Author: InterSearch Ireland

Onboarding – A Critical Aspect of the Recruitment Process – A Discussion with Micheál Coughlan, Managing Partner of InterSearch Ireland

Onboarding is a process that ensures the smooth transition and integration of an employee into a new role, organisation, and culture. Efficient onboarding does this quickly and painlessly for all stakeholders.

This process does not commence at the offer stage, onboarding must start at the onset of the recruitment process. Where there has been an identification of a gap in manpower, the onboarding process should begin.

Micheál Coughlan, Managing Partner of InterSearch Ireland discusses the importance of effective onboarding with Clementina Mustapha, Executive Search Specialist at Intersearch Ireland.

See excerpt from the interview below

As an Executive Search firm, what role does Onboarding play in the recruitment of senior executives?

Micheál: “Onboarding is a vital aspect of the recruitment process not only for senior executives but really across all levels of recruitment. The purpose is primarily to develop and implement employee engagement even before they commence their employment with the new organisation. When a company seeks to bring in a new person for a leadership role, this process becomes much more important, you want an executive who believes in your organisation, is confident that s/he is making the right decision to move from current company to yours and that you welcome the opportunity to explore the vast experience that they bring with them in furtherance of your organisational goals.

At InterSearch Ireland, Onboarding is a vital part of the candidate experience. Our processes are geared towards ensuring that the candidate understands the role that is under consideration, the responsibilities, and requirements but most significantly, the organisation that we are presenting. As an executive search firm, we are not only looking to place leaders with our clients, but we understand the unique positions of our clients in their respective industries. Companies are competing for leaders and professionals in the same talent pool and it is important that we know what makes our clients the preferred choice for a prospective employee. Therefore, for us, onboarding begins before winning an assignment; we research the client organisation and industry to get an insight into what makes them different and how this will translate into a compelling factor for candidates to explore and indicate interest in opportunities within the company.”


Would you then say that the Executive Search firm, although has no input in client strategic plans, product or services, but in searching for the right leader, has to present the client attributes to prospective candidates?

Micheál: “I would not go as far as saying that we are advertisers on behalf of our clients, however, in collaboration with clients, we are able to understand their plans and where they expect prospective leaders to fit in and possibly how they are able to work towards the achievement of existing objectives or develop and implement new strategies. So, we do need a clear understanding of what the client is looking to achieve; short, medium- and long-term plans and what they aim to achieve within the industry.

This is key in our research and targeting of prospective candidates. Remember that these candidates are experienced leaders and they understand the industry, the gaps in processes, product and services in the market. They can identify aspects of a company’s strategy that meets their own personal and professional aspirations. This is really what we aim for at the initial stage of an assignment; to understand our client’s position, their goals and the roadmap that they have set to achieve set goals.”


How will you describe the relationship between the Client and InterSearch Ireland with regards to the onboarding process?

Micheál: “Based on our values and processes, our approach is one of collaboration. To do this, we maintain a proactive communication loop with the client. This ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the process, actions, and feedback. With clarity, open and frequency of feedback, the client is involved in the onboarding process because they do have the opportunity to direct the narrative especially in giving the candidate a first-hand impression of their organisation.

Another area of collaboration is in our analytical reporting. We assess and evaluate role requirements based on market trends. Factors such as salary and benefits, location/relocation, candidate’s unique circumstances- relocating family, schools, job opportunity for a spouse among others will determine a candidate’s willingness to move. Our relationship with the client organisation through HR or the hiring manager ensures that they have a clear understanding of the talent pool available to them. The client is also able to objectively asses the challenges that they face in attracting the desirable leader and sometimes, they work out arrangements to accommodate candidates’ concerns.

It is important to note that candidates are assessing the client based on their experience during the recruitment process. A long and extended process may be translated as an organisation that has a long and cumbersome decision-making culture. In my experience, responsiveness builds confidence and trust.  At InterSearch Ireland, we have a good understanding of the client’s organisation and their expectations. This relationship ensures a great level of responsiveness from the hiring manager which in turn translates into candidate experience.”


 How do you ensure that we get the Hiring Manager engaged in this process from our end? Since we have been retained, we are responsible for identifying and presenting candidates to our client. What is the role of the hiring manager at this stage?

Micheál: “As a retained search firm, we consider ourselves as partners with our clients. We are actively involved in the journey of finding the right leadership fit. We cannot do this by excluding the clients’ representatives. Communication and our interaction with the hiring manager help in creating clarity on both ends and feedback ensures that all stakeholders are in the loop at all times. Clients have been known to change certain requirements in the process of ongoing searches, identified new areas of opportunities and even expanded the scope of roles by either creating new ones or increasing teams based on feedback from ourselves. We can get factual data from candidates and this, in turn, helps clients to benchmark their activities against their competitors.

For instance, if a candidate is at the offer stage and is counter-offered by the current employer, it is my experience that the recruitment process plays a vital part in his/her decision to reject the new offer. Candidate experience is key in this instance. If a candidate has been involved in the process up to the offer stage, it is an indication that they are looking at career progression, personal/family time, new challenges and so on. If these are possible with our client and the process has been well managed by ourselves and an engaged and responsive client, it is more than likely that the candidate will move on.

The hiring manager is in most cases the candidate’s first experience with the client organisation. If there is rapport built up, transparency in the process and crucially updates provided on the process, the candidate has an opportunity to assess the people within the company that s/he is looking to move to.

The Client HR department will take responsibility once the candidate commences employment, this is an internal process that we have no control of, however through our collaboration and interaction with HR and hiring managers, we can help candidates take the first step into a new opportunity.”


You talked about counteroffers from current employers; how do you manage that?

Micheál: “In most cases, counteroffers are to be expected. If we value candidates enough that they are sought after by our clients, it goes without saying that current employers will endeavour to retain them.

Normally, once an offer has been made, I consider this a critical period in the recruitment process and onboarding has to be intensified at this stage, in collaboration with the client. It is important to prepare the candidate psychologically for the possibility of a counteroffer. Some candidates do not expect or consider counter-offers at this stage and when it is presented to them, it becomes a dilemma.

There are mostly two types of candidates that we deal with at this stage, the first has made a conscious and definite decision to leave a current organisation. The key here is to ensure that they are confident that they are moving into the right organisation. The second type of candidate is looking for new challenges and will leave for the right opportunity within or outside of the current employer. Here, a current employer might seek to present a counteroffer if they sense some ambivalence in the candidate.

Sometimes we use role-plays to prepare candidates on handing in their notice and how to be clear in communicating the decision to leave to current employer. The role of the consultant is critical at this stage. S/he has to support the candidate because this can be a very emotionally challenging time.

The notice period is a delicate time and must be effectively managed by the hiring manager. It is important to keep the incoming employee in the loop at all times, there MUST be an open line of communication between the new employer and the employee. Reaching out frequently with credible subjects and possibly by different people in the organisation is one way to keep the new employee engaged. Providing relevant information on the role in preparation for commencement, an invitation to company events, launches and dinner are some of the actions that can be used to ease the employee into his/her new role. Therefore, keeping the offeree engaged is vital at this stage.”


How will you know that a placement has been successfully on-boarded in your client company?

Micheál: “Onboarding is a fact for all organisations, but it is also unique to prevailing circumstances; culture, strategy, organisational structure, and environment. It can be assessed around the process and ease of carrying out one’s responsibilities in a new company.

It may be the case that a new employee can effectively carry out the technical requirements of the role, but does not have the personality fit for the organisation.  Behavioural competencies are key at the leadership level and this is oftentimes the area of greatest challenge for the new leader and the team. Personality and culture fit are important.

The size of the organisation will also determine the onboarding process after the commencement of employment. The bigger the company the more likely that this might be a lengthy process.

After commencement, we continue to engage with the hiring manager and the new employee to assess how the relationship is progressing. This allows us to evaluate the fit and areas of concern if any. I believe that if the onboarding is not progressing as should, either side can determine this within the guarantee/probationary period. After this period, there is a good indication that onboarding is progressing well.”

Thought Diversity

Thought Diversity and Inclusion– An important Resource for Business Growth

Thought Diversity and Inclusion

Working with a team of like-minded people may seem like the best thing that an organisation can aspire to achieve. The absence of friction, the ability for all team members to work in tandem, to understand and accept the norm, go with the flow, and generally not rock the boat ensuring smooth sailing.

The above scenario on the surface would be the ideal work environment. However, research has shown that organisations like this tend to be outperformed by those that have teams with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Research has time and again shown that organisations with diverse teams tend to outperform homogeneous teams. This is a no brainer in today’s business world.  Homogeneous teams oftentimes tend to have a limited perspective on issues due to the fact that they mostly share similar identities and experiences. It is vital that companies enrich their employee pool with representatives of different genders, races, and nationalities, experiences, and background, in order to enhance joint intellectual potential. This will make for a knowledge-based organisation and ensure that decision making is based on facts resulting from critical analysis.  Diverse teams open up the opportunity to challenge basic assumption, encourage joint up thinking and reduces bias within the team.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace, in a global economy makes ‘business sense’. In a world where businesses are operating across borders, importing and exporting goods and services to places that most of their employees have never and may never visit, it is imperative that cultural diversity is a policy issue. Consideration must be given to gender, religion, sexual orientation, race and disability among others.

Boards and managements must be open to actively pursuing a diversity and inclusion agenda. Considering the simple fact that target markets and consumers are diverse, it is imperative that their experiences be represented at the decision-making table. There is no understanding your buyers, suppliers or end-users if you have not walked in their shoes!

7,615 firms participated in the London Annual Business Survey. This was conducted with the UK capital’s executives that asks a number of questions about their companies’ performance. Results revealed that businesses run by culturally diverse leadership teams were more likely to develop new products than those with homogenous leadership. Read more here: 

Oftentimes, when we discuss diversity, the tendency is to focus on the benefits of having representation from different races, gender, religion and communities in our teams. This is in fact a vital foundation for inclusion. However, diversity goes beyond that; it is more about the “values, beliefs and thinking”. Our values and beliefs are primarily what differentiates us. They are based on our inherent make up, our environment and experiences. A simplistic view of diversity fails to recognise the fact that people belong to and identify with multiple groups. For instance, sexual orientation cuts across all groups of diversity; gender, race, ethnicity, age, and personality. How these multiple identities interact, and the importance each plays in an individual’s life, is important to their thought process. In today’s global economy, goods and services are becoming predominantly available to markets around the world, hence the need to take into consideration the values, beliefs and thought process of target markets.

Diversity as a core resource

To ensure competitive advantage, diversity of thought must be considered a core resource.

In recruiting leadership roles, it is vital that Hiring Managers are not just ticking boxes. It is imperative to explore the benefits of a diverse workforce. Diversity and inclusion should be measured against an analysis of the organisation’s strategy, current team composition, markets spread and projections and current market position in comparison to top competitors; comparing and measuring their diversity strategy against performance.

Hiring Managers must be able to argue the case for diversity of thought. They must not be closed- minded due to a fear of changing the status quo. To persuade management to be open to this agenda, facts and figures must be presented, benefits to the bottom line must be based on facts, and projections must show a positive outcome for the organisation. Highlighting to management the benefits of a properly implemented diversity and inclusion agenda will make for creativity and innovation, ensuring long term growth.

Stephanie Ryan, Consultant in the Private Sector Division at InterSearch Ireland:

“It is important that management within companies vigorously develop and implement diversity policies and strategies that go beyond documentation and filling. Given the current socio-political and economic environment, companies in Ireland are increasingly looking to engage new partners and suppliers as well as targeting new markets; largely due to the uncertainty around Brexit. To be successful in this agenda, they must be open to diversity, not only as we know it but more so in thought diversity. This is a sure way of encouraging creativity and innovation ensuring that they avail of the vast opportunities that abound in the global economy.”

Small and medium enterprises need to start vigorously exploring the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce. It ensures that they create opportunities to differentiate themselves, create new and innovative products and services, and expand into new markets.

In a nutshell, diversity of thoughts and inclusions creates opportunity for business growth. Recognising that a diverse workplace includes people with different experiences at different levels, as well as different personalities, builds creativity and presents a range of perspectives that may be absent in a homogeneous workplace.

Finally, it is important that developing a diversity and inclusion policy is not the end game. This is a process that must be continuously monitored, reviewed and evaluated. It is vital that HR carry out regular analysis of the impact of their inclusive workforce. This will ensure that gaps and opportunities are identified and impacts are measurable.

Written by Clementina Mustapha

Executive Search Specialist, InterSearch Ireland

Clementina Mustapha

Sustainability – An opportunity for career development

Sustainability is a term that has increasingly become embedded in all facets of our lives. From the home-place to schools, SMEs to multinational organisation and most significantly it is beginning to influence government policies in the areas of transportation, housing and the environment.

For discerning minds, it is glaring that climate change is real and the impact on the planet is one that we live with on a daily basis directly or indirectly. All you need do is listen to the news and read about extreme conditions close to home and in other parts of the world to know the growing concerns. The effect of climate change on flora and fauna, the artic and sea level has significant ramifications for the human species.

The impact of these effects is gaining more and more recognition and driving the need for actions by not just policymakers but most importantly by consumers. Interestingly, selling “sustainability” to business leaders can be a daunting task for those charged with this responsibility. However, we know that business is largely about the bottom line; margins; PROFITS – to get management buy-in. Simply advancing the need for sustainability oftentimes will not cut it with boards by expounding on the need for environmentally friendly sourcing, processes and actions with the aim of saving the planet. The carrot is to be able to present a strategy that is cost-effective, improves and guarantees efficiency, creates a competitive advantage and elevates organisational reputation.

It is important for those who aspire to a career in sustainability to understand that scientific careers are hugely important part of the industry, other options also abound. It is our experience that a lot of the careers opportunities in Sustainability are mostly geared towards helping organisations and companies run more efficiently as indicated above.

To excel in this area, creativity and innovation are important. You must be able to assess and analyse complex and interconnected challenges and scenarios. Significantly, you must be able to understand the implications of a variety of actions and create effective solutions that are aligned to company objectives and ensuring the achievement of financial success.

Understanding the industry in which you work or aspire to work in is important. It is all well and good working to save the planet, however, being out of touch with the corporate agenda and lacking in understanding of the intricacies of the business is not going to do you any favours. You must be able to show an understanding of the balance sheet by developing and implementing strategies that enable the integration of sustainable practices with all business functions to ensure Financial and Business Sustainability.

If you are exploring career opportunities in sustainability, look around you, there is a need for specialists and experts in this area. At the moment, organisations are looking for people with skill sets that are not only focused on environmental protection and health and safety. You need to diversify and acquire relevant skills and experience in your chosen industry, stakeholder management, financial statements, and gain other expertise that will place you in a good stead with prospective employers. Some sectors to explore include; the Life science industry, regulated and general manufacturing, public sector, digital media, broadcasting companies, academia, SMEs, not for profit organisations and the list goes on.

As in the application of technology in everyday life and businesses, sustainability is a phenomenon that is a true and present part of our lives. ICT has created a lot of career opportunities today with more to come that we have not yet heard of. Sustainability experts are in high demand and this is only going to increase. At the moment, demand does outweigh supply, so it is an area that is worth exploring.

Written by:

Clementina Mustapha, Executive Search Specialist, InterSearch Ireland

Clementina Mustapha



Mid-Year Career Assessment and Review

As we approach the mid-year mark, and you are either well settled in your current role, new to the role or considering a change in the short or long term, it is important to take some time and assess where you are in your career journey. I believe that before you set out on any career-related move, you must have clarity of your short-term and long-term career goals. Create a checklist of your objectives and achievable timelines and know the resources available to you to guarantee accomplishments (internal and external). Most significantly – be willing to push yourself and embrace change and the challenges that come with it.

Change is paramount:

In carrying out an assessment and review of your career, one of the key outcomes of your assessment MUST be the need for CHANGE! If you do not identify an area in your plan that requires transformation or change, then you might need to re-evaluate your goals or you might be one of life’s lucky few.

‘Change’, to some, equals risk. However, change does not have to be drastic. It does not have to turn your work life off-kilter and give you palpitations. It could be something such as setting out to get some training that will equip you for a desired career move, getting a new skill (career related or otherwise), moving closer to home in the long term, or adjusting your obligation to accommodate a healthy work-life balance.  The list of little and big changes is inexhaustive. So, in reviewing your career at this time of the year, look for that achievable change that will impact positively on your work-life balance.

Oftentimes, we forget that there is more to life than work. Take time to consider your mental and physical wellbeing. Take time to enjoy family and friends. Learn something new outside of work. I guess what I am saying is that changes do not always have to be geared towards getting the next promotion or the next role, important though that is. The bigger picture shows much more than that. There is a whole world out there that you need to fit in and find the space that gives you some joy and satisfaction.

Do not forget life outside work:

We often forget about small successes and accomplishments, especially in our personal life. It is easy to focus on the deal that fell through, the role that was lost, the account that was and is challenging to manage, the impossible and micromanaging boss (an aside, I think if you have one of these bosses, hey presto – this is a signal for a change). There are a host of work-related challenges and it is vital to know that work is rarely free of such challenges. Life challenges us all the time, how you come out at the end of it is what matters. Explore opportunities to fit work around your personal life – family, friends, sports, hobbies and other areas of interest to you. Give yourself the gift of a wholesome life. Sometime in the future you change jobs, you retire and colleagues move on, but all the others remain in your life. Review and assess where you are at with them and plan for your career with them in mind.

Review challenges and difficulties:

I am a keen believer in learning from experience, we see this at work all the time – what have we learnt from a difficult assignment, how do we ensure that we are better prepared to overcome past difficulties, what are the positive takeaways from the experience, what are the comparisons to other similar or relevant assignments. All these questions generate answers that prepare the organisation for the next project, they expose new knowledge and opportunities that may have remained untapped.

Likewise, in assessing your career, look for learning opportunities in challenging and difficult projects, they tend to help you discover areas that you may need to make some changes, acquire new knowledge and identify different ways to achieve your objectives.

Set yourself up for success:

Celebrating your successes, learning from experiences, identifying areas for change and transformation and working towards achieving a work-life balance are areas that can help you assess where you are at this time of the year and plan for the future. A word of caution – change is a constant, planning for the future is planning for success. However, plan to succeed, develop achievable goals and never underestimate the impact of out-of-work activities on your life and career.

In summary, there are so many pieces and articles that tell us how we can work to achieve our career goals. These are mostly focused on what you can do in the workplace to help you be a step above your peers, meet your target, climb up the career ladder at a steady pace and possibly find your niche in your chosen industry. As you review your goals, also make sure to review other aspects of your life as oftentimes, we tend to underestimate the input of family, friends, the environment and other activities on a successful and satisfying career.

Written by: Clementina Mustapha

Executive Search Specialist, InterSearch Ireland



Talent Hunting in a competitive Irish Market

With Brexit looming over Europe and the uncertainty around how it will affect all facets of trade and travel, one certain thing is that its impact on the Irish economy will be significant. This is more so in the sectors that are reliant on the Irish -United Kingdom trade link; agri-food exporters, tourism, and other sectors. In spite of the projected challenges, there is significant opportunity, a silver lining if you like – as Ireland is well placed to see an increase in the influx of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and companies looking to be domiciled in the EU, Dublin oftentimes seen as the viable option.

With this opportunity comes obligation and needs. The impact on infrastructure, cultural diversity and importantly, talent demands are projected to be significant. The challenges experienced in Executive recruitment today is primarily based on the impact of a candidate driven field. With the influx of multinationals and other organisations moving to Ireland, the demand for top talent increases and the power shifts more and more to the candidates.

Companies who have operated in Ireland for decades and have for so many years influenced the recruitment process will find that this is no longer the case. From experience, I can see that candidates have multiple options. They are valued in their current organisation and that is not by accident. Discerning employers are keen to hold on to top talents. They are increasingly investing in employee wellbeing, professional development thus ensuring employee engagement.

Talent is based on experience and experience is earned from years of performance. To attract top talents, employers must be proactive. Top talents need YOU to convince them to leave their current employers. Your offer need not be commensurate with their current package – it needs to be more than that.

This is the current position of the candidate driven market in Ireland. Add to that the impact of Brexit – traditional Irish employers are faced with the challenge of competing with multinationals for available talents. The need for introspection and objective assessment cannot be overemphasized.

A look at the recruitment timeline is a no brainer – a viable candidate is NOT going to wait for months for a decision to be made by a prospective employer. Organisations need to recognise that if you think a candidate is strong; you are most definitely not alone in that assessment. Your competitors are also aware of that and most significantly, so is the candidate. Re-evaluate your hiring timeline and be proactive in the recruitment process. If an ideal candidate is identified and is engaging, time wasting is not an option! Time and attention should be on relevant role alignment and person/cultural fit. At executive level, interview boards MUST be able to differentiate interview questions for entry level staff and know that using this approach at executive or middle management level is off-putting to top talents.

Have a critical look at the role specification, person requirement and the package you are offering – how realistic is it for your ideal candidate to leave his/her current employer and location for your offer? I have had candidates say; “the salary on offer is way below their current package”, “this is my dream role, but location is not suitable”, “I am expecting a promotion in a few months and it makes no sense to move for what is on offer”. Employers need to be prepared to face these eventualities and have options in place to attract this candidate. It is oftentimes said that once a problem is identified, you are halfway towards a solution.

When recruiting at any level, it is important to be professional and treat all parties involved in the hiring process with respect. This is important so as to avoid the need for awkward conversations in the near future that might leave you with fewer talent options. Employers cannot afford to be aloof in this market. The core to the success of a business is customer service, treat prospective candidates as you will treat your customers. As a matter of fact, they are your customers because they base their perception of your organisation on their experience with you prior to joining your organisation.

Companies need to explore the need for diversity, they cannot afford to overlook this critical issue. The ideal candidate does not have to fit a specific profile, there needs to be flexibility, thinking outside the box when it comes to attracting top talents is a must especially for SMEs. Blue chip companies and multinationals applied this for years hence their ability to attract top talents from diverse cultures and gender. With Brexit in the horizon, Irish companies cannot afford to exclude themselves from the diverse talent pool within and outside of Ireland.

For companies that retain Executive search firms, it is important to be proactive. Discuss and analyse your expectations and projected challenges with the head-hunter. Listen to feedback, monitor and re-evaluate as needed. Hiring managers have to adhere to company guidelines, however, it is important that they give realistic feedback to their line manager or the Board hence the need for objective analysis of the talent market relevant to the position on offer.

“Once an offer has been made, it is imperative that the prospective employers maintain constant communication with the incoming executive during the notice period. This helps the onboarding process and creates as seamless a transition as possible to the new culture. Feedback in the areas of induction preparations, payroll information and role relevant updates (where confidentiality is not breached) should present opportunities to keep the offeree engaged and possibly overcome any signs of doubt during this period of time” – Micheál Coughlan

In summary, hiring companies need to critically analyse their talent needs, re-evaluate the hiring process and timeline, be open to diversification and be proactive throughout the hiring process.

Written by Clementina Mustapha,

Executive Search Researcher, InterSearch Ireland 

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