Attempting to compare c-suite executive recruitment with any other vacancies in an organisation is akin to comparing chalk and cheese. These roles are so distinctly unique and pivotal that the recruitment methods needed to hire for them are quite radically different too. C-suite candidates are a completely different kettle of fish to typical management levels.
C-suite executives, typically those with ‘chief’ in their title (such as CEO), in many ways are the business. They don’t so much work for the organisation, as live the organisation. These aren’t just job roles with neat job descriptions. Instead, they very much drive, and indeed become, the business culture, vision, personality and brand.
There is no room for error. C-level recruiters have to get it right, first time, every time.
C-level recruiters should therefore bear in mind particularly distinctive approaches to this type of recruitment if they want it to be successful. These are the five main ones:
This mantra can be applied to c-suite executive recruitment in various ways. It is very much the individual who will make or break this role and indeed the business. Therefore, care needs to be taken to really assess the c-suite candidates as individuals.
Additionally, c-level executives are typically highly regarded and hugely coveted. They are in the position where they themselves can pick and choose. Therefore, you need to tailor the recruitment to them. This means appealing to their goals and aspirations and not simply shoe-horning them into a particular role.
Therefore there needs to be absolute clarity regarding the role and expectations throughout the hiring process. The process also needs to be concise and consistent. If you’ve, understandably, employed a headhunter or recruiter to undertake the task for you, their process should be clear, considered, discreet and smooth. You should feel confident of this.
This means it is imperative that careful research and analysis in terms of what the organisation needs is undertaken before recruitment begins in earnest. It’s not appropriate to court c-suite candidates before you truly know what is needed in the role.
Often recruitment fails precisely because of a mismatch in expectations between the hired candidate and the reality of the role. This shouldn’t happen in any recruitment exercise, but certainly not at board level. These mistakes are immensely costly and time-consuming, and have the potential to damage the organisation’s reputation.
Therefore, a headhunter will take care to fully analyse exactly what the c-level executives will actually be doing. They don’t simply look at the existing role but look at the wider organisational needs and goals. As part of this, they identify the attributes and skills which would be most beneficial to the role. Only then do these c-level recruiters then embark on their search.
Headhunting is very much about serving the needs of the hiring organisation. While this is still, of course, fundamentally true for c-suite recruitment too, there is also a sharp focus on the candidate’s own goals. This is because a deep understanding of the candidate’s goals gives insight into how meeting these personal goals can benefit the organisation.
C-suite executives don’t get to this level by accident. They arrive here precisely because they are ambitious and goal-driven. Therefore, c-level recruiters overlook these personal goals at their peril.
Lower roles within an organisation can be performed by individuals who are content to ‘turn up, do the job and get paid’. As long as there is a good work ethic then the job gets done. It doesn’t necessarily matter if the individual isn’t 100% invested in the goals of the organisation.
C-suite candidates need to travel a road, through the hiring process, which results in absolute unequivocal buy-in to the organisation’s goals. They need to fundamentally believe in what the business is about, even if they have fresh ideas for meeting those ends.
For this to occur, the c-level recruiters need to have an intimate understanding of the business goals and concerns themselves. Communication between the recruiter, the business and the candidate is essential for this to happen.
It’s tempting to think of recruitment as stopping the moment the candidate has signed their contract and walked through the door. This is risky with all recruitment, but especially at the c-suite level.
C-suite candidates need to have dedicated processes put in place to enable them to quickly become a seamless part of the organisation. In turn, this allows them to quickly become productive and an exceptional asset for the business with complete commitment.
C-level recruiters have to take a completely different approach to c-suite recruitment and indeed c-suite candidates. Realising this is vital for long-term business growth. Therefore, it is critical that you choose a headhunter who truly takes the time to undertake thorough research into the role, the organisation and the individual. However, that’s still not enough. They then need to communicate to a high degree and facilitate complete buy-in. Only then is c-suite executive recruitment a success.