‘Tis the Season for Executive Hiring

With Black Friday approaching, shoppers are poised to pull out their wallets and shell out hard-earned cash for holiday gifts. As it turns out, the end of the year is a pretty good time to go shopping for a new executive too.

Despite time away from work and busy calendars, a majority of executive recruiters say they are scheduling interviews and making hiring decisions in November and December. More than two-thirds (69 percent) said the number of search assignments and jobs posted increases or remains the same at the end of the year, according to a survey conducted by ExecuNet, a private network of executive recruiters. A clear majority (65 percent) reported the availability of hiring managers either increases or stays the same during that time.

To take advantage of the opportunity and fill those open executive positions, internal recruiters can learn from the practices of successful executive search professionals, said Elaina Genser, senior vice president of executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.

“Usually they cannot use the same techniques that an external firm does,” Genser said. “They’ll do some outreach but they just don’t have the resources or database. They’ll use LinkedIn and other sources but they just don’t have the same reach and ability to call and talk to people personally about it.”

As a result, internal recruiters using traditional hiring methods often are stuck with the old “post and pray” approach. They might get a qualified candidate who is looking for a job, but chances are they might not.

“They don’t get the person who is well employed [or] is not looking for a job,” she said. “They’re sitting back waiting for a phone call [and] someone to say, ‘We think you’d be a great candidate for this job.’”

Hiring From the Inside Out
Genser offered up 10 key practices internal recruiters can learn from successful executive search and hiring:

  • Treat executive hiring as a process and manage it effectively.
  • Communicate with internal hiring managers and stakeholders.
  • Make sure the position description is clear to attract the best candidates.
  • Prescreen resumes for the top qualities or skills identified by hiring managers.
  • Get the right references: “The more trusted rapport you build with that individual as they’re going through the process, the more you’re going to get from them in terms of being able to tell them which references you want to speak with and being sure that you’re going to be able to land them.”
  • Actively woo candidates: “You need to be the ambassador for the company to these individuals. Treat them well [and] roll out the red carpet for them when they’re coming on board.”
  • Keep your appointments.
  • Be an expert to your internal stakeholders: “Maybe they’ve got the job priced wrong or the reporting relationship could be off – there are a lot of things that could make a difference.”
  • Keep in touch with candidates and close the loop at the end of the search even for those who didn’t get the job: “One of the biggest dissatisfiers for people is they never hear anything back. If they’re not ready for this job, they might be ready for the next job.”
  • Know when to go outside for additional resources, either using an executive search firm or expanding your search geographically.

Many internal recruiters stumble when it comes to executive hiring because they lack the database of qualified candidates or they don’t work effectively with their internal stakeholders, Genser said.

It starts with understanding what the internal client is looking for in a new executive and extends to giving him or her feedback on the external market, such as when the salary range on offer isn’t competitive.

“You need to be comfortable to proactively go back to your hiring agency or your own internal compensation people and say, ‘We seem to be having trouble. This is what they want,” she said. “Sometimes they think we’ll just keep looking. It’s about having crucial conversations early enough [before] you’re many, many weeks down the road and they’re saying, why didn’t you tell us that earlier?”

Mike Prokopeak is the editorial director at Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at editor@talentmgt.com.