Recruiting a top tier executive in the current market is often a case of trying to catch a big fish in a small pond. The most capable and sought-after individuals are presented with more opportunities than they can manage, leaving them with insufficient time to navigate gruelling in-depth interview processes. At Page Executive, we have encountered candidates who were offered as many as six interviews in a single week in August-2021, which is traditionally the quietest part of the year.

This level of demand is leaving candidates bombarded with multiple opportunities, even when they are not actively looking for a new role, with little time to even accept the offers presented to them. We are also seeing companies clinging onto good people. In our experience, once offers have been accepted and contracts signed, the majority are being counter offered and having their heads turned by inflated salaries.

One of the most important things to remember is this: you are not the only company hiring. So, with rival firms competing fiercely for the best talent in a relatively small candidate pool, how can you make sure that the top candidates engage with your opportunity over others?

Standing out in a crowded market

There are several ways you can stand out as an employer of choice and make your opportunities more appealing to executives who are in high demand - or even under contract - with your opponents.

Location

Location is not the prohibiting factor it once was. As an example of this, Unilever have said that employees can live anywhere they choose, as long as they can visit the office in person given 24 hours' notice. Essentially, this means employees can live almost anywhere in the world with reliable air travel, and even supports individuals who want to live in a semi-remote location.

This is having transformative repercussions for hiring. In particular, organisations that expect senior leaders to work in person from the office for more than fifty percent of the working week are losing some of their executives to more flexible contracts - and are often also struggling to replace those people.

Interviews

The hiring process itself can influence candidates' willingness to engage with an opportunity. Long, intensive interviews are problematic in a tight hiring market, which is why at Page Executive, we are advising our clients to reconsider their processes and condense stages by having multiple people meet a candidate at once rather than three or four separate interviews with decision makers, and removing demands like a labour-intensive presentations at interview stages if not essential.

Video interviews are a flexible option, but some candidates still want to meet face-to-face and see the office environment first-hand before they decide whether they are interested in a role. Working with your executive search partner, you can check if this is a priority and schedule it early in the recruitment process if necessary.

We would also strongly advise a well thought out interviewing timeline, with possible dates already scheduled in the diary for first, second, and final interviews to ensure a smooth and timely process and reduce the possibility of delays. It also enables high calibre candidates to plan and schedule around their work and personal commitments.

Expectations

Broadening your candidate shopping list can open up the role to talented individuals who have all of the essential skills but may have a different set of desirables. Look laterally across sectors and you may be able to recruit talent with new experiences and bring fresh ideas into your team.

Transferable skills and soft skills are more important than ever before. These include the hallmarks of the most capable leaders, such as effective communication, emotional intelligence, and empathy. By broadening your expectations beyond purely technical skills, you might find you are able to hire a much more capable leader from a parallel sector, and potentially improve your company diversity at board-level.

How hiring processes need to change

In this fast-moving executive recruitment market, you need to look at multiple approaches to optimise your hiring process. Here are a few more ways that you can attract the best talent quickly over your competitors. 

1.    Work with an exclusive search partner

Choose one trusted executive search partner and work with them exclusively. This ensures that they are clear on your company culture, the role, and the ideal candidate you are searching for. Search times are reduced, momentum builds, and you know that the partner is presenting each opportunity in the best possible light.

2.    Be transparent about your company

Expecting candidates to research your company is reasonable, but you can be honest and open about information that will attract them to the role. Provide financial details, corporate strategy, challenges, and opportunities upfront, so the candidate is not faced with any ambiguity in their decision at offer stage.

3.    Make decisions quickly

Talented candidates are seeing interest from all sides. So, if you meet a candidate you like, provide quick and clear feedback at every stage. This is not a time to be coy about whether a candidate meets the requirements for a role. In the worst cases, a delayed decision can be a red flag to candidates who may perceive it as a lack of leadership and could turn down the opportunity as a result.

4.    Sell the role first

The dynamic has shifted from "why should we hire you?" to "why you should choose us". First and foremost, sell the opportunity using compelling candidate information packs, multimedia, digital technologies - also, sell the story of the company and the opportunity. Persuading candidates that they want the opportunity is a crucial step toward hiring the right person. Then, work with your search partner to assess their experience and capability for the role.

5.    Offer compelling opportunities

Recruit in good faith. We would strongly discourage companies using tactics like offering a competitive salary upfront and then trying to renegotiate rates in the final contract. If basic salary is restricted by budget concerns, you can improve the overall offer with a ‘golden hello’, increased holiday allowances, long-term incentives, pension benefits, and even with your policies on flexible working, wellbeing offerings, on site facilities and so on.

Don't make the mistake of assuming talented candidates are motivated primarily by financial remuneration. In many cases, the non-financial elements of a contract prove most influential in leading the candidate to sign.

6.    Keep your options open

Finally, remember that no matter what you do, you will not always land the candidate you want most. To prepare for this, try and find two suitable candidates at offer stage so that you can hedge your bets.

Equally, if you meet an ideal candidate but don't currently have a vacancy to fill, try to keep in contact with them, as ongoing open communication will help if you later find you have the perfect opportunity to offer to them.

The executive recruitment landscape might feel unfamiliar at present, but you do not have to navigate it alone. For a long-term relationship with an executive recruitment consultant you can trust, contact Page Executive today or get in touch on the details below.

Nicola Wensley, Partner, Page Executive
E: [email protected]

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