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Supercharge Your Executive Recruiting in 10 Easy Ways

Supercharge Executive Recruiting

Supercharge your executive recruiting at a time when it is harder than ever. A growing number of in-house executive recruiting teams have told us they are struggling to fill critical openings. Historically low unemployment, the Great Resignation, and retiring Baby Boomers have created a perfect storm, heightening the talent shortage that already existed.

As a result, companies are engaging in hand-to-hand combat in the war for talent. Their weapons? Skyrocketing wages, better benefits, flexible hours, remote work, and every bougie perk you could possibly imagine. Yet executive leaders still find it challenging to hire the people they need to get work done.

Supercharge Your Executive Recruiting with Research

To supercharge executive search, rev up your candidate research. After all, executive research is how you find and ultimately recruit top-performing candidates. If your recruiting researchers cannot discover the right candidates, the executive search suffers. If your candidate sourcers or recruiters are unable to transform that long list of potential candidates into a short list of interested, qualified prospects, the executive search is in critical condition. The executive search ends up being much harder than it needs to be. Instead of working harder, make executive search smarter with expert candidate research.

Recruiting Research is More than Names

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines research as a “careful or diligent search,” a “studious inquiry or examination,” and “the collecting of information about a particular subject.” When executive search and recruiting professionals think of research as mere name generation, they are doing themselves a disservice. Name gen is rarely careful, diligent, or studious. More often, it involves a relatively haphazard scooping up of names and titles, willy-nilly. And that leads to a “kiss every frog” approach to recruiting in order to find your prince. When you give it the chance research can offer you so much more than a half-baked list of candidate names. In addition to making search smart, it holds the power to make your efforts much more strategic, streamlined, and successful — elevating the experience for all involved.

Research is the Execution Engine of Executive Search

Research is the execution engine of executive recruiting. Build a better engine and you create the ultimate recruiting machine. Research is how you find great candidates and how you calibrate and recruit them. When you embed superior research into virtually every step of your search process, you dramatically improve search performance. I’m not suggesting that you work harder. I am suggesting that by doing the following 10 steps, you can supercharge your search and work smarter so you don’t have to work as hard.

10 Ways to Supercharge Executive Search

Supercharge Candidate Sourcing Strategy

A company may be focused on growth and expansion into new markets, or alternatively may be focused on divestiture (selling assets that have been weighing the company down, while at the same time distracting it from its core business). Strategies are as varied as the businesses they inform. Ideally, your hires should provide a strategic advantage linked to that overarching strategy. 

You could, for instance, target candidates who have deep domain expertise in a new market your company is entering, with relationships and knowledge to leverage. Alternatively, you could raid primary competitors to knock them back a rung while you gain the advantage. Your understanding needs to be informed by deep knowledge of the industry, its history, and its players. So read a few books that bring the history of the industry to life, keep up with industry publications, and continually track business news. (I keep a television tuned to CNBC throughout the day in a room adjacent to my office.)

Locate Data Your Company Already Owns

Critical information is usually scattered like buckshot across departments and teams within companies. Sales departments often have conference attendee lists. Marketing departments often have big market research reports. Your company has already paid for this information. Use it for recruiting, and you increase your company’s return on investment.

Review Profiles of Successful Hires

Supercharge your search by reviewing the resumes of the people who have actually been hired into the position and team into which you are recruiting to determine what, if anything, they have in common. How many years of experience do they have? Is that experience aligned with the job description? Is there a cluster of successful hires from one company in particular? Go there.

Consult with the Hiring Executive

Intelligence provides a platform upon which to build a consultative relationship with an executive who serves as a hiring manager. If that manager is in need of a critical hire, he’s likely overworked and understaffed. The last thing he wants to do is to stop and download the information you need to find the perfect candidate. However, that is exactly what needs to happen.

Rarely do position descriptions say what the new hire needs to accomplish to be deemed a success. So ask. Next, test the requirements, inquiring, “If I find someone who has successfully done what you need to have done, but if he only has eight instead of the required 10 years of experience, do you want to see him?” Ask, “What if he’s successful, but has only an undergraduate degree?” Start knocking out unnecessary requirements until you get to the core “must-haves.” Test the compensation, probing “Are you confident the salary and scope are competitive when compared to other opportunities in the marketplace?” Set expectations with the hiring executive.

Analyze What Competitors Are Doing

Research competitors and find similar openings. Find out what compensation your competitors are offering. Summarize your findings in an intelligence report. Often, hiring managers and the financial personnel controlling the purse strings assume that the salary is competitive when it doesn’t offer a candidate enough of a difference to warrant making a move. A market intelligence report serves as a powerful wake-up call for everyone involved and provides hiring managers with the hard data they need to go to bat for an adjustment in compensation.

Work Sources to Calibrate Contenders

In Steps 1 through 5, you have gathered a great deal of potent information. Take a moment to analyze what it all means. Resist the impulse to dive in and scoop up big buckets of candidates from target companies. There isn’t enough of you to go around. Instead, work your sources to find out who the best people are. Provide a list of initial target candidates with biographies, and incorporate the feedback from the hiring executive into your plan.

Look for patterns upon which you can capitalize. Ideally, cherry-pick the rock stars. Never target entire companies. Rather, supercharge your executive recruiting by tracking specific luminaries or specific teams that are outperforming. Avoid wasting time calling the wrong people who are too senior or too junior. Examining target company job postings to determine what precise titles and levels at each target company map to your opportunity. To supercharge your search, prioritize the best targets and push less likely suspects further down on your to-do list.

Set News Alerts for Opportunistic Swoop-ins

Visit the news page in Google and set alerts relevant to your search. Track RSS feeds. Scour blogs. Track reports of layoffs, mergers & acquisitions, and earnings disappointments — events that often make candidates a little more willing to make a move. If a company or an entire industry goes into free fall, it offers a significant opportunity to capture talent at virtually every level and function.

Create a Succession Bench for C-Level Roles

Supercharge your executive recruiting by creating a succession bench for your senior executive team. That succession bench enables you to benchmark the performance of senior leadership. If needed, it enables you to replace the weakest link and have candidates at the ready should one of your senior leaders exit with little warning. Developing a succession bench empowers your organization to know exactly where possible replacements are working and to explore what kinds of opportunities might lure them away — so that when the time comes, you are in the position to make an immediate hire of the best executive the market has to offer.

Demand Better Research from Search Firms

Supercharge your executive recruiting by retaining search firms with expert investigative research capability. Retained search firms often tout their personal networks and proprietary databases as the reasons why you should choose them over their competitors. But that tells you little about their research abilities. What we have are too much information and too little intelligence. So before you waste your time with shootouts between firms vying to win a retained search engagement, simply check the websites of Egon ZehnderHeidrick & StrugglesKorn/FerrySpencer Stuart, or search firms of your choosing. If their definition of the search process makes no mention of investigative intelligence and revolves primarily around traditional recruiting research, walk on by. You deserve better.

Develop Intelligence: Share Best Practices

There is no one association for you to join that will help you leverage intelligence in search. The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals will teach you about competitive intelligence, but it is not specifically focused on search. The Association of Independent Information Professionals will teach you about research, but not necessarily intelligence. The Executive Search Information Exchange has built a network of corporate talent officers for the sole purpose of advocating for best practices in search, but it is not focused on intelligence, and the same goes for the AESC. an organization committed to that same end. Collaboration speeds innovation and when done properly, all participants stand to benefit from the collective knowledge.


Supercharge Your Executive Recruiting for Success

Clearly, harnessing the power of actionable intelligence is a best practice that has long been embraced by other industries such as finance and marketing. Its arrival in the search business is long overdue. Recruiting that fails to leverage expert research and human capital intelligence is like searching with your eyes closed, with far too much stumbling around in the dark. Search that harnesses the power of intelligence continually scans the competitive landscape. It is as if the scales have fallen from your eyes.

Struggling with filling an executive opening? Then you might benefit from an executive search research firm. Check out the 10 Reasons to Use a Recruiting Research Firm.

Our article 10 Ways to Supercharge Your Search for Candidates was originally published by ERE Media. It has since been updated.

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Krista Bradford

Krista Bradford

Founder and CEO of Intellerati | The Good Search. Retained executive search headhunter. Former investigative journalist. Wife of saxman. Mama of MD. Co-worker of Hamlet the Corgi. TikTok addict.View Author posts