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2023 AESC Future of the Profession Award: An Interview with Emily Plahanski

2023 AESC Future of the Profession Award: An Interview with Emily Plahanski

May 2023


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Emily Plahanski recently won the AESC’s 2023 Future of the Profession Award for her contributions to the executive search industry.

Introducing Emily, a Director at Stanton Chase Baltimore. She’s got a knack for winning awards, just like her office, which recently bagged the Share to Care Award and the Sustainable Business Growth Award (Absolute Growth) at Stanton Chase’s 66th Global Partners Meeting in Austin, Texas. She was also previously voted one of Howard County’s Finest 39 Under 39.

Taking charge as Stanton Chase’s E-Commerce and Direct-to-Consumer Global Sector Leader, Emily is a shining example of outstanding leadership.

We were thrilled to sit down with Emily to discuss her recent Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) Future of the Profession Award.

Learn more about her world in our interview below.

Emily Plahanski receiving her 2023 Future of the Profession Award. 

1. How did you get started in the executive search industry?

My first job out of college was working for Roth Staffing Companies, a $6 billion firm that has been recognized for the past 17 years by Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) as one of the largest staffing firms in the United States.

What’s remarkable is that I shared the company’s core values and unwavering promise to create exceptional experiences for the people we served. However, I knew nothing about the staffing industry before taking on the role of recruiter and sales representative.

I was connected to someone right out of college (who happens to now work with me at Stanton Chase) who said she could help me find a job. Instead, she offered me a position to work with her rather than placing me externally with one of her clients.

While I thought I wanted to use my business and marketing degrees to work for a company or even within higher education, I felt the opportunity presented a unique chance to use my skills for a greater good—to help market exceptional talent to companies. I fell in love with the work.

2. What are the key qualities and skills that helped you achieve success?

I attribute my success to several qualities and skills, most notably curiosity. I am always asking questions to seek an understanding of others’ points of view.

I also consistently seek out the good in people. I believe that each of us is filled with individual uniqueness and gifts to bring to the world if harnessed.

I am not afraid to talk to anyone because I know that we are all just human beings, and that connects us all to one another.

Lastly, my core values—honesty, responsibility, integrity, compassion, and authenticity—are qualities that have helped me achieve success.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of mentors who came before me. They encouraged, supported, and, above all else, believed in me enough to help me achieve my goals.

3. How do you balance the needs and interests of clients with the needs and interests of candidates?

Given that I see people as humans rather than strictly clients or candidates, this perspective changes the experience people have with me. I strive to add value to every conversation, regardless of who it’s with.

My process reflects this, starting from the first interaction where I set the stage by telling people during the interview that it’s okay if this isn’t the perfect opportunity for them. If it’s not, we can stay in touch for other opportunities.

I do not try to push or sell someone into taking a job merely because it serves me or my client. We spend more time at work than we do with our families, and I do not take that lightly.

I aim to broker introductions that are meaningful and create more enriched lives for both individuals seeking roles and those driving business advancements.

“I aim to broker introductions that are meaningful and create more enriched lives for both individuals seeking roles and those driving business advancements.”

Emily Plahanski (left) and Cathy Logue, Managing Director and Global Leader of Stanton Chase’s CFO and Financial Executives Practice Group (right).

4. What advice would you give to organizations looking to make use of an executive search firm?

Ensure a thorough understanding of who is responsible for each task, from research to candidate outreach and delivery. Most executive search practices involve different individuals at various stages of the process. I am not suggesting that this is inherently good or bad, but it is essential to know the identities of these individuals and how they interact with others, as each interaction reflects on your company and its brand.

Surprisingly, prospective clients rarely inquire about work samples. However, if you were to purchase a car, it is likely that you would test drive it, correct? Therefore, it is advisable to request that potential executive search partners introduce you to the entire team responsible for managing your account. Ask them for work samples, such as a candidate profile document or an executive brief they have developed.

Instead of merely speaking with a reference from a company they have previously worked with, consider requesting a reference from a candidate. While most recruiters excel in providing a positive client experience, they often fall short in delivering a satisfactory candidate experience. In my opinion, both aspects are crucial, but how you treat those who are not directly compensating you speaks volumes.

5. What do you think the future of the executive search profession will look like?

In 10 years, my son will be almost 15 years old. I hope that he won’t need to submit a resume for his first job. Instead, I hope he will receive an assessment that evaluates his motivators, competencies, and behaviors, allowing him to choose what he wants to do rather than being limited by his past experiences. I believe this approach will contribute to JDEIB (Justice, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging).

The future of our profession is promising. For people to hire individuals different from their current teams, they will need to continue seeking talent outside their networks and circles. Utilizing external, unbiased sources, such as executive search consultants, will be crucial in this process.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will undoubtedly enhance our ability to perform our jobs more effectively and efficiently, ultimately benefiting our clients. However, as AI advances, human intelligence will become even more critical to the process. Of that I am certain.

6. What advice would you give to a college student who is considering entering the executive search industry after completing their education?

Internships are the absolute best way to get started in executive search. Most executive search firms offer them. Starting in staffing and recruiting, either internally with a company, within a consulting firm, or working with an outside staffing firm, is a great place to begin learning the business, getting familiar with the industry, and receiving training.

Executive search is a significant step up and learning curve compared to basic recruitment. It requires consultation, relationship development, business development, and a deep understanding of how businesses of all sizes operate.

That said, many companies value specialization. Building your experience in a vertical, such as financial services, non-profit, or consumer goods, is likely to make you a leader in that vertical much faster. This, in turn, will make you a more attractive candidate for executive search firms.

Access Award Winning Executive Search Consultants

At Stanton Chase, we’re firm believers that our executive search consultants should be exceptional leaders themselves, not just leadership consultants.

If you’d like to work with a trailblazer like Emily (or maybe even Emily herself) for your next executive search or leadership advisory assignment, click here to connect with one of our extraordinary consultants.

You can read the AESC’s full award announcement, including quotes from the AESC’s President and CEO, Stanton Chase’s Global Chair, and Emily’s clients, by clicking here.

More About Emily Plahanski

Emily Plahanski collaborates with leading technology, private equity, and consumer product firms. Her extensive background covers employee engagement, leadership, culture, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

Passionate about shaking things up in the realm of executive talent acquisition and retention, Emily’s expertise helps leaders think and act differently when it comes to finding and hiring the perfect executives to elevate their teams.

Before joining Stanton Chase, Emily held positions like Managing Director at SHIFT Recruiting and Director of Strategic Partnerships at SIG (an Alera Group Company), as well as roles at Roth Staffing Companies and Robert Half International. Her broad experience has honed her skills in various industries.

Click here to learn more about Emily.

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