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Senior-Level Recruiting: How To Hire A-Level Talent In Today’s Market

While employees at every level are crucial to the success of your business, the stakes are a bit higher when it comes to senior-level recruiting. Not only is it necessary to find the right person with the right skills and experience, but you must also find someone whose values align with the organization’s values, and that person must fit in well with both leadership and employees. In addition to all of that, the higher up the ladder the open role is, the fewer qualified candidates there are in the market.  

Use these strategies to find senior-level talent that will add value to your organization.  

Develop A Robust Candidate Profile For A Senior-Level Search  

When it comes to leadership talent searches, the most successful executive search recruiters always begin by creating a detailed candidate profile. This is like a roadmap for your journey. After all, you can’t identify the right candidates if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for.  

So, think like an executive headhunter. You’ll want to outline: 

  • The experience level you are looking for 
  • Industry-related expertise you want 
  • Hard skills required for the job 
  • Soft skills required to lead well and work as part of the organizational team 
  • Education level/certifications/licenses  
  • Additional parameters that are relevant to the role 

Developing this profile will take some work. It’s necessary to sit down with leadership to get their input, but it’s also wise to sit down with employees and direct reports to get a feel for what they want to see in a leader or senior-level hire.  

Refine The Candidate Profile and Manage Expectations 

Once you’ve developed a robust list, you’ll want to parse out the things on that list that are true “must-haves” and those that are really more “nice-to-have” or even optional. This doesn’t mean you should ever settle for an unqualified candidate. However, you’ll once again want to think like an executive search recruiter. They know that being too rigid and expecting to find a candidate that checks off every single box on your list is virtually impossible. The most successful senior-level searches do involve realistic thinking and a bit of flexibility.  

For example, if you have a fantastic candidate up for consideration who has eight years of leadership experience rather than the ten you asked for, those two years don’t necessarily need to be a deal-breaker. If you’re looking for an MBA, but a great candidate has an undergraduate degree and 20 years of experience, is the MBA really a must-have?  

On the flip side, you must also be willing to say no to a candidate who might check all of your skill and experience boxes but would not be a good cultural fit. Cultural misalignment at the senior level can have a negative impact across an entire department, creating problems like low morale and high turnover.  

A successful senior-level search will require you to manage stakeholders’ expectations and to advocate effectively for a search process that is more holistic and less rigid. Company leaders may expect you to deliver a unicorn, and you should be prepared to push back if necessary.  

It’s a delicate balance, but it’s one that successful internal recruiters know how to navigate.  

Think Like a Headhunter and Up your Passive Recruiting Game  

The best candidates are rarely the ones out there actively looking for new opportunities because they are simply too busy and tied up with their current roles. When you need exceptional senior-level talent, the odds they will come knocking on your door are virtually nonexistent.  

When it comes to senior-level recruiting, you can’t just cast a wide net and expect to catch your perfect candidates. For these critical roles, proactive, passive recruiting is the best path towards success.  

But passive recruiting is not a fast process. It requires a lot of time and attention. 

Understand What Passive Candidates Are Looking For 

Convincing a successful person to make a career move when they are currently employed can be a challenge. People have unique motivations, and it can be challenging to know exactly what would turn someone’s head.  

Even though everyone has unique priorities, the most common motivators for passive talent are higher pay, career development, career advancement, work-life balance, and opportunities to work on exciting projects or with exciting people. Since you don’t know what specifically motivates a particular candidate, try to touch on all of these points when reaching out to make a connection. 

Get Your Employer Brand In Order  

Passive candidates may not have time to conduct an active job search, but if they are contacted by you or by an executive search recruiter on your behalf, they will take the time to research your organization in depth.   

Do you know what potential candidates will find when they begin their research? If you do not have a strong market presence, an engaging website that showcases company culture, good reviews, and a reputation for treating both leadership and employees well, you’re not going to keep their interest. Make sure your brand is in order so that you’re presenting your organization in the best light to potential candidates.  

Train For A Marathon 

If you’re hoping to find a passive candidate for a critical role and you do not currently have a passive recruiting strategy in place, you likely won’t succeed. Passive recruiting is a long game that can require weeks, if not months, of relationship nurturing, so manage your expectations accordingly. 

Ask For Referrals For Senior-Level Talent 

High-performing people know other top performers, and asking trusted employees, leaders, friends and colleagues for referrals can be a great way to up your senior-level and executive search game. If your organization has a formal employee referral program, remind your managers and leaders that they are just as eligible to participate for the bonus as other employees (if that’s true, of course).  

When referrals come in from internal colleagues, pay close attention. Referred senior-level candidates are also almost always a strong cultural fit because they were given the lay of the land by their colleague before agreeing to hear more.  

Typically, ramp-up time for a candidate referred by an internal employee ramps up to full productivity in a much shorter time than someone who applied cold. This alignment and speed-to-productivity yields better performance, happier employees and greater job satisfaction.  

Speed Up Your Hiring Process 

It is understandable that the leadership team would want to take its time in hiring senior-level employees, but any executive search recruiter will tell you that a slow, protracted hiring process is the best way to lose your ideal candidate.  

When you find the right candidate or candidates, don’t wait. Act quickly to mobilize the final decision-making team because the best senior-level talent has options and will lose interest if they feel their time is being wasted.  

Work With An Executive Search Recruiter  

An effective search for senior-level talent is a challenge in today’s market. It requires a lot of time and resources that are typically already in short supply. And a bad hiring decision at the upper levels of the organization can be very expensive. A misaligned leadership hire can cost an organization as much as $2.7 million. The pressure to get it right is significant, but it can feel impossible. 

That’s where executive headhunters come in. By partnering with an executive search firm, organizations take the pressure off of internal search teams by offloading the vast majority of the search. There are many benefits to working with an executive recruiter:  

  • Impartial screening processes: Bias – both intentional and unintentional – are a huge issue for hiring teams. And bias isn’t just about gender, age or race. It’s also about favoring candidates based on who they know. Working with an executive headhunter can ensure that candidates are selected on merit alone. 
  • A pipeline of talent: Executive recruiters are always building connections and relationships with passive talent and often can come to the table with at least one or two candidates worth considering just from their network alone.  
  • A focus on alignment: Headhunters know that when you’re looking to fill leadership roles, total fit matters. They ensure that search criteria includes cultural alignment with the organization to ensure fit.  
  • Recruiters help you meet diversity and inclusion commitments: According to Gartner, 45% of HR leaders report that their leadership team and their leadership bench lack diversity. Many executive search firms provide specialty services that focus on diversity and inclusion.  
  • Confidentiality: Senior-level searches almost always require discretion. Sometimes the employer requires confidentiality. Sometimes the candidate requires it. And often, both sides need to ensure that they are protected through the process. Executive headhunters are masters of discretion. They understand the sensitivity that comes with potentially poaching a competitor’s talent or needing to replace a leader that isn’t meeting performance standards. 
  • Control costs: Executive searches are expensive, to be sure, but when you work with an executive recruiter, you can keep those costs in check.  

Are You Ready To Partner With Industry-Leading Executive Search Recruiters?  

If your company is looking for exceptional leaders from the management level to the C-suite, PrideStaff can provide them. For over 40 years, we have connected dynamic companies with talented and impactful leaders. G.A. Rogers, a division of PrideStaff North Dallashas national reach and a reputation for excellence. Contact us today to learn more about our executive search process and the ways we can help your organization achieve its goals.  

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