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3 Keys for Faster, More Efficient Candidate Research

One of the first executive searches that I ever worked on was a VP role for a well-known software company. At the time, I was working as an executive recruiter for Heidrick & Struggles, one of the world’s premier executive search firms.

Several months into the project, I was struggling to generate candidates for the role. While I had spent a lot of time on research, I had not kept track of any of my efforts, and honestly had no idea where there might be gaps in my research.

So, I started from scratch and went back through LinkedIn and all my other data sources as if no candidate research had been completed yet. Within a few weeks, I identified the eventual placement. However, a lot of time and energy was wasted on duplicate research, and I vowed to never make that mistake again.

The more organized that you are with candidate research, the faster that you will identify the eventual placement for a key role. In this article, you will learn three keys for faster, more efficient candidate research.

1. Keep track of your research.

If you don’t keep track of all of your candidate research efforts, you will be much more likely to miss potential candidates. You will probably also waste time and energy running the same research queries more than once- like I did in the example mentioned above.

These days, I keep a running, time-stamped journal of my research efforts for each executive search project. It is nothing fancy. Mine is a simple Word document. Since it is not intended to be shared with others, it does not matter how pretty it looks. It is simply a tool to be more organized and efficient.

Whenever I conduct new research for a search, I enter it into the journal for that search, noting the tool used for the research (i.e. LinkedIn), the research criteria that were used, and the date of the research. I refer to my research journal very often throughout each search- to see where/how I have already looked for candidates and where/how else additional candidates could be identified.

2. Keep track of your ideas for future research.

In addition to keeping track of your previous candidate research, use your journal to store ideas for future research, too. Throughout a search, you will typically think of additional places and ways to look for new candidates. For example, you might think of some new companies to target. Or, you might think of some new keywords to enter into LinkedIn.

Rather than keeping these ideas in your head or in a bunch of separate places, you can also use your journal as the “storage bin” for all your future research ideas. Storing these ideas in one place helps you be even more organized and efficient.

3. Save potential candidates in three separate LinkedIn projects.

As you identify and research potential candidates for your role, you will inevitably see some people that look right and others that look too senior, too junior, or somehow off-spec. Rather than ignoring those who don’t appear to be a perfect fit, keep track of those that are still relevant by creating three separate “projects” inside of LinkedIn Recruiter:

  • Candidates: These are people that you definitely plan to contact for your role.
  • Backups: These are people who might have a slow career progression, be too junior for your position, or be outside of your target geography. However, they are worth saving in case your search criteria change, or your preferred candidates don’t work out.
  • Sources: These are people who are probably too senior for your role. However, they might know of potential candidates for your role. In addition, sometimes a source will surprise you and express interest in the role for himself.

Summary and Final Thoughts

The key message here is to have some sort of simple, organized approach for keeping track of your research efforts. The more organized that you are, the more candidates that you will identify, and the faster that you will fill your role.

P.S. Looking for more help with your company’s executive recruiting efforts?

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About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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