(Hint: You don’t always have to hire us)
Things rarely go as planned in the recruiting process - this is especially true in executive search. To mitigate uncertainty and guarantee quality, founders and CEO’s often partner with a search agency. I can say from experience, having worked with multiple search partners, quality and certainty are not always guaranteed. I founded IAR with the belief there is a better way. Over the next several weeks, we are opening the doors to our process. Our goal is to give all companies a way to execute a better executive recruiting program. Of course, if you need help at any time we are only an email away.
Leveraging process and technology to move faster
By the time a client comes to us, they typically wanted the person in seat yesterday. Traditional executive search firms may take as long as 3+ months. For companies doubling in size every year that just doesn’t work. Growth stage companies (particularly those backed by venture capital) require speed and quality – a notoriously tricky balancing act. Luckily there are a few simple steps, that when combined with the right technology, allow us (and you!) to achieve the same result in far less time.
Step 1: Ensure the business is aligned BEFORE the search starts
One of my favorite quotes about hiring comes from Noam Wasserman, author of the Founder’s Dilemma: “Hiring the world’s greatest cellist could come back to haunt you if you’re not sure whether you are an orchestra or a marching band.” If you and your team lack aligned goals, the process will drag out. We recently kicked off a search for a technology leader at a growth stage company in Chicago. We purposefully did not present candidates at that kickoff meeting. Instead, we met with the CEO to understand his needs. That same day, we met with the rest of the technology leaders to learn their vision and ensure it matched that of the CEO. This process often uncovers differences that can be identified and clarified before the search begins minimizing days and weeks of search time.
This process then allows us to establish….
Step 2: A clear competency scorecard. Clarifying, articulating and sharing the way you will judge candidates is of utmost importance, both internally and externally. During the kickoff meeting, we ask “What will this person need to accomplish in their first six to twelve months to make them successful.” With that information, we define ideal candidate competencies. From there, we establish a competency scorecard that is distributed to the team within 24 hours. Our goal is to solicit feedback while the conversation is still fresh. If goals change during the search (a common occurrence), we adjust the scorecard and share changes with the team. We also share the scorecard with candidates who make it through the screening process. This may seem counter-intuitive but makes total sense for multiple reasons. First, we are recruiting executives - in our experience it's a group of people that value candor and honesty. Second, the best candidates generally have stable, well-paying jobs. Very few executives will push hard to get themselves hired for a role they believe will leave a weak spot on their resume. Sure, an over inflated ego may lead a candidate to stretch the truth to convince you they meet your criteria. That said, a thoughtful interviewing process will weed those candidates out. Last, showing candidates the scorecard allows them to opt out saving you and the candidate a lot of wasted time.
Once all of this is in place we start…
Step 3: Researching! Here is where technology starts to play a more significant role. LinkedIn is great for certain searches but we know that there are better tools to help us move faster. We begin by using Relink which leverages machine learning technology to help us target how and where to look for the best candidates. Next, we have a variety of search tools that help us create a targeted pool of candidates. One of our favorites is Hiretual which allows us to create Boolean strings to locate candidates who meet highly specific parameters. Hiretual has the added benefit of searching beyond LinkedIn to look across a variety of social media platforms. This research process requires an investment of time on the front-end but will yield a higher quality candidate pool saving you time over the course of the search.
Now that we have our candidates we…
Step 4: Reach out and track. LinkedIn messenger may seem like a good fit here, but if you are anything like me, you check your LinkedIn email less than you check your answering machine (hahaha, get it, no one has an answering machine. OK, moving on). Since most executives are passive candidates you must ensure they get your message and actually read it. We use a tools like Hunter or Hiretual to find email addresses that people actually check. Once we have useful contact information, we take the time to personalize every email emphasizing quality over quantity. Since we already have a well curated list (see previous step) we don’t have to rely on impersonal blast emails to drive interest. The resulting yield is much higher (think >30% response rate as opposed to <5%). Finally, we borrowed a tool from the marketing playbook. Marketers have been using Hubspot to track email open rates and measure the success of messaging for years. We started using it and the results have been astounding. We have tripled our candidate response rate simply by taking the time to target and refine our message. We don’t want to reach out to 2,000 and hear back from 100. We would much rather reach out to the best 200 and hear back from a great group of 75.
One of my very first managers gave me advice I always keep in mind when I face a tight timeline: “In a year from now, no one will remember if it took six weeks or eight to hire the right person, they will only remember if you hired the right person.” She was as right then as she is today. Quality should always take precedence over speed. That said, if you stick to a clear process and use the right tools, you will quickly realize you can accomplish both without sacrificing either.
Up next: Dollars and Sense: Taking the pain out of salary negotiation