New Client Case Study (SaaS)

Dear Reader:

Defining the mechanics of a Search Assignment is much clearer without catchy phrases about the way we ‘sold the opportunity’ and ‘carried out a mapping exercise’. It’s much more important that you understand what’s to be expected during the process and why sometimes it moves slower than you think it should.

Please read the following caveats before reading further:

  1. We believe our structured interview methodology, developed over the past decade, is worthy of a separate essay. This also applies to our Search Methodology, Matrix Response, and the cutting edge technology in which we have invested. Include the leading edge inbound marketing strategies we employ and… There are so many other things, I will delve into them another time.
  2. Listing every phone call (over a thousand on this type of Search Assignment), email, and debrief would take up too much space and provide little benefit in this history. Likewise, every Saturday morning chat, text message, moment of guidance, and sensitive commercial information will not be shared due to needless repetition or confidentiality. Even leaving much of the documentation out still allows me to say with confidence that you will not find a case study with the amount of significant details anywhere else.

Without further ado, here is a case study of an actual Search Assignment I recently conducted.


This describes a fully retained Search Assignment with a brand new client. We had never spoken before Jan 8th 2016.

The Client: Rapidly expanding VC backed (series B) tech start up numbering approximately 75 employees globally. Only one employee in Europe (not UK) working more on the technical side of the business.

Request: The recently appointed Global Sales VP based in the US wanted to find a senior sales person/leader (not a GM) with the ability to build a team in Europe. The location for the position was designated as in or around London. SaaS background was mandatory and Security experience was a distinct advantage. Package was to be performance focused with a Base (fixed) Salary well in excess of £100k.

Timeframe: The Company desired a person on board during the first quarter. As 3-month notice periods are common at this level of employment, it produced an unlikely target date.

Situation: The client had already researched his network and found no likely candidates. He was made aware of Pathfinder and myself through a mutual contact, although we had not spoken together. Following are details of how that changed.

Jan 5th

Contacted via LinkedIn messaging. Client asked if I could help find someone to build their European operation. Quickly scheduled call for 2 days later.

Jan 8th

Spoke just over an hour with client for first time. Gathered 80% of the information I needed. Scheduled a follow up call (standard procedure for this type of call). I spent the weekend researching the client and referencing some of the senior people in my network to verify salary and experience levels in line with the requirements.

Along with salary guidance I was also able to prepare questions and offer suggestions about what the UK entity would require and how it would look. Would it be through a payroll company? Would a limited company be set up immediately? Something else? These are important issues in London and even more important in other European Cities.

Jan 11th

Spoke again for a little over 30 minutes. I mentioned a number of things but key amongst them was requesting an introduction to the one person currently based in Europe. I made it clear I would jump on Eurostar as soon as possible to get as good a feel for the company as was possible.

Sent client the Pathfinder terms of business for approval.

Jan 12th

Telephone call to single employee in Europe. Talked about 30 minutes. Established his availability for a face-to-face meeting.
Received signed contract late this evening – Search Assignment is now officially live and Eurostar can be booked.
Research/long list assembly moves into top gear.

Jan 13th

Stage 1 invoice sent for a third of estimated base salary with funds to be received with 7 days. Client also provides United States IRS FormW-8BEN for my completion.

Jan 14th

W-8BEN from returned. Our experience means delays can be minimised.

Jan 15th

Travelled to Brussels to meet sole European Employee. I spent approximately 4 hours with him. Prior to our meeting, I sent the following requests as a rough guide to things I wanted to see or have explained during the day’s proceedings:

  • A typical sales meeting/product demo.
  • Case studies of sales cycles/deployments – time line, etc.
  • Example of when have you not won the deal and why?
  • Describe the differences between selling to North America and Europe.
  • How and why he joined the company?
  • What changes had he witnessed?

Jan 19th

Detailed Job Specification delivered to client. After intensive telephone consultation with Global VP of Sales, a very insightful meeting in Brussels, and several emails and brief calls between myself and the VP of global sales I was able to prepare and deliver this crucial document. To give you an idea of the level of work and detail, it totalled 3600 words divided over approximately 50 points of consultation in 10 distinct areas.

I invite feedback from everyone involved in the hiring process. THIS IS A HARD REQUIREMENT.

Jan 22nd

First update. Outlining among other things that we were looking at 153 companies and we currently have 65 people on the long list.

Jan 28th

Client provides minor changes to job spec after a very busy sales kick off.

First candidate screening call takes place. Interestingly, this candidate makes it to the final 2!

Jan 29th

Second update. Looking at 155 companies. We currently have 182 people on the long list.

Feb 5th

Third update. 155 companies. 211 people on list. Following email sent:


continue to be satisfied with progress. Some superbly experienced candidates have been identified and submitted CV’s. I have personally put 25 candidates through a 30-minute telephone screening and have many other screening calls booked. I anticipate starting face-to-face interviews with the best candidates towards the end of next week.

One surprising element of this Search Assignment is the number of people I have spoken to who do not have a University degree. Would this still be a hard requirement for this category of employment with ABC SOFTWARE?

Hunting Ground

Our comprehensive list of source companies has predictably remained static at 155 companies. However, we have added a few candidates from outside the target companies thanks to some referrals from our network.


Our long list has grown slightly this week and now contains 211 people. The rigour that we applied to our research is really shining through in the quality of the candidates that we are now speaking with.


I could already submit a very solid shortlist of 3 qualified candidates. However, there are many people that I have identified that I have not been able to speak with yet. I believe it would be beneficial to give these candidates a little more time to respond to our approach.

Depending on the notice periods of shortlisted candidates, I am confident we are on track to have someone on board by April 1st.

I wish you a good weekend.

Best regards


Feb 12th

Fourth update. Estimated date of shortlist delivery is Feb 19th.

Feb 15th 16th and 17th

Formal, face-to-face structured interviews with 10 candidates. All interviews were recorded (audio). Extensive notes were made on each candidate and analysed. The candidates were selected from a total of 26 applicants who had been telephone-screened and had completed the matrix questionnaire that was specifically formulated for this Search Assignment. The 11 questions addressed the requirements that our client was looking for.

These numbers are atypical. Speaking honestly, the search to this point had gone very well and I had an embarrassment of riches. I thought perhaps some of the people would interview poorly, making my job of selecting a final shortlist of 4 or 5 candidates an easy one. I was wrong. I spent 3 solid days with successful, likable executives who made my job at once very enjoyable and very difficult! Ultimately I was splitting hairs. That allowed me to trim the interviewees down to a Shortlist of 6. Again, that is an atypically high number for a final shortlist.

Feb 18th

Final shortlist delivered. Stage 2 invoice sent to client, with funds to be received within 7 days.

Each shortlisted candidate has been through at least 2 telephone interviews and a structured face-to-face interview.

Pathfinder Executive Search Shortlist includes:

  • Candidate CV.
  • Candidate Summary including current package and notice period.
  • Candidate Matrix Responses.
  • Important Details pertinent to each candidate.
  • Audio of meetings offered (not taken).

Feb 29th to March 29th


Client commenced telephone interviews with candidates. At least 3 candidates advanced to a second interview/video call. Finalists were flown to the US to meet the hiring manager. Founders and members of executive teams were also involved in the meetings.

Received positive feedback from client and candidates throughout the process. The client expressed his feeling that despite being “thoroughly bored of interviewing” after the recent extensive recruitment in the US he “genuinely enjoyed speaking with all of the candidates” referred through my search. I love that type of honesty!

March 1st to 29th

Amended shortlist to include additional candidate. Unusual move for Pathfinder. The reason? A previously unavailable outstanding applicant entered the search. A face to face between he and I was hurriedly organised. Over 12 years of working with senior executives and my gut was speaking to me….. In the end, he was the successful candidate!

The first candidate I spoke with and the last were the two finalists! (Not as rare an event as you might assume!)

March 29th

Final video interviews with Senior Executives to make sure everything had been covered to satisfaction.

March 30th

Verbal offer made and accepted.

March 31st

Performed the sad, yet necessary task of formally notifying other candidates that another Candidate had been selected for the position.

April 18th

Official start Day. Candidate starts the first day of boot camp in US.

June 1st

The one-month review was extended to six weeks because of busy schedules. It is a pleasure to report that everything was going well and an outstanding first year is expected.

Parting thoughts:

Those are the details. Any surprises? Was the process too quick? Too slow? My advice is to be sceptical of someone saying they can analyse and speak to an entire marketplace any quicker than the process outlined above. There were some obvious delays in the interview process owing to scheduling issues but sometimes this can’t be helped.

All candidates were successful, busy executives who were not actively looking for a new opportunity. They were not on Job Boards. They did not have an up to date CV saved in their laptop. I do not introduce you to expedient candidates, I introduce you to the top 15% of talent for your role(s).

It was an incredibly successful search that had both challenges and good fortune. The best example of good fortune is the timely availability of the successful candidate and his ability to negotiate a fairly rapid exit from the position he held.

Bottom line or from ‘start to start’ (as we like to say at Pathfinder!)

The initial phone call to the client on Jan 8th to the candidate hiring date on April 18th included a whirlwind of activity. Think about the seniority of the role and the sheer caliber of the successful candidate. The time scales aren’t just impressive, they may even raise an eyebrow! Furthermore, the unsuccessful candidates for this position are of such high quality they are likely to make up the senior ranks of this growing company at some point in the future. They are certainly amongest my go-to guys for similar roles.

Any questions? Get in touch.