HR in the C-suite: How to identify and hire future leaders

How to get the process right and ensure person is the right cultural fit

HR in the C-suite: How to identify and hire future leaders

With a talent shortage looming around the world, and potential hires becoming more demanding about what they expect from a future employer, the pressure is on HR to not only attract the right people through enticing job advertising, but to also ensure the interview process is as thorough as possible.

When targeting C-suite executives, human resource leaders have to take a myriad of factors to take into consideration including relevant experience, cultural fit, overall suitability, salary alignment and the long-term strategy of the business.

“The reality is that the approach and processes are largely the same whether you it is a junior or senior headhunt assignment, but the costs are very different,” Natasha Hawker, managing director, Employee Matters, said. “The keys here are that if you are recruiting for C-suite, you have to know your job, know your market and be very targeted in your approach – that is, be absolutely certain why you are contacting someone about a job. Remember that with headhunting you are trying to entice them to consider an alternative role.”

Once a candidate has had their interest piqued, it is important to make them feel special and that this is not a general call-out. It also essential that when they arrive for an interview, that they are noticed and taken care of, not left to sit in reception unattended for long periods of time.

Get the interview right

The interview process is the next step in the process.

“The vast majority of jobseekers surveyed – 85% - listed consistent communication as the top driver of satisfaction in the recruitment experience according to a recent IBM survey,” Hawker added. “You must ensure that the interview process is pre-determined, well-prepared and consistent. Each candidate needs to get the same process and questions. Also, the timeline needs to be achievable and well communicated, so that the organisation can be held to ‘account’. The damage from approaching someone, and then weeks passing before you a decision is made and communicated, will massively reduce your likelihood of getting an acceptance of an offer.”

Roxanne Calder, founder and managing director of EST10 Recruitment, believes although the process can sometimes be elongated due to the seniority of the position and the need to do relevant background checks, it can be sped up if both parties are flexible.

“Traditionally, the interview process at C-suite is a prolonged one,” Calder said. “When there is a plethora of talent and a competitive shortlist, that’s fine. But, not in today’s world, when your shortlist may be just one candidate. Ideally have a mix of formal and informal interviews, such as a lunch or coffee and prioritise the interviews to avoid delays and drag, working around internal calendars.

“The interview process is an opportunity to sell your proposition and organisation. The competition for talent is brutal, and the pandemic changed everyone’s work mindset, including your C-suite candidate. At a senior level, psychometric testing is suggested, either behavioural or cognitive, to draw out strengths and derailers.”

The right cultural fit

This is becoming one of the most important pieces of the puzzle with employee recruitment. A candidate might tick every box but this one and it will soon end badly for all parties concerned if the balance is out.

“In my view one of the most common reasons that a C-suite candidate fails is that there is a cultural misalignment,” Hawker said. “These exits are often relatively quickly as the new hire swiftly realises the reality does not match up to the interview pitch.

“Research by Cubiks reveals that 84% of recruiters believe that cultural fit has become a key factor when hiring. The culture of the company needs to be clearly articulated in the interview process, as candidates will be more impressed by how proud and protective executives are of their company, as long as it is authentic.”

It is important to be aware that most candidates these days want more than just a job. They are seeking a healthy work/life balance from a company that is committed to ethical and sustainable business practices.

The importance of HR in recruitment

Of course, no one should ever underestimate the significance of having a skilled human resources staff member involved in every stage of the process. There is a reason people specialise in this area.

“HR holds the key to a business’s most valuable asset, human capital,” Calder said. “Whether retention, hiring or attraction strategies, human resources plays an immeasurable role. They weathered the COVID storm and are at the coalface of changing employee sentiments, C-suite included.

“In partnership with C-suite, human resources identifies the profile of an ideal candidate, designs job deliverables, creates the strategy for measuring success, sets performance goals and creates and implements a proactive sourcing strategy.”

With C-suite executives in demand, what is your employer advantage to get someone over the line? Tell us in the comments.

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