How to determine if now is the right time to hire leaders Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2010

Believe it or not, the recent recession has had its advantages. A significant one is the big increase in the availability of talented executives.

The question is: Are you missing out on these top executives because of reorganization and/or belt tightening?

“Take advantage of this opportunity to market your company to prospective executive candidates,” says M.J. Helms, director of operations for The Ashton Group. “No one can really predict how long the economy will stay soft. Now is the time to rethink your corporate strategy, restructure your business and possibly hire a few leaders to move your business forward.

To do this, says Helms, first examine the current leadership in your company. Then, if you are short on talent from within, do an external search.

Smart Business spoke with Helms about hiring in today’s economy and why the time is right to find your future leaders.

How can a company bolster its recruiting process?

Planning for the future is key. There is a strong possibility you may want to rehire some of your downsized employees, now that the recession (seemingly) has passed. However, how you treated those employees when you let them go will no doubt play a role in their decision to come back to your company. One example of a good way to let someone go would be to offer that person solid outplacement services.

Your company’s reputation is at stake and how you handle this will be watched closely by employees and future potential candidates.

What are some of the ways to properly handle this?

Branding your company is one of the steps that you can take to help in the recruiting process. Create the image of your company as a great place to work. Employment branding is important, so take advantage of social networking opportunities like setting up free professional pages on both LinkedIn and Facebook. On LinkedIn, it is important to also make as many professional contacts and recommendations as possible.

Also, consider setting up your own company blog that offers professional advice in your industry. This will create a link that routes back to your company name in search engines. You may want to consider a press release when a new product is launched, as well. Publish articles about your company’s successes in trade magazines. Engage your company with top executive recruiters who have the experience and contacts to attract the right candidate for your company.

Recruiting for talented executives can take from three to six months in some cases for certain professionals, such as top information technology and software executives, so don’t wait too long to begin your search.

What are some other vital parts of the hiring process?

For one, conduct an in-depth background check. Find out about a candidate’s work history, but also find out what that candidate is passionate about. In what areas did the candidate excel in the past? In which organizations were they most successful? Did they receive any achievements or recognition? Asking those types of questions will help you determine whether or not the candidate will properly fill the position and, eventually, become a future leader of your company.

Also, evaluate both job skills and personality through skills-based and job-knowledge questioning. Having the right skills and qualifications is important, but you also have to make sure that the candidate is the right fit for your culture. Does the candidate thrive under pressure? Does he or she work well with other team members? How large of a workload can the candidate handle? Understanding a candidate’s personality is vital.

Why is now the time to find new talent?

This is a seller’s market and a great time to attract talent and pay more reasonable compensation than a year ago. Search firms have been inundated with resumes over the last several months. Online employment sites have reported record entries of new executives currently available. Placing an ad in The Wall Street Journal will get an enormous response these days. You have to remain competitive in the marketplace.

Even though I have seen a decrease in compensation packages in the last year, I would encourage you to provide a competitive compensation package and benefits packages that will motivate long-term performance. A well-designed supplemental benefits plan can provide additional post-retirement income for selected executives. You can establish performance benchmarks that must be attained before these benefits are awarded. You may consider requiring continued employment for executives to reap these benefits.

Try some of these steps to ensure that top executive talent seeks out your company for employment.

M.J. Helms is the director of operations with The Ashton Group. Reach her at (706) 636-3343 or