Hiring an executive search firm

Gillamor Stephens

A few insights from the executive search firm Gillamor Stephens which has been supporting several Inventure portfolio companies over the years. 


First things first

When preparing the hiring process by approaching an executive search company, there needs to be a clear understanding of what you are looking for and an agreement from everyone that has a voice in the process. If there is not agreement from the beginning, the chance of consensus is less likely and the process will fail. This is key when the Board / Investors are involved.

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About the process

The amount of people involved in the process varies depending on what the role is, but the more people involved the more perspectives can be gained as long as they are relevant to the role and decision process, On the other side, it can also be harder to gain consensus. You need to remember that the candidates need to meet all relevant staff and board members so they can make an informed decision.

Gillamor Stephens has weekly reviews with the hiring committee from the client companies. On top of the reviews, the candidates interviews are usually structured around three meetings:

  1. First interview: usually 1.5 hours
  2. Meeting the team: usually half day
  3. In depth discussions: meeting the Board if required and dinner/lunch with CEO

Overall, the executive search company normally shortlist within five weeks. This is followed by three weeks of client interviews and then three to six months’ notice, depending on role and level

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The hiring stages

Gillamor Stephens has developed an Executive Search Process that is focused on not only hiring the most appropriate individual for clients, but to ensure they successfully integrate and deliver to their full potential. 

  • Stage 1 – Requirements Definition: Role and Person profile, compensation, benefits, equity etc
  • Stage 2 – Research: Build and discuss the target candidate list
  • Stage 3 – Approach Candidates: Gillamor Stephens approaches potential candidates
  • Stage 4 – Gillamor Stephens Interview Candidates
  • Stage 5 – Benchmarking & Shortlisting:  the search company presents a ‘benchmark’ early in the process to test the objective and subjective fit of candidates.
  • Stage 6 – Interview Process, Structure and Management:  to test the experience, personality and chemistry fit of candidates
  • Stage 7 – Offer Acceptance Process: Gillamor Stephens works on a fixed fee, so to remain neutral when negotiating this key step of the process.
  • Stage 8 – Candidate Commences Employment & Follow-Up: the search company follows up day 1, 30 and 90 with candidates to ensure they are settling into their new role
  • Stage 9 – Client Satisfaction Audit: Gillamor Stephens always reviews the work with clients. 

Common mistakes

A few of the most common mistakes worth avoiding:

  • Liking people for the wrong reasons and not assessing against measurable criteria, the ‘good guy’ effect.
  • Being swayed by personality and communication skills – ESPECIALLY when hiring sales leaders! Always get candidates to present to the executive team, take them out of their comfort zone and see how good they really are in Q&A. 80% of the time this changes the preferred candidate.
  • Not being open! Don’t embellish the facts as this will seriously destroy any trust with the hire. Be open and let them know what they are joining – the good and bad.
  • Make time to integrate them into the business
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The benchmark is 1/3 of base salary, but there is a degree of flexibility depending on the scope of the search and how early stage the company is. ALWAYS agree a fixed fee, you shouldn’t pay more because you offered the candidate a higher salary. The stages should be:

  • One third of the fee on commencement
  • One third on YOUR acceptance of the shortlist AFTER you have interviewed them
  • Final third when they commence employment or accept the offer.
  • Six or nine month warranty – if they leave for any reason the recruiter replaces them.

gillamor stephens in brief

Gillamor Stephens are an executive search company based in London hiring exec and non-exec for start-ups across Europe. We have four Partners focussed on different technology areas and we are part of Access Search Partners a global alliance with offices in the US, Asia and Canada. We have hired for Nordic and Baltic companies for over five years working with several leading venture capital companies.