Before kicking off a new executive search, there is a long list of considerations to evaluate in order to achieve an efficient recruiting process that ultimately yields a successful hire.
The principal considerations that are top of mind among my clients are:
- Choosing the right search partner or internal search lead;
- Analyzing the needs of the business and mapping them to the skills and experience required for the role;
- Defining the scope, responsibilities, and charter of the hire;
- Understanding the team’s perspective on the right “culture-fit”; and
- Structuring the interview process to capture the buy-in required from key internal decision-makers and board members.
While the pre-search checklist above is helpful in laying the foundation for a successful search, it doesn’t go deep enough to assure a seamless search process. Why is that? A frequently overlooked and critical dimension of running an executive search is tailoring your interview process specifically to the candidate and their experience.
Executing an executive search is a two-way street of buying/vetting and selling. If you’ve identified and assessed your ideal hire but haven’t won their trust along the way, it’s unlikely the search will result in a signed offer letter. Instead, you may lose the candidate altogether and end up back at square one with your search. To prevent this from happening, I’ve summarized my top tips to create the best executive candidate interview experience. By effectively employing these methods, candidates can build trusted relationships with the hiring manager and key stakeholders even before joining an organization — a crucial step for future success in the role.
Executive Candidate Interview Experience Tips:
Have the end in sight:
- As the hiring company, aim to structure your full interview panel and end-to-end interview steps before having the first phone call with a candidate.
- By doing so, you (the hiring company) can streamline and shorten the overall search process.
- Think about the ideal start date for this hire and work backward from there to structure the interview process. What needs to happen from start to finish (in a predetermined amount of time) to make that happen?
- Share the timeline and detail with your internal team, and hold them accountable for making time to interview candidates.
- With regard to the candidate perspective, these individuals are executives and understand that there will be multiple rounds of interviews and extensive due diligence required for this level of hire, which can be extremely time-consuming.
- Even so, it’s in everyone’s best interest to give the candidate a clear picture of the full interview process to let them know you respect their valuable time.
- I’ve also found that this level of transparency increases candidates’ endurance during the process when they know exactly what to expect from beginning to end.
- Over the course of my career in executive search, I’ve learned that over-communicating is the most effective way to keep candidates comfortable, happy, and engaged throughout the interview process. Building a foundation of trust, transparency, and candor is also critical in facilitating a successful negotiation when you arrive at the offer stage.
Seize the opportunity:
- Remember that each time your company has a touchpoint with a candidate, it’s not only an opportunity to examine their skills but also a time to ‘sell’ and address any concerns they may have—seize the opportunity! Get as much out of each interview as possible.
- When assembling your panel of interviewers, consider the hire’s interests and areas of focus.
- Do they have concerns or unanswered questions from the last round? Be sure to include interviewers who can answer those questions and share new insights into the business.
- Additionally, make sure that each interviewer leaves time for questions at the end of their session to address any lingering concerns head-on.
- Lastly, if you are in the final stages of the interview process and you are still trying to win over the candidate, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Are there impressive board members or senior leaders/CEO that you can tap to get the candidate over the line?
- Are there former colleagues or mentors that you’re acquainted with that can put in a good word? If so, this vote of confidence can often strengthen the case for the candidate to accept a new role.
- Be as transparent as possible — share the good, the bad, and the ugly with regard to what the candidate will be walking into. If you want a sticky hire and to build genuine trust, be honest during the interview process.
- Focus on why you joined/started the company and what gets you out of bed in the morning and excited about the future — but don’t be afraid to discuss the areas in which the business needs to improve. Those issues are likely why the candidate is being brought on in the first place!
- In that same vein, there may be a history related to this position, perhaps the last executive in the role didn’t work out. It’s best to proactively share this information early on in the process, not only to allay any concerns that the candidate may have but also to avoid making the same hiring mistake again.
Whether you are working with an executive recruiter or leading a search process yourself, getting the most out of your executive search means leaning into a “candidate-experience-first” approach. Not only will you have more hiring options when you move to the offer stage, but you will also have a stronger, more trusting relationship with the executive coming in. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of a successful long-term hire.
If you’re looking to add to your leadership team or seeking general advice on hiring, please contact me directly or visit SPMB.com.