Assessment Survey Results Commentary from Tim Connolly, ALC Discovery

Within the search industry, it’s common practice and all too easy to talk up our strengths in educating and improving our clients’ talent management recruitment and development processes without scrutinising our own failings in hiring our own talent in terms of unconscious bias, inclusion, retention and cost per hire.

Whilst search firms are streets ahead of their less strategic cousins, contingency recruitment companies in terms of how they go about hiring and nurturing their own talent, they still have a long way to go compared to most of the sectors that they serve.

There is still an overwhelmingly disproportionate swathe of white, able bodied men in the key senior roles within most search firms and whilst some firms are more conscious of it than others, there are not many that are addressing it head on. This is due partly due to the sometimes valid argument that the pool of available and qualified Search Consultant candidates is minuscule and that recruiting in one’s own image is a necessity born from historical reasons: the fact that this self-perpetuating majority have been working in the industry over decades, so it is difficult to disrupt that overnight.

But disrupt it we must if we are going to learn and improve as an industry. There are more and more ways we can bring data into what we do to improve and remove unconscious bias which ultimately helps us serve our clients more effectively and fairly as we are more diversely and fairly represented ourselves. We should see ourselves as ambassadors and be proud to lead the way rather than trail in the wake of other business sectors.

Assessment of course is only one way that we can attempt to shake up the search industry but it can be a very effective way of doing so. In our survey we conducted, the results confirm that assessment is much more prolifically used by search firms with their clients than themselves, with only 17% of search firms surveyed currently utilising assessment as part of their own hiring process versus 44% of them using it as part of their clients hiring and selection process.

This is not surprising perhaps as we recognize that as an industry we are not always best at obeying the mantra: “Physician, heal thyself” but when it comes to a comparison between the amount of search firms that use assessment internally for other areas of development such as onboarding, team dynamics or anything else versus how many employ assessment in those areas with their clients, the contrast is even more stark: 5% versus 38%. It seems we are not taking our own medicine.

Whilst 100% of search firms surveyed recognize the value of assessment in making better hiring decisions and the industry is becoming more and more data savvy, we have a long way to go in terms of implementing assessment processes more universally both for ourselves and with our clients.

It seems that part of the hesitation of search firms to commit to a certain type of assessment solution is the general confusion out there in terms of the unique features and benefits of each with no uniform way of comparing one against another. The other complication and factor that seems to cause inertia in terms of acquiring what is deemed universally to be an incredibly useful addition to our services, is that we often have a lot of stakeholders involved in the decision making process.

Perhaps as a way to combat this and to start afresh, 32% of search firms developed their own assessment instruments, either in conjunction with an assessment provider and branded as their own or they have developed them completely themselves.


Even if we are not yet practising what we preach in terms of our own internal talent management, it seems that there is a great deal of awareness out there that we are starting to harness.Using personality profiling criteria as to why this is the case, perhaps an additional reason that is because the industry is full of extroverts rather than introverts, we lose interest or do not attach enough importance to introspection and self-analysis as part of what we do.

SOURCE: ALC Discovery

Further reading...

The topic of Assessment will be covered at the upcoming World Executive Search Congress in October in London - SPEAKER SPOTLIGHT: Want to Broaden Your Candidate Pool? Charlie Atkinson Will Explore How to Use Science to Identify Alternative Candidates at the World Executive Search Congress