Insight April 29, 2021 Colin Gillespie

Five Questions to Ask EdTech Search Firms Before You Engage

Hiring the top EdTech talent you need in today’s tough talent market is not easy, and it doesn’t happen by accident. Working with a search firm experienced in your industry provides an advantage in time, expense, and hiring success. You can protect your company’s reputation when you have the right hiring partner on your side; they will professionally represent you in the marketplace and expertly manage potential candidates. Also, you will build your workforce faster with better hires and not leave your roles open for long periods.

Finding the right search firm requires asking the right questions upfront, and switching between talent acquisition partners isn’t a sustainable process. Each time you change firms without knowing if they are suitable for your organization’s needs, you risk wasting time and money, not getting the right talent for your openings, or even worse – recruiting a poor fit for your organization.

The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) recommends closely and aggressively questioning the search firms that you consider. The following targeted questions are what companies need to ask about to determine if a search firm is right for them.

1. What are the data tools they use to evaluate candidates?

Ask how search firms evaluate candidates for your specific roles and industry. At what stages in the recruiting process does the firm incorporate objective data? How are the findings analyzed and incorporated into the interview process? Does the search firm give the candidate real-time feedback to best utilize and assess results?

For example, confirmed behaviors and demonstrated skill sets are equally important to successful job performance. An evaluation process that employs specific data sources from candidate assessments and 360 degree reference checks gives a clear picture of each candidate. Ask how search firms measure candidate traits that are important to your organization. Are they using aggregated, custom reference checks to enable them to uncover unqualified candidates and make strong hiring decisions?

2. Who is the actual person in charge of handling the search?

Before signing a contract with a search firm, it should be clear and agreed upfront regarding who is handling the search. You need to know who is involved and who is leading the hiring initiative; are you confident that they understand your business, industry, and search needs?

Often you will work with an impressive salesperson as the face of your potential recruiting firm. But will this person lead your search process? Will your actual search manager understand your industry? Can they speak as a peer? What is their background? Does this person have a track record for placements at the firm, or did they just enter? Will they have all of the information and insight necessary to make a great hire?

3. What is the process they go through to ensure a successful search?

Asking about a search firm’s process early is important to establishing a healthy working partnership. This process should cover before, during and post-placement activities. The search firm should define roles for all stakeholders. Also, a professional process will include solid project management principles including goal alignment, record keeping, milestones, check-ins, and an after-action-review. You should feel comfortable about what the search firm will do with your roles and how they will do it.

Further, what homework are you asked to do as the client in order to prepare the search firm for this important new role? As part of the process, a qualified executive search firm will ask you everything about your company, including strategic goals, culture, and who you are as a corporate presence. They will be well-versed on your business model and conduct market research to understand your competitors. They should understand your unique organizational requirements including compensation structures and levels for making final offers.

4. What is the guarantee if someone doesn’t work out?

This question should be asked up front, and not when a candidate leaves a role. There is significant opportunity cost, cultural ramifications, and time lost if new hires exit in the first few months.

Ask if the search firm will replace candidates who do not stay in the role and for how long after the hire. A reputable search firm guarantees a replacement hire if a candidate doesn’t work out within the first six months. Further, they will maintain a relationship with the new hire after placement to ensure they have the best chance for success.

5. Can the firm provide you with relevant references from similar successful searches?

This question provides insight into the fit between your company and the search firm under consideration. Experience recruiting and sourcing for companies similar to yours in your industry can make the difference between your interviewing mediocre candidates and instead meeting expertly matched professionals that turn into successful hires and highly productive contributors.

Asking the five questions above has enabled The Renaissance Network (TRN) client companies to avoid selecting the wrong search firm for their business and industry needs. Proper due diligence has consistently helped them find the best search partner match to uncover the right EdTech talent to hit their revenue and impact goals. At TRN, they expect thier clients to ask about thier process, commitment, and industry experience, and they are happy to discuss working in the EdTech industry.

If you are growing your EdTech team and need to find talent to fill critical roles, then contact TRN today. TRN will help you fill your candidate funnel, go after passive candidates, and bring data tools into the decision-making process.


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Colin Homer Gillespie is a strategic and purpose-driven GM with significant global experience and a record of product innovation and business transformation.

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