Recruiting top executives

Despite headlines and doom-and-gloom
market reports, a healthy crop of corporations are hiring, and a highly competitive and growing market of executive job-seekers is vying for top positions at these
organizations. The employment pool is vast
today, and executives swimming in it are
aggressively networking their way into the C
suites of growing companies.

The challenge for companies with executive want ads: reaching the very best candidates in the executive market and doing the
due diligence to ensure a best fit and, in
effect, a wise investment.

“In this economy, many executives in transition are departing businesses that may have
lacked an adequate long-term strategy,” says
Tyler Ridgeway, director of the Executive
Search Practice at Kreischer Miller. “They
will be more critical during interviews, wanting to make sure the company has a plan to
tackle this economy.”

In this environment many companies can
recruit attractive executives with creative
compensation packages. But even in a
power-play position, companies must not forget that they still have to sell their organization to executives.

“The top echelon of executives is being
very aggressive; they are using their network
connections to locate top opportunities.”

Smart Business spoke to Ridgeway about
recruiting executives in today’s economy and
how businesses positioned to grow top-level
management can secure top talent.

Is the market for executive positions as competitive today as in years past?

This is one of the most competitive markets
for executive recruitment we’ve ever seen.
That’s due in part to the economy and the fact
that many talented people lost their jobs
because of downsizing. Despite this, companies that have been conservative and prudent
have cash to spend, and some organizations
are interested in acquiring companies or
growing their operations organically —
they’re ramping up. And they need the executive manpower to usher the company
through an acquisition integration process,
lead a new department or simply manage
growth. The bottom line: There are lots of
executives looking for jobs, and they are finding jobs because not all companies have
stopped hiring.

What is different about recruiting executives

Executives are more aggressive in their
recruiting strategies, and they are taking
advantage of robust online social networking
resources, such as Linked In. Executives in
all positions — CFOs, controllers, IT managers, investment compliance officers —
have one thing in common. They feel pressure to continually learn and network, but
they are pressed for time. They turn to
Internet networking groups and find industry
groups that serve as education hubs — virtual watercoolers for professionals who share
specialties. For companies seeking talent,
these groups contain a vast amount of executive talent. Also, the Internet serves as a
focused search mechanism, saving company
managers valuable time and energy so they
can target job postings and locate top executives without spending an entire day making
phone calls just to learn where to post an
open position. Corporations should not
underestimate the power of social networking and its impact on job-seeking executives.

Additionally, sites like Linked In serve as
valuable due diligence tools for hiring companies that can easily access references to
verify a potential employee’s work history.

What’s different about executives’ resumes
today, and how should employers view frequent job jumps?

Five or 10 years ago, companies looked
negatively upon an executive who had many
career ‘jumps.’ People stayed at companies
for years. Today, the average shelf life for a
CFO is about three years, and the evolution
(and demise) of companies forces some
executives to move laterally. This is not necessarily a warning sign to discount that candidate. First, ask the executive to share his or
her story. To uncover potential red flags, ask
the executive what due diligence he or she
performed before taking previous jobs. What
were this person’s goals for the position?
How did the executive expect the prior job to
further his or her career? These questions
will help shed light on whether the candidate
is a sound decision-maker. Meanwhile, expect an executive candidate to ask poignant
questions about your company’s strategies.
Job seekers who were burned in the past will
not want to join an organization that isn’t
clear about its strategies in this market.

Given the competition to recruit top executives, what should corporate management
teams bring to the interview table?

Determine exactly why you are making the
hire. Are you replacing an executive who left
the company or was let go, or are you growing and you need a talented individual to help
execute goals? What will be this new hire’s
job description? Discuss this with your management team and make sure everyone is on
the same page. Go back to the basics and
identify your company’s mission. What is
your strategy to maintain a strong business in
this economy, and what are your plans for the
next five years? The best sales effort that
management can make is to present a unified, strong case for the position and the company’s plans for the future.

TYLER RIDGEWAY is director of the Executive Search Practice at Kreischer Miller in Horsham, Pa. Contact him at (215) 441-4600 or
[email protected].