Sometimes, hiring executives requires more than a mahogany desk…
Executives are (for the most part) normal people. They eat, they breathe, some even sleep. But when it comes to recruiting top-level leadership for an organization, the process should be anything but ordinary. The critical nature of the role within the company and the impact a career move has on a senior executive demands major changes in the recruitment process. Hiring executives requires meeting some basic expectations.
The vast majority of executives who interview are high-performing, actively-employed professionals. They take a risk when they “raise their hand” to look at external opportunities. It could be disastrous to have an executive “outed” to their current company, both for the candidate and possibly for the company itself (loose lips sink stock shares!). Both sides in the interview process hold strict confidentiality agreements and not talk about the job search around the water cooler. Word gets around, especially within industries and localities. If external recruiting agencies are utilized stick to just one; that last thing a senior executive wants is the admin fielding recruiting calls all day.
It’s an old adage, for a good reason: a first impression can truly make or break a relationship. Carefully project the company brand in a positive light from the critical first impression all the way throughout the interview and vetting process. Again; if agencies are used, ensure they are capable of presenting the organization favorably. Executives are used to making gut decisions and will blow off an offer if something doesn’t feel right. Also, at the top level of management executives becomes true representatives of the company. They want a culture and image they can support and proudly be associated with.
Someone at a senior stage of their career will only be open to considering opportunities that fit with their professional goals. Focus on the candidate’s professional needs. Take time to review the candidate’s career path, and predict what will appeal as a next great challenge. Above all: listen. This is not someone that is going to be sold on the college recruitment marketing brochures. They will know what they want from a new role and will be able to communicate their professional needs. This is also the only way to really determine if their goals and the needs of the company truly align.
Hiring a top leader isn’t like signing on a contractor; everyone understands the importance of making the right decision and the time that can sometimes take. Tests and assessments have real value, and multiple interviews are a given. However, there’s no reason to subject another human being to the kinds of grueling multiple-day interrogation sessions that pass for interviews, or the multi-tiered screening processes that drag on for months or years. Focus on the aspects of the process that can be controlled. Usually, the longest delays are caused by slow feedback, scheduling conflicts, and plain indecision. Keep the candidate happy, engaged, and updated as they move quickly though the process.
When hiring executives, bringing anything less than the A-game to an executive search will result in disappointment for company and candidate. This is the big leagues. Be aware of the many challenges faced by executives looking for opportunities, and make the necessary changes to the interview process.