The Right Talent at the Right Time
The search for the right executive addition to your team can seem daunting, but finding the right candidate at the right time is critical to your company’s future success. Ideally, your new executive will add value in alignment with business goals and address any gaps in your existing leadership team. Matching a promising candidate’s career trajectory to company goals and an open opportunity takes finesse and excellent timing — which is where a professional recruiting partner comes into play.
Recruiting a new executive is serious business. Today’s talent market is fiercely competitive, and matching the right talent to the right role is increasingly critical to your company’s continued success. While solid executive leadership is a key performance differentiator, a bad fit could spell catastrophe for your company’s growth goals — which makes a thorough, transparent, and data-driven approach to high-level recruitment an essential competitive edge when you’re looking for your perfect executive match.
Executive talent acquisition is an investment in your company’s ability to grow, innovate, and remain relevant. Recruiting and hiring activity require a solid methodology and the technology to aggregate and analyze data that supports hiring decisions. A methodical, data-driven approach simplifies and streamlines executive matching, keeps current leaders aware of available options, and helps companies avoid common pitfalls — such as unconscious bias — in hiring decisions.
Context is often overlooked in executive search. A candidate may check all the essential boxes in your company’s job description — including education, experience, a solid track record, and leadership skills — but they must also meet the moment.
Matching a job description is a good indicator of short-term success, but for role longevity in alignment with current conditions and future goals, consider your hiring choices in terms of the following:
- Strategic plans. What critical initiatives and areas of focus must be managed by your new executive? Search teams must understand the larger context of your company’s direction. Is it stagnant, growing, or experiencing a turnaround? Are you cutting costs or investing in additional resources? An explicit understanding of your current and future business strategy will support an executive hiring decision in alignment with company goals.
- Board function and expectations. Is the board aligned with the company’s strategic direction? Do board members serve an advisory or governance role? Before bringing in new executive leadership, make sure your board is onboard with your strategic business plan and the hiring decisions you make to support it.
- Industry and market conditions. Awareness of current market conditions and your industry’s atmosphere is vital. If your business needs “war time” executive leadership, a “peace time” candidate is not your ideal choice. On the flip side, if the market can’t bear disruption or change, a leader who likes to shake things up is less likely to meet the moment.
- Company culture. Your company’s culture is comprised of its history, its values, the way it operates, and the employee experience you offer. “Organization rejection” can occur when new executives are a poor fit for the existing culture. Compare each candidate’s cultural expectations with your established company culture to ensure the right fit at the right time.
Some companies, particularly private equity (PE) firms, keep a standing pool of promising executive candidates to consider. Whether you’re working with known candidates or expanding your search to include new possibilities, it’s useful to clarify the current and future requirements of the open position.
Focus on the nexus of critical skills necessary to achieve your business goals. This is what corporate succession expert Ram Charan calls “the pivot,” which he defines as “a strand of two or three capabilities that are tightly interwoven and required for the new leader to succeed.” The pivot is “what makes the decision turn toward one candidate over another.”
In addition to defining the pivot, a methodical executive search process requires:
- Keeping an open mind. Avoid the temptation to narrow the field too early in the process. It’s natural to focus on longtime favorites, but ignoring new options can cause your company to miss out on the best match.
- Finding the best fit. No candidate is perfect, but with thorough vetting, good timing, and the pivot, it is possible to find a perfect match.
- Evaluating for potential. A good match isn’t always about what a candidate has already done. Consider what your prospects can and will do as well. Rather than limiting your evaluation criteria to prior experience, leave some room for a candidate to exceed your expectations.
- Selecting the right search team. Build a long-term relationship with a knowledgeable, experienced executive placement firm for an easier search — and ready access to the right candidate at the right time.
An executive with prior industry experience probably possesses the qualifications necessary to fill an open slot on your company roster. Finding the right fit means discerning the difference between placeholders and the perfect executive placement.