Your Playbook for Better Collaboration In Executive Search

Collaborative hiring can shorten the time-to-hire and increase a placement’s time spent in a role, two key recruiting benchmarks. But a successful hiring process requires more than that. Here’s some fresh thinking and a new approach.

September 11, 2017 – In the business world, talent is king. More than 80 percent of talent and HR leaders say talent is the No. 1 priority at their company or organization, according to LinkedIn’s 2017 Global Recruiting Trends report. And more than half of talent and HR leaders believe hiring will increase in the U.S. and across the globe in 2017. Executive hiring is expected to increase roughly six percent from 2014 to 2024, and in 2017 alone, 3.6 million executive leaders are predicted to retire, creating a wealth of new executive openings. For executive search firms, that means a bright future with endless opportunities.

But to take full advantage, search firms need to prove that they can find successful candidates in an appropriate amount of time. And a collaborative hiring process can help.

Some of the most forward thinking companies, like Google, Apple, Zappos and Facebook are utilizing collaborative hiring processes in their talent acquisition strategies. And for executive search professionals, that trend is catching on. That’s because collaborative hiring can shorten the time-to-hire and increase a placement’s time spent in a role, two key recruiting benchmarks for recruiters.

A Collaborative Hiring Playbook

“Of course, the goals of collaboration are unique to different phases of an executive search,” said Reed Flesher, president and head of product at Thrive. Mr. Flesher works with search firms, in-house executive recruiters, and VC/PE firms to deliver insights and software solutions to drive better hiring outcomes. Thrive, a recruitment software company, has broken down executive search into four phases to help recruiters and hiring professionals sort through it all: the project kick-off, sourcing candidates, evaluating candidates and onboarding. Then, for each stage, it has identified each phase’s challenge, how collaboration can help, and action steps for recruiters. The result: a playbook for collaborative hiring that we all can put into use.

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1) Project Kick-Off

The Challenge: accurately describing the job role and core competencies needed for success.

How Collaboration Helps: By getting on the same page early in the process, you can avoid having to regularly confirm information with the hiring manager or hiring team later in the process.

Your Action Plan: Use your project kick-off call to align yourself with the hiring team on essential matters, like target companies, job description, salary expectations, etc.

In life, we tend to focus on the end results of our efforts. Did we conclude this search in an appropriate amount of time? Did we find the right candidate for an open position? But by doing so, we all often ignore the process that led to that result. And when it comes to a collaborative process, what happens early on in a search can greatly influence the end result. That’s because the output of each search phase becomes the input for the next phase of the search, said Robert Crowder, managing director of Chapman Farrell Group.

To that point, an accurate job description, with agreed upon target companies, compensation levels, and ideal candidates may be the most important outcome in any executive search process, save for the end placement. That’s a large reason why Natalie Ledbetter, VP of people operations at Stash Invest makes a “60-Minute Hiring Manager Kick-Off Meeting” the first task her team at Stash Invest accomplishes. “This part of the process allows us to understand the ins and outs of the role, and prevents the need to pepper the hiring manager with questions along the way,” said Ms. Ledbetter.

Her team uses their project kick-off meeting to establish key elements of the search, such as whether it is a new or existing role, the top responsibilities for the position, education requirements, what constitutes a cultural fit, relevant compensation data, and search expectations from the hiring manager.

Of course, collaboration is a two-way street, and recruiters should feel empowered to bring their own professional insights to this stage of the search. While a hiring manager or team may have an idea of where an ideal candidate may be sourced, it’s important to help them widen their search to uncover candidates with the experience to be successful from areas they may not have considered. Doing so can help a hiring manager see the bull’s-eye, as well as secondary and tertiary sourcing areas.

2) Sourcing Candidates

The Challenge: quickly identifying and prioritizing the right candidates.

How Collaboration Helps: Having a documented description of a hiring manager’s ideal candidate can help recruiters focus on who they should be looking for.

Your Action Plan: Prioritize candidates in real-time with the entire hiring team.

Have you ever left a meeting feeling like an entire project team is aligned, only to realize later in the project that you weren’t? A project kick-off meeting can help set the stage for an agreed upon set of criteria and ideal candidate attributes, but it’s important to document the insights that came out of that initial meeting and ensure that the recruiting team and hiring team are indeed aligned. Ms. Ledbetter instructs her team to create an “ideal candidate profile,” which is approved by the hiring manager before a search actually begins. This approved document helps the recruiting team stay focused on what they should be looking for and helps eliminate candidates who fail to meet the hiring manager’s standards.

U.S. Employers Expect More Hiring for Remainder of 2017
A record number of hiring managers in the U.S. anticipate bringing aboard more employees in the next six months, according to the semi-annual hiring survey from DHI Group, an online career resource and talent acquisition platform for technology professionals and other select professional communities.

Robert Crowder uses a similar strategy, albeit one with a slightly different name. Early in the process, he develops “success profiles” using feedback from all stakeholders — not just the hiring manager. “There are other interested parties that have a perspective and you have to have alignment to make sure that the candidate is successful,” said Mr. Crowder.

These success profiles have the added benefit of being a resource to the candidate later in the process during the onboarding phase of a search. “Developing a success profile that prioritizes and defines the outcomes in the most objective and measurable ways helps with successful onboarding,” said Mr. Crowder. “Having the interview team view themselves as the evaluation and integration team helps the candidate be successful in his or her first 100 days and beyond.”

3) Evaluating Candidates

The Challenge: The right technical fit isn’t the right culture fit.

How Collaboration Helps: collaborative assessments and feedback on candidates based on customizable criteria.

Your Action Plan: Establish criteria for assessment early in the process across the hiring team.

While evaluating candidates may not occur until the third phase of the executive search process, addressing candidate assessments during a project kick-off meeting can have tangible benefits. Establishing an agreed-upon set of criteria for success before candidates have been identified or evaluated ensures that during the evaluation phase of a search the entire hiring team is comparing apples to apples.

Ms. Ledbetter requires each interviewer during a hiring process to insert feedback into their ATS before discussing candidates with colleagues. She allows feedback to be structured in different ways, but utilizes a scorecard with all search attributes, established during her kick-off meeting, to ensure that all candidates are being evaluated on the same attributes across the board. “Feedback is required,” said Ms. Ledbetter, “and the system triggers reminders if [interviewers] don’t fill out their scorecards.”

Ragini Holloway, head of talent at Credit Karma, is similarly methodical about her team’s process for finding the right cultural fit. Credit Karma’s close-knit work culture is a major part of the company’s pitch to candidates, said Ms. Holloway, so hiring talent that feeds into that culture is paramount. Ms. Holloway’s process needs to scale, too. Their headcount has grown 40 percent in 2017, according to CEO Kenneth Lin, with about 700 employees as of June 2017.

Ms. Holloway structures her team’s interview process so that each interviewer is able to assess something unique about a candidate. “This helps the team member doing the interviewing stay on point, whether they are assessing a candidate’s technical skills or how well they might work at our company,” she said. “It also helps make sure the person doing that interview is the right person to make that assessment.”

Cultural fit can be a slippery attribute, however, so Ms. Holloway focuses on objective judgments. “We try to drive the question of cultural fit past ‘Would I grab a beer with this person?’” said Ms. Holloway. Objective judgments, she said, help hiring teams evaluate how well someone fits an organization’s value system, rather than just how much an interviewer likes a candidate as a person.

4) Onboarding

The Challenge: helping the candidate make a strong impact in their first 100 days.

How Collaboration Helps: Recruiters possess intimate knowledge about the client and candidate. By sharing important details about internal politics, company history and influencers, you can set your client up for success.

Your Action Plan: Coach your candidate and schedule regular check-ins.       

In most placements, a recruiter’s job isn’t finished when an offer is accepted. Executive placements face a steep curve in their new role, and as a recruiter you’re in a unique position of intimately knowing the candidates and their new colleagues.

Robert Crowder makes it a point to frequently follow-up with placements during their first 100 days to ensure they are sticking with their game plan. “I want to make sure they are building their social network and following the plan they laid out,” he said.

  • Crowder noted that while each placement is unique, the following questions are typically helpful:
  • Who do you need to build relationships with?
  • Have you met with important company stakeholders yet?
  • What are their concerns or interest in your work?
  • How is your work impacting colleagues?

Ms. Ledbetter also noted that collaboration with a placement and candidate is crucial. “At the end of the day, candidates are a reflection of the work that the recruiter has done, and ensuring that they are successful is partly the recruiter’s responsibility,” she said. “The level of collaboration and reasons for collaborating are definitely different, but the ability to coach, manage expectations, and communicate openly are skills that are essential in both the recruiter-candidate and recruiter-interview team relationships. Collaboration has to be present across the board throughout the hiring process.”


“Collaborative hiring can shorten the time-to-hire and increase a placement’s time spent in a role, two key recruiting benchmarks,” said Mr. Flesher. “But a successful hiring process requires the goals, strategies, and tactics of collaboration to change throughout, and after the completion of, an executive search.”

To make your next search a collaborative endeavor, utilize your project kick-off meeting to align yourself and your hiring team, establish an agreed upon set of assessment criteria, structure candidate feedback in an organized manner, and don’t forget to collaborate in-house and with your candidates during, and after, a placement is made.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media. Original post here.

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