Sunday, March 3, 2013

Recruiting Senior Level Candidates

Several times a year someone asks how recruiting CEO’s, VP’s or other high ranking candidates is different from recruiting rising-through-the-ranks candidates. There is no difference. Follow the recruiting process. A candidate is a candidate. A great recruiter must interview any candidate to determine qualifications, temperament, leadership qualities, management style, and competence.

When recruiting senior level managers, business owners, and entrepreneurs it’s important to prepare carefully as any fee related to these positions typically is substantial. What’s going on in the industry? What kind of reputation does the candidate have within their respected industry? What are some of their accomplishments and what was the business climate during their tenure?

Talk to them as a peer. Ask direct questions. Leaders are used to thinking on many levels. They often make decisions quickly and have visionary minds. They’ve been in their share of fights and know how to strategize and compromise. Talk to them about their key motivators. “In order to make a move and feel like you’re moving forward in your life and career, what would have to be in place?” Ask the same questions all candidates should be asked.

Many of these people enjoy new challenges and they must define what that means to them. I read an article in which the author had interviewed Meg Whitman, the CEO who helped grow EBay into an 8 billion dollar a year empire. Whitman said she took calls from headhunters all the time. She wanted to keep up with industry gossip and opportunities. She was receptive to considering new possibilities. Meg is not alone.

There are differences in people who like to build companies vs. manage them. If you’re a recruiter who is not familiar with risk taking mentalities, get to know some business owners and CEO’s. They put fewer limitations on themselves and what they can accomplish. When recruiting engineers, accountants, or software sales reps, there are industry terms one uses. A recruiter does not need to be an engineer to ask if someone has a ME or EE degree.

We recruiters can quickly learn the relevant questions to ask in any search. We learn how to identify weak, sound, and great candidates. We must be able to discern the answers to the central questions every search requires: Does the candidate have the skill sets and ability to do the job? Will they fit into the company culture?

Never be intimidated by someone’s title. There are jerks and frauds at every level of business and life. Everyone has worked with incompetent managers who somehow pushed or connived their way into a position they don’t deserve and cannot handle. As recruiters we must see through the veil of posturing and propaganda. As we’ve done hundreds of times before, we must delicately perceive and sort out the details to ultimately find the right candidate, whether they are a CEO, VP, or Princess, who can deliver the performance our client requires.

by Kimberly Schenk, Executive Recruiter (20 years), Recruiting Coach (7 years), Author

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