lead the in-house team that delivers the critical search campaigns – essentially finding those needles in large haystacks!

When and why did you join the ERA?

I joined the Executive Research Association over 3 years ago as an individual member to understand a little more about what the ERA can offer in-house search teams. I initially joined to attend the annual ERA Conference due to the relevant industry speakers and panel members that were presenting.  These ranged from Client speakers, Heads of Research, Independent researchers and trainers from the UK and internationally. I thought what a great opportunity to hear about the wider search market, perhaps learn some new techniques and to network with my peers – were my peers facing the same challenges and opportunities as myself? And YES – they were!