Recently, we discussed how executive search is a research-led approach, with search firms mapping the market and benchmarking for particular skills, roles, and salaries.

In this post, we aim to help both organisations and candidates alike, understand the fundamental role market mapping plays in executive search. As well as covering the fundamentals of market mapping, I spoke to Sheira Schoeman, Research Manager at BIE Executive, for her insight into market mapping in practice.

Market mapping explained

Market mapping plays a vital role in the executive search strategy. The first stage of the search process is to determine the skills and attributes of the ideal person for the role and conducting targeted research to pull together a long list of people who meet the requirements.

Mapping the market sets the foundation for a search firm to gain a good understanding of the spread of talent. It involves an in-depth competitive analysis to identify the positions, employers, salaries, skills, and experience of key individuals in the market. This allows an executive search firm to identify the level of skill to look for in potential candidates as well as where to find the people who meet that criteria. For example, who are their employers? And where are they located geographically?


Market mapping can also be a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to talent acquisition. Working with a search firm to assess the market on an ongoing basis. This means that if a senior executive leaves unexpectedly, instead of scrambling around for a replacement, they’ll have already done the groundwork needed to identify suitable candidates. You’ll save time, disruption will be kept to a minimum, and most importantly, you won’t have to make a rushed decision.

A proactive market mapping approach also means you can choose from the best talent across all relevant industries who are passive candidates, rather than just those people who happen to be looking for a new role at the time.

Through market mapping, an executive search firm can help an organisation to build talent pipelines for the future. This usually involves assessing the future talent needs of the company, whether current employees meet these needs, and devising a talent strategy to identify high potential future talent who can fill skills gaps.

Ultimately, market mapping allows organisations to identify the potential senior managers and executives of the future so that they already have a pool of candidates they can draw from alongside the full search.

Insights from a BIE Researcher

As a researcher at BIE, Sheira Schoeman supports consultants in identifying and attracting highly skilled candidates against aggressive timelines. Sheira shares her insights on the typical market mapping process.

“Market mapping is essentially an in-depth look at the market with the aim of engaging the best talent. It’s not just about finding people who are actively looking for work, but about finding the best people from passive candidates as well.”

“We’ll pull together a long list that will be made up of people who we might already know from previous searches or placements, but mainly, we do a full candidate search. We go out in the market, generally using tools such as LinkedIn to find people we believe could be suitable for the role."

“It usually depends on the position in question, but generally, I tend to start by looking at people who are in similar roles, industries, and locations, and then widen out from there. For example, a client may want someone from specific locations, let’s say we’re working on a role in Germany, I’ll also look for people all over Europe who would be prepared to relocate. Then we try and look for the right people who meet the criteria.”

“We will aim to talk to as many of these people that are interested as we can. At this point, as part of the conversation, I will get their salary breakdown. This is how we get a good understanding of what kind of salaries and benefits people are receiving in different industries and regions.”

“As a researcher, I enter all the information I obtain into a report, which is then shared with the client usually on a weekly basis. We aim to pull together a list of between 90-150, but every role is slightly different. This list will then be narrowed down to about 12-15 people who the consultant will then interview. And again, that list will be narrowed down to 4-6 candidates who the client will then meet. This whole process can typically take between 6-8 weeks ”

Market mapping is a critical part of the executive search process. To identify the best talent in the market, search firms need to have done their research. Through market mapping, a search firm can obtain an in-depth knowledge of the most successful individuals and their experience, skills, and salaries. All this builds a solid picture about what the ideal candidate should look like, enabling the search firm to identify and then engage them.


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