When it comes to recruiting, a million results can be rendered useless unless you find the one that makes your search worth it. The process becomes even more elaborate and sensitive in CXO hiring.
Ever wondered where does C-suite job opportunities get listed? Take a guess. Hardly anywhere! Reason — these are top-level positions with the potential to impact the health of the company (of both, the one hiring and from which the potential candidate might come from) which may require secrecy on both sides; then, most times C-level candidates are not actively searching for a job; and there are many. This makes the dynamics of executive search differ significantly from the hunt for junior or mid-level positions.
Executive search is difficult – Improve your odds of a successful hire
C-level recruitment projects are taken up either in-house requiring intensive involvement of top-level executives from the company, especially active participation by Chief HR Officer or VP-HR; or top executive search firms who specialize in CXO and specialist searches become the go-to place. Many companies consider a combination of both – a suggestion also put-forth by Jennifer Rettig, former recruitment officer at Apple and Yahoo.
Given the high-stakes of C-suite hiring, certain key elements should be kept in mind when engaging with executive search firms for the desired candidate to emerge from the process. They are – Effective communication (more vital than you might think); Balancing expectations on both sides, and Finding the right fit.
- Give them a sense of the stakes involved.
You can’t go to a headhunter for an executive position and say, “This is the position we are looking to fill. Find them.” You may not realize the level of details the firm might need to get you the right person. Bring the firm aboard early in the recruitment process and make them a part of your team. Describe these to the firm for the potential candidate:
- What would the first few months on the job look like?
- Why are you adding/replacing/filling this role?
- How would the new person interact with existing leadership?
- What roles should the ideal candidate have performed before?
- In which direction do you want this new role to take your company to?
Go a mile further to clarify these for executive search firms.
- Why this process or hiring mission is crucial for you at this moment?
- Who are some people among your competitors or elsewhere doing well in a similar job role?
- Which companies do you seek to compete from and what do you admire about them?
Additionally, send them some narrowed down resources that can help the headhunters learn about your company faster. The key here is regular communication on both sides.
- Keep clear expectations.
The stakes in executive searches are higher on both sides – for the company as well as the search firm. The former can’t afford to make a wrong hire, with the vitality of the position and the costs involved which comes with retained searches as top executive search firms take about 33 percent of the role’s annual salary, signing bonus and bonus. The latter has a repo to keep with the potential candidates they bring-in.
To balance the scale, communicate your requirements before the interview takes place. Executive search teams coach executives prior to the interview. Make sure the coaching is done effectively and when the candidate is interviewed by your company leaders, they get the answers they seek. Similarly, it also falls in your bucket of responsibilities that the interview process isn’t ambiguous, says the candidate isn’t asked the same question by five different people. Nancy Whitehouse, the principal of Whitehouse Advisors recruiting strategy consulting firm says, “The CEO should ask different questions than the CFO, for instance.” Similarly, ensure that the candidate is interviewed as soon as they are deemed qualified, no matter how occupied your top-level be; and the candidate is communicated of the decision as soon as possible, ideally within a day.
- Hire the right fit firmly.
Rettig suggests hiring a small boutique executive search firms, specializing in your industry or sector or functions than a large firm. This would give you more access to the process. Furthermore, while hiring, look for the firm’s network of passive candidates and previous hiring done by them. Ask them about the backgrounds of the team members who would work on your project. Whitehouse suggests going deep down to even the details of who from them would do the research, source interviews, be your contact point, and the estimated time they think it would take.
The search for the right CXO begins with a symbiotic vision. Do you have it?