Executive search is by far the most difficult hiring process out there. It sounds far-fetched but hiring executives can make or break your business.
They can affect profits. They can affect productivity. And they can affect your workforce.
When going through an executive search, companies have a long list of specified requirements that need to be met. These key positions require specialised knowledge of both the job role, and often the industry, and companies need to know they’re getting the right person.
Great Executive Candidates Are Thin On The Ground
It takes a long time to work up to an executive position and not everyone is cut out for this level of role – or even wants it. That means there are naturally less candidates for these positions than for entry level jobs.
Because of the nature of exec-level roles, businesses (understandably) want a certain amount and level of experience, which further complicates the hiring Add in new industries popping up due to the pandemic, the ongoing (and accelerating) need for digital transformation, and executive search becomes more complicated.
A 2020 survey by Recruitment Software platform Invenias suggested that 77% of executive search professionals’ top challenges were going to be talent shortages.
With all the changes happening in the world and in the hiring market, the need for strong leaders and qualified senior staff to steer businesses through difficult times continues to grow.
Good C-suite Employees Are Hard to Hold On To
We all know the world of work has changed in the last few years. People are looking for different things from their roles and are less scared to move position to get what they want. Business transformation has been part of this. Previously, executives were wary of being “first in last out” and tended to hold on to positions for longer. Now, that’s turned around.
We all know the world of work has changed in the last few years. People are looking for different things from their roles and are less scared to move position to get what they want. Business transformation has been part of this. Previously, executives were wary of being “first in last out” and tended to stay in positions for longer. Now, that’s turned around.
Companies are losing c-suite employees faster than ever as they, like the rest of the population, look to achieve more flexibility, benefits, or better progression opportunities.
Opinions Are Changing
The accepted norms of working 12-15 hour days, long commutes into work, and staying in the same job for your whole career are being challenged. Culture and progression are becoming more important. Even for your C-suite and leadership team.
While succession planning is common for most roles, it can be harder for executive positions as not everyone in the business is ready to step up. In the current environment many businesses really need people of this seniority to hit the ground running too.
And More Senior Executives Are Dropping Out of Processes
Right now, candidates are more likely to drop out than ever before.
At Solutions Driven, we’ve had a huge increase in businesses engaging us as they’ve been plagued with candidates dropping out at every stage of the recruitment.
According to Indeed, 28% of workers said that they’d ghosted an employer in 2021– compared to 19% two years before. And anecdotally, that appears to have risen in 2022.
While this number is lower within senior executives, it’s still fairly common. Skilled executive team are in high demand and if they receive a better offer or they don’t feel they’re being properly engaged, they’re likely to leave your process, knowing they won’t be stuck for long.
Candidate Engagement Is Key
That makes strong candidate engagement vital. It’s no longer enough to keep in touch at each step of a long process. The longer a candidate goes without talking to a recruiter or member of the in-house team, the more likely they are to drop out.
Candidates need to be continually updated on what’s going on if you want to fill the position. Even if it’s a phone call or email to say decisions are still on-going – no news is better than bad news doesn’t apply to exec search.
So Executive Search Fails
With all this increased movement, executive search is getting harder than ever.
According to Simon Mullins of executive recruiting peer networking group, ESIX, exec recruitment fails 40% of the time.
ESIX say the majority of these searches went awry along the way, took so long the business hired internally, or they just cancelled the search completely.
There’s a Lot of Money Wasted
Executive Search can cost a LOT of money. Not just because it’s a long and in depth search.
But money is also wasted through an unfilled position, or having the wrong person in the role. If the position is critical to pushing the business forward, ensuring innovation, or stopping revenue loss, an incomplete search is a big business issue.
If the company is looking for a replacement for someone already in position, but not performing, they’re stuck with an inadequate employee until they complete the search or change direction.
With the world and the business world changing rapidly right now, this can be hugely detrimental for the success of businesses.
What’s the Solution for High-Level Recruitment?
There are no quick solutions to fixing the way executive search works or even speeding it up. Recruiting for senior positions will never be something that can automated or become completely predictable. Executives are difficult to find and don’t appear on standard job boards or searches.
However, there are a few things that can be done.
Good Executive Search Consultants Are Dropping The Old Ways
The first is moving away from “little black book recruiting” that many executive search firms rely on. The old recruiters’ trick of opening up their list of suitable candidates and putting a few forward doesn’t cut it for executive recruitment in the 21st century.
Because this way of working misses out a huge chunk of the candidate pool.
After all, that little black book only has a small pool of candidates. It doesn’t cover people who are overseas, those just entering the executive market, or new leaders who might not be at the exec level yet, but are close. It only covers the people who those recruiters know or have on their books.
Executive Search Firms Need To Up Their Game
Tunnel Vision Doesn’t Help
If the recruiter or executive search consultants only work in your industry or in specific industries, they aren’t aware of outstanding leaders with transferrable skills who could be a great fit for the role. If they’ve only worked in specific countries, everywhere else is overlooked. It becomes harder to make a successful placement and get the right candidate when you’re only able to contact a tiny portion of the pool.
Top Talent Is Still Pretty Passive
And while candidates in general are currently more active, some of the world’s best talent is still passive. Many great business leaders are happy in their roles or have just moved position and aren’t on the lookout for another one.
They are the candidates who the executive search firm needs to discover through non-traditional channels, reached out to, and go through a thorough engagement process.
Data and Intelligence
Another route to success is using data and intelligence to unearth talent pools and provide insights. While the amount of data available in recruitment can seem overwhelming, figuring out how to use that data can help you find the right people.
It might be there are qualified candidates with your exact set of skills in another country and the market seems open to relocation. It could be that your industry has transferable skills you didn’t know about and there’s a pool of excellent candidates in a neighbouring industry.
Discovering Areas of Flex
It could be that the exact set of skills you are looking for doesn’t actually exist at the salary you’re offering. A good executive search agency will be able to help you discover this and find areas of flex so you can hire the right person.
For example, if the salary isn’t negotiable, a good executive search firm will help you look at what skills or qualifications can be compromised on without taking down the quality of candidates.
Intelligence can also help businesses hit their diversity initiatives. Considering businesses with higher levels of diversity outperform their non-diverse peers, having diverse people on your leadership and c-suite is something companies should be aiming for.
Access to Better Software
Another issue many internal recruitment teams have in executive search is not having the executive search software or processes in place to be successful.
Many members of the C-suite don’t appear on traditional job boards and they could be difficult to find on programs like LinkedIn. Sometimes in-depth software is needed to do a deep search and identify these candidates. Even if the cost of getting the software in place isn’t prohibitive, finding the capacity to train members of the team to use if efficiently can be.
Then, engagement software is needed to keep these candidates interested and guarantee a successful placement.