Insurance Executive Search – Understanding the key elements of the process

Maybe you’re facing the departure of your Senior Vice President of Insurance Claims at short notice. 

Or your Chief Risk Officer has decided to retire unexpectedly.

You’ve now recognized a crucial area of your business requires an immediate and strategic leadership change. You have senior leadership’s approval to engage with an external insurance executive search partner. To tap into their specialized expertise in support of the critical hire process.


Insurance executive search

Insurance executive search firms should no longer just be for top-level insurance executives. They should also help organizations find qualified insurance leaders for senior and middle-management positions.

The nature of executive search work demands total discretion and confidentiality on all fronts, but this should not exclude transparency from the process.

It’s important to know what the support you’re paying for will look like.

As a client of a retained insurance executive search firm, you will be committing to an upfront investment – an initial fee that you won’t incur with other methods of recruitment.

So what exactly are you paying for and are you exercising due diligence to ensure that you are getting value for money?

In this article, we’ll break down the different elements of what you should typically expect from an external search partner.

Insurance executive search firms can play a valuable role in helping insurance businesses find top talent for critical roles.

Here is what you should expect from a comprehensive executive search process.


Initial Consultation and Assessment

The initial consultation and assessment phase in an insurance executive search plays a pivotal role in identifying the right candidate.

Before taking a briefing with the hiring manager, the search firm should delve in to the client organisation’s unique context.

Understand its specific challenges, prevailing culture, and strategic objectives.

This collaboration will help define the key competencies to build candidate assessments.

In the briefing meeting, the insurance executive search firm, should present their unique insights and experience in the insurance market.

It’s important that all stakeholders input into the process of reviewing and amending the job description as required.

You should then receive a written confirmation of the search firm’s understanding of the brief, their market knowledge and confirm the costs, milestones and scope of the search project.

Key considerations:

  • Is the search firm simply agreeing with your brief?
  • Or are they providing constructive feedback on your requirements as a true search partner?
  • Do you feel they have emphatically understood the needs of your business, the hiring manager and the stakeholders?
  • Have they satisfactorily managed your expectations by laying out the milestones of the search with projected outcomes?

Going to the market: candidate identification and sourcing.

The insurance executive search firm will be seeking qualified candidates by researching the passive market.

They will make use of their extensive network of contacts and insurance industry resources.

Most insurance executive search firms use tried and tested methods that they have developed over the years.

They can access executive talent that typical corporate talent acquisition teams often cannot on their own, given constraints around bandwidth, networks and search confidentiality requirements.

Search consultants will typically work on a limited number of assignments at a time.

The time and resource required to develop comprehensive candidate longlists and subsequent requires patience and perseverance.

Key considerations:

  • Is the search firm conducting a market mapping exercise to ensure market coverage?
  • Are they looking outside of LinkedIn and their internal database to identify candidates?


Screening and evaluation

The insurance executive search firm will carefully screen and evaluate potential candidates. This will eliminate those who do not meet the minimum qualifications or align with the company’s culture.

They will assess candidates’ skills, experience, qualifications, and cultural fit. In most cases, this involves several conversations with the candidate via telephone or video call.

Key considerations:

  • Are the search consultants evaluating the candidates fairly and consistently against agreed criteria?
  • How are they representing your company & brand in the market?
  • Are they presenting the opportunity to diverse candidates?
  • Are interview notes highlighting the KPIs that you are looking for?


Search steering meetings

Once the search is underway, a steering meeting contributes to transparency in the search process.

It is a forum for the client and the search consultants to:

  • align expectations (number of candidates presented or expected to be presented)
  • ensure the search is on track (backed by metrics)
  • address challenges
  • evaluate market feedback (from those who expressed interest, but also those who declined to progress)
  • and make informed decisions that guide the search process towards a successful outcome.

Key considerations:

  • If the search milestones are not being reached, is the search consultant offering constructive solutions to help progress the search?
  • Are you able to collaboratively adjust the search strategy?
  • Is the insurance executive search consultant receptive to your input and feedback?


The Shortlist: comprehensive candidate presentation

The search firm will then present a confidential shortlist of qualified candidates to the hiring company.

This will include detailed profiles, resumes, and supporting information, such as the highlighted strengths for the role, reasons for looking for a new position, salary expectations and competencies not evident in the resume.

Key considerations:

  • Is the search consultant providing all the information required for the hiring manager to make an informed selection?
  • Are they able to justify a candidate’s inclusion in the shortlist?


Client Interviews

The insurance executive search consultants may help the hiring manager design a structured and effective interview process and also coach on effective interview techniques if required.

They will confirm the format of the interview with the candidate.

They may also arrange interviews or facilitate direct communication between the hiring managers and candidates. This will help maintain the momentum of the search process.

Collecting feedback and acting as a liaison between both the candidate and the hiring manager will manage expectations on both sides.

Key considerations:

  • Is the search consultant maintaining consistent client/candidate communications?
  • Did the search consultant submit candidates too early without vetting fit, creating a poor experience for all parties involved?
  • Is the ratio of presented to interviewed candidates low?


Final candidate offer and negotiations

Once the hiring team has settled on a candidate, and reference checks have been run, then the search firm can assist in negotiating compensation packages and employment agreements.

Insurance executive search consultants possess strong negotiation skills and experience in handling sensitive compensation discussions.

They can help both parties reach a mutually agreeable compensation structure that aligns with the candidate’s expectations and the company’s budget or address any compensation-related concerns.

They may also provide guidance and support during the on-boarding process to ensure a smooth transition for the new hire.

Key considerations:

  • Were you made aware early on in the process of the candidate’s salary expectations?
  • Is the search consultant able to convey what a compelling offer might be, and have they anticipated counter-offers?


Congratulations, after all these steps, the candidate has signed a contract and is ready to be on-boarded.

Your search for the right candidate has been successfully concluded, thanks to your strategic partnership with your insurance executive search firm.

You have gained access to a wider pool of qualified diverse candidates, accelerated the recruitment process, and reduced the risk of making a bad hiring decision.

If your experience was positive, it does not stop there.

The lead consultant’s profound understanding of your company’s culture, business strategies, and leadership needs often transforms their role into a trusted advisor, forming a long-lasting strategic partnership that extends beyond filling open positions.

In addition to these core steps, you should know that several insurance executive search firms may also offer additional services, such as:

  • Compensation benchmarking: Assessing and aligning compensation packages with industry standards and competitor practices
  • Skills assessment and development: Identifying training and development needs for new hires to enhance their competencies
  • Reference checks on the finalist candidates to verify their qualifications, experience, and performance in previous roles.
  • Industry insights and trends: Providing valuable insights into industry trends, emerging technologies, and emerging market opportunities


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