Quick Refresher for Finding Top-Level Executives

Recruiting top-level talent is tough these days. With the current condition of the economy and companies in a state of reorganization, many potential candidates are more likely to stay where they are than to jump into a new opportunity. This trend is also a challenge for the recruiter, as convincing executives to explore new opportunities is becoming harder and harder.

While recruiters may have to adjust their strategies, there are still some basic components to successfully recruiting the right person:

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  • Look at the company first, then the candidates. Start each assignment by first looking at the company. What is the culture and the management style of the executive leadership team and the extended organization? Will potential candidates fit this culture? Should the company make adjustments to become more attractive to potential candidates? Why is there a vacancy to begin with? Did the former CEO or other executive step down to retire, or is there a deeper issue within the company that needs to be addressed before you will find the right person for the job?
  • Don’t just focus on big accomplishments, focus on the person. Companies want a leader with honesty and integrity, one subordinates can look up to and respect. They want a person who promotes teamwork, collegiality, and fun. They also want executives who listen to and value input. As recruiters, we need to pay more attention to this, while still looking closely at the outstanding accomplishments on one’s resume. One top-level executive may be more qualified for a position in terms of industry knowledge and procedures, but if he or she is not able to garner the respect of those under him or her, the company as a whole will not be successful. What personal values will the potential executive bring to the work place? What has he or she done in past positions to foster teamwork and bring unity to a company?
  • Beyond background checks and references. It’s time to become Matlock, in a sense. Recruiting at the executive level is a different ballgame than recruiting for the entry- or mid-level associate. These are top men and women, so it’s critical to only present the truly qualified as potential candidates. Companies rely on recruiters to find executive level talent to lead them into the future. Recruiters need to rely on more than background checks and references. Anyone a candidate lists as a reference is likely to have positive things to say about that person. Endeavor to speak with clients the executive has worked with in the past. Speak with co-workers where appropriate. Have the potential executive give specific examples or stories of how he or she made a difference and ask to speak with those people who were directly involved. Make your own list of people you want to talk with to find out more information about the potential candidate.
  • Understand the needs of your client. Understanding the exact needs of the company is very important as a recruiter. Learn how the company operates, the types of people currently employed, what kind of decisions senior management made in the past, and how that played out across the company. Have a clear understanding of the goals to be achieved in the next year to three years. Being able to present as much information about the company you are recruiting for to the different candidates will help narrow the field that much quicker.

As the economy remains unstable, recruiters will encounter more challenges. The bottom line is companies still need leaders, and leaders still need opportunities to show what they can do. Regardless of economic conditions, there will always be a need for recruiting top-level talent.

As time goes on, it’s human nature to get comfortable with how we do things. Recruiting isn’t any different. Sometimes a refresher on some of the most basic steps is all that is needed to bring success back to your searches.

Dean Bare is Managing Director of the Atlanta office of Stanton Chase International. Stanton Chase is ranked in the top 10 for retained executive search firms with 69 offices in 41 countries, including 15 in North America. For more information on Stanton Chase International, please visit www.stantonchase.com

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1 Comment on “Quick Refresher for Finding Top-Level Executives

  1. Well said Dean, and you are right to infer that when the good times roll in a bubble economy, time pressures and a general ‘warm/fuzzy’ feeling tend to lead to people (Especially regular quota-beating Consultants) take their foot off the gas in some of the basic areas.

    Especially reference checks which become more a box ticking excersise to validate an existing ‘good feeling’ about a candidate in a candidate-short search situation.

    I think of these, really getting under the skin of, and understanding the exact needs of the client is perhaps the toughest. It’s frequently the case that they themselves have only a smoky vision of what they ‘need’. For instance, I recently closed out a search for a VP of Product Management and the CEO gave me a one liner which I had to ‘develop’ into a comprehensive and detailed specification through hard-core questioning. Fortunately, this affords an opportunity to control the project more so perhaps than when they have a fixed view they won’t move from.

    Those who fail to get the basics right in a tight market might find themselves in alternative employment. Plenty did when the dot com bubble burst.

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