Executive Recruitment and Selection Process

Executive Recruitment and Selection Process

Understanding elements of the executive recruitment and selection process can give executives an advantage when seeking opportunities. There are many executive recruiting methods to pre-select and shortlist candidates for interview. The executive recruitment process can be quite varied depending on specific job requirements and nature of executive search assignments. For instance, the executive recruitment process may involve several stages each designed to assess candidates against pre-defined selection criteria. Expectations are much higher for top executives, given headhunters are often recruited with the specific purpose of finding the very best person and talented individuals within any given industry sector for the very top positions within organisations. Many jobs may never be advertised and so headhunters will concentrate on a talent search to uncover high potential people.

Executive Search: Matching the Job Specification

Candidates must have a very good ‘strategic fit’ for roles with at least 80% (possibly 90%) of job requirements covered. The job specification gives precise details of what employers are looking for in terms of experience, qualifications, skills, expertise, personal qualities, leadership attributes, professional development, industry knowledge and background. Evidence of past performance is a direct indicator of future performance and long-term potential, so the CV much match up to the job description very well. The CV is arguably the most important aspect of the pre-selection process as it will determine whether employers or headhunters will pursue candidates any further.

Recruitment and Selection Process

With the CV, employers must evaluate the following:

  • Can the candidate do the job? (setting expectations)
  • Exceptional talent and skills (high potential people)
  • Strong people skills (manageability and teamwork)
  • Executive leadership development and core skills
  • Offering something unique (strong selling points)
  • Other personal attributes and wider credentials

Executive Leadership Capabilities

Employers need to assess whether candidates can do the job! This may include the following indicators, though this not an exhaustive list.

  • Evidence of past performance gives an indication of future performance and overall success
  • Relevant experience, decision-making expertise, industry knowledge and career progression
  • Evidence of suitability through core skills, areas of expertise, achievements and key projects
  • Outstanding qualities, self-motivations, resilience, results focused and key leadership attributes

Exceptional Talent & Skills

Executive headhunters are looking for evidence of exceptional talent, specialist expertise or scarce skills to differentiate people at the very highest level. This is normally highlighted through an excellent track record of career progression, decision-making and professional development to operate at high levels within any given sector. Additional indication may be given by having built a strong reputation with influential contacts and relationships with key players for any given sector. Talented people will normally find a way to rise to the top, even if there are obstacles in their way. Single-mindedness, strong focus and determination are often characteristic of top-level executives.

Outstanding People Skills

Executives rise to the top through having exceptional people, communication and interaction skills. This is often referred to as emotional intelligence. Executives will also have high-level communication, presentation, influencing, negotiation, conflict management and employee engagement skills as often they become figureheads for an entire company or corporate function. Outstanding people skills often makes executives more approachable, manageable and engaging, so working collaboratively with others rather than making too many enemies in the boardroom, especially when facing tough decisions.

Executive Leadership Development

Executives often participate in leadership programmes for developing essential skills to operate successfully at the very highest level. Employers look for where investment has been made in developing leadership skills as this shows confidence in the individual, potential to grow into roles and ability to acquire additional skills. Skills effectiveness and leadership programmes also help differentiate candidates from others, especially when top executive search firms have to choose between candidates to put forward for roles. Some programmes may be in-house or external via MBAs, specialist skills training or Institute of Directors course accreditation for instance.

Unique Selling Points (USPs)

Executives must stand out and offer something unique. The ability to ‘think out of the box’, drive through strategic initiatives, innovate new ideas, troubleshoot problems, manage complex change, expand into emerging markets and offering an entrepreneurial approach are good examples. Then, there is the ability to translate a long-term vision into reality and tangible outcomes. USPs may be highlighted by specific expertise, outstanding achievements or taking challenging decisions for example. Going the extra mile, developing specialist knowledge and gaining influential contacts may be the result of such experiences, which will of course be very relevant to new employers / headhunters.

Selling Wider Credentials

Having a longstanding track record, a strong blend of experience, proven industry expertise and other personal attributes can add value. Again, these must be articulated in the CV to show wider impacts or influence on the entire organisation. This may involve taking important decisions affecting the future success of organisations, creating long-term strategies or dealing with wholesale change in a global operating environment. These all add value and helps to place candidates experience into a wider context, plus reinforcing leadership credentials.

Executive Recruitment and Selection Process: Conclusion

These are the key areas where we believe will make a difference for matching up capabilities, being shortlisted for interview and getting through the executive selection process. A few years ago, matching 70% of job requirements would have probably secured an interview, whereas nowadays headhunters and talent searches mean employers can get the ideal person for the job with a match of at least 90%. Therefore, expectations continue to rise with employers operating in a global recruitment market (talent pool) where there is the increasing chance of recruiting talent individuals from abroad. The important thing is to be realistic and identify areas key areas of difference / unique selling points when matching to job requirements. Finally, executive headhunters very often have well-established recruitment and selection procedures to manage employer expectations and help maximise chances of finding the right person. See overview of the executive search recruitment and selection process from Wikipedia.

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