Five Tips for Recruiting Best-In-Class Talent

It can be tough to choose the perfect person for a top level job. Here are five suggestions from one leading executive recruiter to separate the best from the rest.

May 5, 2017 – Finding the best employee to fill a role is crucial to any organization, but it rings especially true for top positions. When hiring C-suite leaders, the cost of a bad hire can be more than a monetary setback. You cannot undo poor company performance when your top executives do not perform.

“As you delve into the search process, it becomes difficult to pinpoint top candidates,” said Matthew Schwartz, founder, president and CEO of New York-based MJS Executive Search. “Productive, experienced, long term stability, company culture, and affordable are just some of the buzz words that come to mind when thinking about top talent.” Finding the Swiss Army Knife of candidates, he said, can quickly become an arduous task with several variables that makes finding that top candidate frustratingly hard work.

After nearly two decades in executive search, Mr. Schwartz has an instinctive and thorough understanding of what his clients want. Over a long career, he has identified and sourced key executives in fast-moving consumer goods, retail, fashion and luxury, the sports / media and entertainment field, and corporate communications.

While each executive recruiter has his or her own unique spin on landing best-in-class talent, Mr. Schwartz has his, and here he offers up five tips that he likes to keep in mind when seeking out senior talent: 

1.   Look Within Your Organization or Contact List

Not everyone has a visible and glowing list of recommendations. Who could be a better source of trust in a candidate than someone you have worked with or currently employ? Although this is a great tip for recruiting for within a department, you often have to look outside your little black book when recruiting for positions that have never existed within your company. “Use Linkedin to see who you may know that is connected to your prospect candidate,” said Mr. Schwartz. “This will help you get on the inside track regarding this person’s potential fit profile for your organization.”

2.   Don’t Buy A Convertible, It Isn’t Always Sunny

Organizations often get hung up looking for candidates with relevant experience within their industry. Transformational talent isn’t something that can be quantified: it’s about discovery, innovation, and reinvention. Pioneers in one industry can easily use their intelligence, creativity, and drive to transform the role you are looking to fill.

As spring begins to conjure up feelings of fun in the sun, a convertible may be the most logical choice in automobiles as June, July and August approach. But when hiring within your industry, season’s change and you can find yourself caught in the rain without a roof over your head. It seems logical to hire within your functional industry, but the best candidates have the skill set to maneuver through many organizations and specialties.

“If your competition isn’t driving innovation at the level your company is, why would you recruit from them? Focus on finding the best-of-breed skill set from outside your industry and rely on others internally to drive the domain knowledge and experience,” Mr. Schwartz said.

3.   Don’t Settle for ‘Available’

The cost of a bad hire is immense, and it is easy to say yes to the wrong person when you need a candidate for a role that should have been filled, well, yesterday. Timeliness is often a requirement in the search process. Recruiting is certainly a process that should be done with efficiency and speed. But great candidates are not always available when you want them. It can be a huge mistake in the long-term success of an organization to hire the best ‘available’ candidate.

“Real transformational talent is few and far between,” said Mr. Schwartz. “It may take hundreds of contacts to identify three to four qualified and interested candidates who meet your innovative needs. Don’t settle. Pay market value. Make sure you have an environment and culture for them to be successful.”

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4.   You Can’t Mix Water and Oil

Just like water and oil, you cannot force a candidate who does not fit culturally into your company because there will always be a disconnect when they settle in. A candidate that can communicate with the rest of your organization seamlessly is a must.

After the interview, conversing with a prospective candidate is a great way to see if they will be a good fit. A good litmus test to ask yourself once you have met with a candidate is: Would they be someone I could see having a conversation in the break room?

“Use your company’s stated values and ask specific questions related to the candidate’s experiences,” Mr. Schwartz noted. “How they answer these important questions will show specific insights into their management style and personality. If you have concerns coming in, they will most likely be worse than you thought over time. Listen to your gut.”

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5.   Don’t Be Modest

When interviewing top talent don’t forget to play up the strengths of your company. Mention prior success, future plans, and sell the position like there is no other. This is crucial because when recruiting at this level, desirable candidates know their value and want to be in a position that gives merit to their success.

There is no harm in mentioning your superlatives. Your goal is to get the candidate excited about joining your team. Don’t forget to let the candidate know you recognize their talent, because compensation can only say so much.

“Today’s transformational leaders are interested in solving big challenges and driving innovative change,” Mr. Schwartz said. “If your organization also has a strong employer brand, even better.  Make sure you and your team can sell the company on what makes it great today and where you are heading in the future.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief and Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor — Hunt Scanlon Media

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