January 27, 2021

3 Reasons Why Hiring Executive Leadership Is Hard

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Hiring an executive or team lead can be risky. Without the right candidates in top-level positions, it’s hard to envision your business goals for the year coming to fruition.

According to the Bank of Canada’s 20/21 Business Outlook Survey, businesses often link their hiring intentions with their expected recovery in sales over the next 12 months. Among firms with positive hiring plans, about half expect to ramp up the size of their workforce later in 2021, when they believe the pandemic will be largely under control. That said, top talent will be in more demand than ever and since companies often have a hard time finding the right fit when hiring executives, it’s now more important than ever to not mis-hire.

Some of the difficulty is simply because the people tasked with sourcing, vetting and hiring these executive-level roles are not experts in recruitment. Using a recruitment or executive search firm can also be challenging if you don’t have the right partner. Here are some of the factors that make hiring executives hard and why you should consider hiring an experienced recruiter instead:

1. You’re not an Executive hiring expert

Hiring is so much more than finding the right skills and a perfect fit. It starts with knowing the type of talent you could see growing with the team as well as leading it. Many companies begin their hiring process and hit roadblocks along the way as the role was never well-defined to start with. Asking for too many qualifications, too many non-compatible skills or being unclear on how much the position pays, are surefire ways of landing disinterested and incompatible candidates. How do you find the right person when you don’t know what you want or need?

Some of the skills required to hire an Executive include:

Strategic Thinking:

The ability to align recruitment strategies with the organization's overall business goals and understand the long-term impact of executive hires. Knowing how to approach a potential client, how to start a conversation that isn't just "we're looking to hire a CMO/CTO/CEO/President" and instead hinges on what part of the business' overall strategy this role will be fulfilling.

Essentially it's a two parter: What strategy do I use to approach, and what strategy do I communicate to entice someone to start a conversation around joining the business.

Role Knowledge:

In-depth knowledge of the industry and market trends to identify candidates with the right skills and experience relevant to the specific sector.

If your company is an accounting firm, but you're looking to hire a sales executive to jumpstart the business' customer acquisition, can you confidently say that you'd be able to adequately judge a potential hires qualifications? 

Relationship Building:

Sometimes you may meet a person who is excellent, but your business is unsure of either where to place them internally, or if your business has the need for that type of hire yet.

Creating a long-term relationship with a wide range of experienced and knowledgeable executives gives you a pool to choose from when it comes to offering a role for hire. Cold emailing/calling/messaging an executive is a quick route to the spam folder or just being ignored. Start conversations today and reap their reward in the future.

Executive Search Expertise:

The entire process of hiring an executive is unlike most other forms of hiring. Someone you are considering for a role could be a sensitive hire. They may not want any word to get out that they're considering your offer, so the conversations need to be hush-hush.

Or the other way around, your business may not want word to get out you're hiring for a certain executive role for a whole host of reasons (firing current holder of the role, changes to company leadership that are not completed, expansion into new market). You need to keep things quiet, which then influences how you find a potential candidate.

When thinking of the process itself, you need to think about how this role will impact the company for years to come, as well as how this person will lead the direction of your company culture, because they'll be responsible for hiring and growing a team. Compensation packages may differ, especially if equity is a consideration. Start times as well. The candidate may need a fairly lengthy run way that isn't the two-weeks-notice to start a new position.

Effective Communication:

You will also need Clear and concise communication skills to articulate the organization's requirements and present opportunities to potential executive candidates persuasively.

How you sell the company to an executive, much like most roles, from day one will impact who you get as potential considerations for the role. From the get-go make sure the vision for your business 5 - 10 years down the line is being communicated.

2. You’re not sure how to assess their skills 

When you hire people, you are in some respect taking their word for what they know. But do you know the right questions to ask to assess their knowledge and skills? Amidst portfolios, website examples, recommendation letters, unbiased video call interviews, and skills assessment tests, it’s hard to know what is the best indicator of a candidate’s ability. How do you design a thorough assessment? What types of questions are you allowed to ask and should include? To know, you’ll have to do more research or have a qualified recruitment firm on your side.

Skills you may need to consider include:

Culture building

Does this person have the experience building or maintaining what makes a business special? Everything from hiring experience, how they run meetings, how they organize teams can influence what employees reporting to them think of themselves in relation to the business.

Strategic thinking at a high-level

An executive isn't a "button pusher" - they are required to think about how their team can accomplish goals that isn't fully hands on. They need to motivate a team, work as both their instructor and cheerleader, and decide how the process to work with other teams will happen. A great executive spends little of their time as a "do-er", but rather spends it thinking about how their team will accomplish goals that sets them up in a way to continue success years down the line.

Financial acumen

Numbers aren't just for finance. A great executive is focused on how to build a team, grow a company and stay within budget while doing both. They need to have a good sense of the numbers, which means working alongside finance to build plans that can be stuck to, and push for more budget when required.

Crisis management

At some point every business goes through a crisis. Executives need to be able to look at a situation and decide on a course of action in a confident manner, which will help their team remain focused on goal completion. They need to show a track record of dealing with crisis with a positive outcome.

3. You don’t recognize that personality is just as important as skills and experience 

Focusing on a candidate’s skills and past experience is not really enough to judge whether they are the right hire. When selecting a leadership candidate, there must be a match between leadership style and personality as well. Having open conversations, without the pressure of the word ‘interview’, through video call or phone may be the best way to get to know the candidate. And the right executive search firm won’t leave you hanging in the process. Their expert interview advice will be an advantage as you hope to secure top talent with minimal time wasted.

Hire the next Executive that will grow your business

Hiring top-level executives and team leaders is a critical task that carries inherent risks for any organization. As highlighted by the Bank of Canada's Business Outlook Survey, the success of a business often hinges on its ability to place the right candidates in key positions, especially when considering factors like expected sales recovery and the evolving business landscape.

One of the primary challenges in executive hiring is the inherent complexity of the process. Many organizations struggle because they lack the expertise in recruitment necessary to identify the ideal fit for these crucial roles. It's not merely about matching skills and qualifications but also about understanding the potential for growth and leadership within the team.

Furthermore, assessing the skills and capabilities of executive candidates can be a daunting task. With a plethora of information at your disposal, from portfolios to recommendation letters and skills assessment tests, it's easy to get lost in the sea of data. The right questions to ask and the most effective methods to evaluate a candidate's knowledge can be elusive without the guidance of experienced professionals.

Creative Niche Executive Search

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