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Seven tips for recruiting senior executives

Getting the right people on board is the first most important task for any leader. The cost of mistakes here is immense, but good decisions lead to a flourishing, motivated, and high-functioning team.

Seven tips for recruiting senior executives

1. Don’t just advertise, search.

The very best candidates are rarely looking for new roles. Therefore, advertising rarely gets the best candidates. This means you need to be proactive and intentionally seek out the ideal candidates. Sometimes this can be done in-house; sometimes you need an executive search consultant.

2. Think creatively.

Sometimes the best candidates are not obvious. Creativity, wisdom and perceptiveness is needed to recognise that unexpected people could do the role. Don’t rush this or you won’t leave room for more creative ideas. Give your recruitment team permission to consider more left-field ideas. Look in different backgrounds, different sectors and different geographies, and try to dig under the surface when presented with an unusual candidate.

3. Be really clear what you need.

So often a job description is a long wish-list of what everyone wants from the successful candidate. Condense it to 3 – 5 things you really need the person to be able to achieve. Until you do that, you’re not ready to start the search and you’re setting yourself up for difficulties downstream when it comes to decision making.

4. Reference early.

However brilliant at interviewing candidates you are, you will never know the person as well as someone who has worked with him or her. Where possible, conduct informal pre-interview references with people you trust whilst the search is still under way. Post-interview official references can be helpful but are frequently more of a formality.

5. Be relational.

A recruitment process is an opportunity to showcase your values, and an opportunity to serve those you’re dealing with. So be relational, listen well, honour those you’re dealing with and give honest feedback. Don’t let process and formula squash relationship. If needed, budget extra time in the recruitment process to give you the space to be relational.

6. People first, job descriptions second.

The traditional approach to recruitment is to define the shape of the candidate you want, and then look for candidates of that shape. This places job descriptions before people. But people are complex and fascinating – even if a candidate ticks all the boxes, he or she will likely have deep wells of talent and potential that don’t fit neatly into the job description. Be prepared to mould the job to fit the person. The person will flourish, and you’ll benefit too. Sometimes this may mean recruiting someone before you want onboard, before knowing what role they will play.

7. Prioritise character.

Too often capability is valued above character in recruitment decisions. Capability is very important, but a very capable leader with the wrong sort of character is a poor recruitment decision. Occasional lapses in capability are manageable; lapses in character can be disastrous.

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