Executive Recruiting: Tips for Recruiting Executives

Anja Zojceska | Recruiting | Talent Acquisition | September 14, 2018

Executive recruiting is quite different than your average hiring process. To recruit the best executive for a top-level position, you need to apply advanced recruiting methods. In this blog post, you will learn the best recruiting tips for recruiting executives.


What is executive recruiting?

Executive recruiting is the process of finding and hiring candidates to fill top-level positions at the company. It is usually done by hiring a specialized executive recruiter, headhunter, or a recruitment agency

In executive recruiting, you aim to find and hire executive personnel such as senior managers, directors, vice presidents, chief executive officers, and similar high-level officers within companies.

Executive recruiting is sometimes called C-Suite recruiting.

This is because the highest-level executives in senior management usually have titles beginning with "chief" forming:

Importance of executive recruiting

Finding and hiring the ideal job candidate for your company's C-suite level is critically important to the overall success of your business.

The next “chief” of any of your departments will be making decisions that shape the current company culture and the future of your business. 

This is why executive recruiting needs to be approached with the highest attention and priority. 

Understanding the challenges of executive recruiting

There are many different challenges associated with recruiting executives. Here, I will highlight the 3 key challenges in executive recruiting:

Executive recruiting challenge #1: Competition for top talent

With the unemployment rate lower than ever, companies are competing for the best talent at all levels, especially at the executive level. Top-level executives know they are in demand and that they can choose where they want to work and under which conditions.

Executive recruiting challenge #2: Recruiting passive candidates

The chances are that the top executives are already employed and they are not actively looking for a new job. However, they don’t mind being approached and offered a better career opportunity.

According to Experteer career services survey, an overwhelming majority (97%) of senior candidates in a company want to be ‘found’ or ‘approached’ by headhunters for relevant vacancies! 😲


Executive recruiting challenge #3: Leadership is changing

In 2017, 3.6 million executive leaders have retired, allowing younger employees to move to management positions, according to MRINetwork.

Now, the millennials are moving into leadership roles. Consequently, leadership as such is going through big changes. This is because millennials are moving away from the traditional top-down corporate structure. Instead, they strive towards a collaborative and transparent management style.

If you want to recruit an executive and a leader of tomorrow, you need to acknowledge these changes and look for the right qualities in your executive talent.

How to recruit executives successfully?

Recruiting the best executives is a challenging task. Looking to fill a seat in your company’s C-suite isn’t your average hiring process. Executive recruiting today requires a different and more sophisticated level of recruiting skills.

As the Executive Recruiter Carolyn Carpeneti puts it:

Executive recruiting is both the art and the science. 

Tips for recruiting executives

Here are the top 8 executive recruiting tips that will help you effectively recruit the best executives and strike that delicate balance of art and science:

Executive recruiting tip #1: Understand the job and the industry

The first and most important step in executive recruiting is to do your research. It should go without saying that you need to prepare very well in order to find and hire the best executive for your company.

Start by crafting the perfect job description. Feel free to use the job description templates, but make sure you customize them to fit your own needs.

Then imagine your ideal executive candidate and create your candidate persona. Define the type of candidate who would be a perfect fit not only for your C-level position but also for your industry and your company culture.

Executive recruiting tip #2: Leverage employee referrals

When it comes to recruiting executives, networking is the way to go. Utilize the connections and the networks of the existing leaders in your company. Try to find someone who knows your targeted executive candidate or who can suggest a few executives suitable for the position you are looking to fill.

Go above and beyond to leverage personal contact, social media connections, and employee referrals.

Think outside the box - include your current employees, alumni, investors, board members, and other relevant stakeholders in your search for executives.

According to Jennifer Rettig, a Head of Recruiting at Looker, this is the secret to executive recruiting learned at Apple and Yahoo. Here is another important advice from Jennifer:

If you get any pushback from leaders on your team who say they're too busy, don't just relent - explain how the role you're hiring for will alleviate pain points for them, take work off their plate, and complement their skillset.

Executive recruiting tip #3: Be discrete and maintain confidentiality

Make sure that you demonstrate the highest level of professionalism when contacting potential C-level candidates.

According to the previously mentioned Experteer study:

When contacting your potential executive candidates through their private email or personal social media profile, ensure them that you will maintain confidentiality and be discrete throughout the whole process.

Executive recruiting tip #4: Build relationships

The critical part of executive recruiting is building relationships with your candidates. To do that, you need to adopt a highly personalized approach. The candidate should always be in the focus of your recruitment process.

Remember, the best executive candidates are hard to find and even harder to persuade to make a move. This is why you shouldn’t attempt to sell your position immediately.

Instead, focus on getting to know your candidate first.

Executive recruiting tip #5: Discover their drive

After establishing the first contact with your executive candidates, try to get to know them better.

You need to discover what drives them.

Here is some insightful advice from Marco Zappacosta, the Co-Founder and CEO of Thumbtack:

It’s critical to know what drives people. Some execs are motivated by money. Others by impact. Or the desire to lead high-performance teams.

However, if you ask someone what motivates them, you will get spoon-fed a pat answer.

According to Zappacosta, if you want to discover what really drives your executive candidates, you should ask them:

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

Executive recruiting tip #6: Be patient

When it comes to executive recruiting, you should be prepared to invest the time and effort required in today’s highly competitive environment to get the person you want.

According to Staffing Advisors:

Recruiting executives is a long and delicate process. The top candidates will almost certainly need a lot of reassurance to even start thinking about your offer.

Executive recruiting tip #7: Provide a great candidate experience

When recruiting any candidate today, you need to work hard to provide the best possible candidate experience. When it comes to executive recruiting, your efforts to improve your candidate experience should be scaled 10X. 

Remember, the best senior executive talent is being courted by many different companies. This is why you need to make sure that your candidates are getting the best executive search experience that stands out

Executive recruiting tip #8: Go the extra mile

Going the extra mile when recruiting executives can make or break your hiring process. Since these candidates are high in demand and approached by many different companies, they have probably seen and heard it all.

This is why you need to differentiate your approach and go the extra mile.

Demonstrate how much your company is invested in and committed to hiring them. Make sure to offer them a face-to-face time with your CEO or director.

Show your executive candidates that you truly value getting to know them. Listen carefully and be ready to accommodate their needs. Be prepared to meet them outside working hours or on weekends.

Find out what they like and take them to their favorite restaurant or game. Implement personalized touches to make your executive candidates feel special.

How can TalentLyft help you recruit executives?

To learn how using all-in-in recruitment software such as TalentLyft can help excel in executive recruiting, schedule a free personalized demo with our experts.

Frequently asked questions

What are the key strategies for effective executive recruiting? 

To recruit top executives, it's crucial to understand their motivations, utilize specialized executive search firms, foster strong relationships, leverage your professional network, and ensure a smooth and discreet recruiting process.

How can companies make their opportunity stand out to executive talent? 

Companies can stand out by offering compelling compensation packages, demonstrating a strong company culture, showcasing opportunities for impact and growth, and ensuring alignment between the executive's vision and the company's strategic goals.

What role does company culture play in recruiting executives? 

Company culture plays a significant role in attracting executives, as they often look for environments where they can thrive, align with core values, and contribute to a positive and productive workplace.

How important is confidentiality in executive recruiting? 

Confidentiality is paramount in executive recruiting to protect both the candidates' current positions and the hiring company's internal dynamics and strategic plans.

What are the challenges in executive recruiting and how can they be overcome? 

Challenges include finding candidates with the right mix of skills and cultural fit, managing high compensation expectations, and navigating lengthy decision-making processes. Overcome these by thorough market research, effective communication, and a structured, transparent selection process.

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Executive Recruitment: Top 8 Tips for Recruiting C-level Professionals

Executive Recruitment: Top 8 Tips for Recruiting C-level Professionals

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