By Kerstin Roubin

Organisations face a tough time ahead: as well as inflation, global economic volatility and supply chain disruption, Boyden’s 2022 global research shows respondents are anticipating an even tougher environment for recruitment. Nearly 70% of respondents expect recruitment challenges, compared with nearly 50% in 2021.

Even with strong HR support and a top executive search consultant, line managers are losing candidates at different stages of the hiring process. How can this be avoided?

  1. Improve your company presentation

A senior executive who meets to discuss an opportunity expects a dialogue rather than an interview. Skills and capabilities have already been established by the search consultant.

“Meeting the client to me is more of a ‘chemistry’ meeting, building my interest and motivation.” Initial interest has been created by the search consultant; in meeting the client, candidates become more reflective and thoughtful; they need to be engaged at a deeper level, both professionally and personally.

If there is no ‘wow’ factor for the role, presenting the company in an impressive way builds trust and interest, essential for candidates judging multiple opportunities.

There are two critical points to remember with video communications. First, candidates can interview for a number of roles at the same time, so timing and engagement from the line manager are essential.

Secondly, don’t forget basic protocols. Behave as if in a face-to-face meeting: start on time, don’t check your phone, don’t fidget, look at the candidate’s face, and show respect and interest throughout.

Representing the company in this way builds advantage. Candidates look for clues about the company, the culture, levels of respect, and whether or not this role would be satisfying. They are looking for the lived brand experience. Employer branding has typically been focused on the technical levels; it’s now essential at the executive level.

  1. Share what motivates you to work in the company

Candidates are now much better prepared, they want the fine detail; for instance, a potential finance manager wants to see the balance sheet. That’s a good sign.

Candidates are more critical today. “How professional is this company in discussing the role with me, is the company good to work for, what can I expect as a senior employee?” Hiring managers are best placed to answer these questions, conveying the lived brand experience and purpose of the company. “It’s less about the tasks and responsibilities of the role, these are evidenced in my track record, and more about the day-to-day experience, the higher intent of the company and cultural fit from my side, the candidate side”.

  1. Build a personal relationship with shortlisted candidates 

An interested candidate needs nurturing. It’s important to keep them motivated, calling once or twice a week, explaining the processes, and making sure they are comfortable.

Give candidates every opportunity to ask questions, understand the business, and build trust and a rapport with you, the hiring manager; this is an important and potentially close relationship. “I don’t see this as my responsibility, isn’t that what HR is there for?” No. The HR manager’s role is operational and they are dealing with multiple candidates. Shortlist candidates are the hiring manager’s responsibility, it’s their relationship to manage after the contract is signed, so why not develop it when interest is high?

  1. Shorten timelines during the presentation process 

The need for speed is here. Timeliness conveys personal respect, the importance of the role and good internal processes in the company.

“I make myself available, respond quickly, I present during my holiday and if a company can’t give me feedback in a sensible timeframe it’s not the company for me”. There are numerous stories of hiring managers not weighing a decision, not being clear enough, not being fast enough.

Sensibilities and expectations regarding processes have changed. Executives have a lot of experience as candidates and have their own benchmarks, challenging the process and the behaviour of the line manager, particularly around communication. For quick questions, candidates use messaging; it relieves formality, it’s practical and doesn’t soak up time. It’s a win-win for both sides.

  1. Strengthen your decision-making process 

Fewer flights, higher costs, and potentially difficult locations means more travel time for candidates to attend live interviews; hiring managers need to block dates and times in their agenda.

First, do a video conference, then a live meeting one week later. “Taking four weeks to organise a personal meeting sends a message to me that the company culture is not driven.”

At the contract stage, candidates nearly always receive a counteroffer from their employer. It’s critical not to waste time here; make time for final conversations.

Then once the contract is signed, between then and the start date it’s essential to maintain close communications with the executive in this ‘pre-onboarding’ phase. Much goodwill can be built up and the actual onboarding process made faster and smoother with a strong relationship already in place.

  1. Accept that the talent pool is limited and very demanding 

Line managers are sceptical of the limited talent pool their HR colleagues describe, even when confirmed by executive search consultants.

In this tight market, it’s important to speed up the process and make time for key decisions. Some HR leaders are training hiring managers in best practices for hiring. “But HR will always bring me new candidates”. Not true. Yes, there is fluctuation in the market with plenty of ‘conversation,’ but most people are happy to talk; it’s the next step that matters. Company image, brand, and hiring processes are critical drivers. It used to be clients who were properly discerning, now it’s the candidate.

  1. Hire for cultural fit 

It’s important for HR leaders to train line managers to hire for attitude as well as skills.

For the line manager, hiring is a high-risk decision. Hiring for attitude means spending time in different situations, in regular conversation, to ensure the candidate would fit the team and have the same understanding of how things have to be done. Cultural fit is particularly important when companies are under pressure, enabling faster integration.

Inter-cultural experience is particularly important in global organisations. The executive will hopefully be a long-term hire, so cultural and intercultural fit is important for longevity.

  1. Meet candidates’ salary expectations 

Candidates are savvy. Extensive interaction with executive search consultants means they know their market value, even across borders. Small increases don’t work.

The days of negotiation are over. “Another 10 percent or so, or being part of a family business, doesn’t make a difference to me”. It’s the attractiveness of the company and the position that is the deal-maker, with appropriate remuneration.

  1. Respect that candidates require a work-life balance

Most executives are interested in potential change, an interesting opportunity.

However, they reflect more on their work/life balance post Covid: the home office, less travel, no need to relocate. “It’s not perfect, but I am mostly happy with my situation and I won’t compromise a more balanced life.”

If a candidate has established a ‘modus vivendi’ with their employer they need to be woo-ed by a hiring manager who is Engaged, Available, Responsive. The hiring manager needs to give them their EAR. It’s a candidate market, high performers have high expectations and opportunities abound.

Make sure that yours is the opportunity that stands out because you stand out. 

  1.  As hiring manager, is your LinkedIn profile compelling?

If a candidate is interested in an opportunity explained by a search consultant, the next thing they do is check the hiring manager’s LinkedIn or other social profile.

Is it compelling, does it convey enthusiasm, a higher intent, or attractive company culture? Do you sound inspiring to work with, collaborative, and authentic?

Check out your profile – as a candidate would you be motivated by what you see?

Talk to me about how you can be more effective in your approach to senior-level hiring.

For more on our research, see Boyden's Global Executive Study: How can organisations thrive in a complex world of risk?

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