Executive Search - Puzzle Piece
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August 2021

Four Tips for Recruiting in a Hot Market

We may be in the most heated executive search market ever. Strong candidates seem to have the upper hand and many clients have recently asked the question: “What can we do to help improve the recruitment process and optimize for ‘A+’ hires?”

After successfully completing over 200 searches, here are 4 recommendations that can help you devise a differentiated search process and land your next key leader:

  • The hiring manager is your closer, and therefore must be hyper-engaged from beginning to end.

    Candidates want to know you are committed to making this critical hire and genuine about seeking a “business partner.”   Be ready to arm your recruiter and your interview team with specific anecdotes for what being an effective business partner means for this role.  Be clear around the key goals you want this person to accomplish along with the time period you have in mind. For e.g., what are the immediate (within 3 months) goals and those you want accomplished in 6 months, 12 months, 18 months?

    • Process Recommendation:  Hiring manager should be the first and last interviews in the process after a candidate has passed the internal/external recruiter phase. Budget at least 2-3 interactions minimum with the top 2 Finalist candidates. Your assessment of the role and ideal candidate profile may evolve as you meet candidates. If so, do a final written checklist at the end to ensure you have distilled everything to 3-4 key hiring criteria. Feel free to share the evolution of your thinking with each finalist candidate as it invites candid conversation and rapport building.  It is okay to show vulnerability if you are struggling to weigh the relative importance of the requirements.  Candidates are doing the same calculus, and more genuine and transparent conversation about role fit is critical to ensuring durable hires.

  • Orchestrate your interview team and allow for “strategic sequencing” of interviews depending on the candidate and market conditions. 
    • Process Recommendation:  Devise an interview loop that can accommodate 2 finalists going through a maximum of 2 rounds of interviews and be completed in 2 weeks.  By far, this is the most difficult part of the search process to optimize and where many great candidates are lost.  Summer vacations, hybrid interviewing efforts, and candidate-owned calendars make scheduling challenging and occasionally frustrating.  On-line scheduling tools like Calendly can help stream-line scheduling requests and calendars.
    • Process Recommendation:  Know and leverage your interview team’s individual strengths.  For CFO hiring, I find the Chief Sales/Revenue Officer to be a critical conversation for CFO’s.  Be prepared to call upon your VP Sales/CRO to provide context on the company’s go-to-market operations, success stories, and challenged areas.  The Chief People Officer is an excellent person to cover team building requirements, cultural alignment, and future-proofing the organization for internal leadership and succession planning developments.

  • Get to the “important numbers” early in the process with candidates you are most excited about.
    • Process Recommendation:  As you narrow in on your finalists, use an NDA to protect communication of financial forecasts and other sensitive materials.  Too often this important exchange of information is left to the very end.  With private companies, in particular, candidates can be surprised by the “actual numbers” if only passing reference to revenues, cash burn and headcount are mentioned during the interview process but not documented.  Sharing the numbers with strong candidates early will accelerate candidate buy-in (or lean out). Sharing important data with the candidate also allows you to double click on assessing their analytical skills and grading their ability to process data and ask clarifying and enlightening questions. It also begins a ground conversation on enterprise value and equity compensation in a data-driven framework.

  • Consider case studies as a final exercise to determine your preferred candidate.

    More and more clients are using interactive interview sessions, presentations, on-line and in-person assessments to add richness to the assessment. 

    • Process Recommendation:  Before incorporating these additional tools to “human interviews,” create the context for how you will incorporate insights from these tools and the weight they will carry on your decision.  Are they meant to be a “tie-breaker” to help choose between two very strong contenders?  Or is to double-click on a specific capability—perhaps it’s being “quick on your feet” in front of a senior group of executives or investors?

Elevate your recruitment and assessment process now by keeping these Four Tips in mind:  1) Be the closer 2) Orchestrate your interview team 3) Show me the money 4) Go beyond the interview.  Build this into your recruiting paradigm and carpe diem!

Ed Montoya
Senior Partner and
Global Financial Officer Practice Leader