Leveraging insights from Harvard and Deloitte, Managing Partner, Adrian von Dewall, delves into feedback's pivotal role in executive search, shaping future leadership and reputation.

By Adrian von Dewall
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In the meticulously calibrated world of executive search, the dichotomy between offering candid feedback and the burgeoning trend of "ghosting" candidates stands as a pivotal juncture. As an Executive Search Partner, navigating the delicate corridors of recruiting C-level executives, I've observed how feedback - or its absence - can dramatically sway our professional relationships, reputation, and the overarching employer brand. Leveraging insights from Deloitte and Harvard studies, this discussion ventures into the essential role of feedback within executive search and the ramifications of overlooking this fundamental element.

The Power of Feedback: Aligning Aspirations with Market Realities

At its core, feedback is more than a courtesy; it's a strategic tool. Harvard Business School's research underscores the transformative potential of reflective learning, emphasising how feedback can enhance performance and readiness for leadership roles. In the realm of executive search, where candidates' career trajectories are at play, the value of feedback cannot be overstated. It helps bridge the gap between a candidate's self-perception and the market's demand, offering a roadmap for personal and professional development.

The Deloitte Perspective: Cultivating a Feedback Culture

Deloitte's insights further illuminate the importance of embedding feedback mechanisms within organisational culture. Their BYOC (Bring Your Own Challenge) approach to leadership development exemplifies how real-world challenges can be leveraged as opportunities for growth and learning. In executive search, adopting a similar mindset means viewing each interaction with candidates as a chance to provide constructive feedback that fosters skill development and aligns with future leadership needs.

The Consequences of Silence: Ghosting in Executive Search

In today's volatile economic climate, the phenomenon of "ghosting" —where communication abruptly stops from one party without explanation—has regrettably found its way into the executive search process. The implications of ghosting are far-reaching: it not only damages the immediate candidate relationship but also tarnishes the employer brand and reputation in the wider professional community. In a market where top talent has multiple opportunities, the memory of being ghosted can lead to negative word-of-mouth, dissuading potential candidates from engaging with your firm in the future.

From Candidate Experience to Employer Branding: A Ripple Effect

The candidate experience is intrinsically linked to your company's employer brand. Every interaction, every piece of feedback, paints a picture of your firm's values and approach to professional relationships. A Deloitte study highlights that a positive candidate experience can significantly enhance your employer brand, attracting more top-tier professionals to your organisation. Conversely, a negative experience can deter potential candidates, making it increasingly challenging to attract the calibre of talent necessary for success.

The Impact of Feedback Done Right (and Wrong)

Consider "Emma,” a high-potential candidate who, after several rounds of interviews, was left in the dark when another candidate was chosen. The lack of closure and feedback left her questioning her worth, vowing never to engage with the firm again - a sentiment she shared within her extensive network.

Contrastingly, “Joachim” received detailed feedback after being passed over for a role. This constructive critique became a catalyst for his professional development, leading to a successful placement in a more suitable position. Grateful for the honesty and support, Arthur became an advocate for the firm, praising its integrity and candidate care.

A Call to Action

The importance of providing feedback in executive search cannot be understated. It is a cornerstone of candidate engagement, essential for maintaining a positive employer brand and reputation. As executive search partners, we have a responsibility to navigate these interactions with care, ensuring that even when the news isn't favourable, the experience is positive. Addressing ghosting by committing to timely and constructive feedback not only enhances the candidate experience but also solidifies our standing as reputable leaders in the field.

In an era where talent is king, and the war for top executives rages on, let's champion feedback as our most valuable ally.

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