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Competing for top executive talent in the public sector space takes industry knowledge, familiarity with the general applicant pool and experience navigating recruitments. Search consultants draw upon their understanding of organizational management and human resources to serve as a successful agent for government entities. In turn, public sector organizations can adopt a foundational understanding about search firms to ensure optimal collaboration on hiring opportunities.

In part one of Baker Tilly’s three-part series on executive recruitment for challenging public sector positions, we explore the five common myths about utilizing a search firm.

1. Search firms are too expensive. Public sector-focused search firms are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of a poor hiring decision. The consequences of a poor hiring decision can include both direct and indirect costs like time spent interviewing, onboarding, lost productivity, potentially damaged client relationships, decreased revenue, lowered employee morale, training and other costs.

2. We have engaged a search firm, so we can sit back and wait for a slate of candidates to be provided. The search firm will rely on the hiring agency – your public sector organization – for access to key decision makers, frank discussions about the expectations and demands of the job, and input on advertising and marketing materials. Later in the process, the recruiter will present a working group of candidates with detailed information about the candidates and the hiring authority will have input and final decision-making authority on the interview group. The decision makers must take the time to engage with the recruiter. Although hiring a search firm will minimize elected official and staff time, it cannot be completely eliminated.

3. Recruiters are “king makers.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While the search firm will do everything to make the process successful, the ultimate decision-making authority rests with the hiring agency.

4. The recruiter will dust off a pile of resumes and send us a ready-made group of finalists. We wish it were that easy. Quality public sector search firms approach each recruitment as a unique engagement. An individual who would work well in one environment may be a poor fit in another based on the issues, challenges and organizational culture of each.

5. Hiring a search firm guarantees confidentiality. Recruiters can and do have confidential discussions with potential candidates but open meetings and open record statutes in many states require disclosure of resumes and candidate lists upon public request. In some states, identities of candidates do not have to be revealed until a final interview group is identified. In others, notably Texas and Florida, any resume submitted to the recruiter is synonymous to submission to the client. In cases where there is a strong possibility of disclosure, the recruiters will indicate such in its advertisements and marketing efforts.

Avoid these misconceptions when evaluating and working with executive search firms, and you’ll enter the relationship with your search firm ready to collaborate on recruiting and hiring the best candidates for your organization.

Check out the full public sector executive recruitment series:

Read part 2: Recruiting for difficult positions >

Read part 3: Hiring recommendations for government entities >

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly executive recruitment specialists can help, contact our team.

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