Navigating Senior Hires: Making Executive Hiring Less Exclusive

13 October 2021

Executive search is a complex and challenging element of recruitment. Finding the right person to fill C-level roles in a scaling business comes with a lot of pressure. However, it’s not a position you can afford to get wrong as they have a considerable influence over your company culture, employee morale, and your business’s overall growth.

Executive hiring isn’t the same as advertising for a typical role. These senior-level positions aren’t always advertised on job boards for anyone to apply to. Instead, they rely on outreach and direct sourcing. This is why many founders turn to existing networks and people they trust to fill senior roles. You can’t blame them for looking into inner circles as the position is so crucial to the future of the business. However, this can cause a lot of problems. Relying on the hinges of existing networks can lead to middle-aged white men playing musical chairs in senior roles while other candidates don’t get a look in.

Similarly, businesses look to a limited network of existing c-suite executives to solve their senior talent acquisition challenges, creating almost a game of musical chairs amongst senior talent. However, executive search is becoming a very exclusive and elitist game because of this mindset and limited pipeline.

Now CEOs and executives are claiming to prioritise diversity and inclusion within their businesses. As we all come to realise the critical value diversity can bring to organisations, teams and roles, many more businesses are beginning to make a conscious effort to diversity. However, to make this a reality in all company areas, it’s widely stated that you need to start with the c-suite.

But, it’s important to remember that diversity isn’t about box-ticking. You shouldn’t hire a female candidate for an executive position purely because the rest of your senior team are male. You need to ensure you’re hiring based on skill, passion and talent too. It’s more critical for scaling businesses to ensure they have the best candidate for the job. If you’re hiring just for the sake of diversity, it will become evident to both candidates and employees in the organisation. These candidates may feel less deserving of the role if it’s been given to them based on gender, race or sexual orientation, to name but a few examples. You need to show you’ve hired based on skill and suitability for the role, not just because they were the only diverse candidate in the pool.

So, what do you do to diversity your c-suite if you’re not just ticking boxes?

We’re exploring ways to make executive search less exclusive to ensure that you find a diverse range of candidates who also have the skills and experience you need to grow your business. In addition, candidates from different backgrounds to your original leadership team can have the same level of skills and passion. You just need to think a little differently to find them.

Avoid informal hiring

It can be so easy as a business founder to give senior roles and positions of power to your friends, family or networks. However, calling in a friend to fill such a vital role doesn’t look professional and will stand in the way of your D&I goals. You can’t base a hiring decision on the fact that you’ve worked with them or are friends with a family member; they have to be the best person for the job. Often, as senior roles aren’t advertised on job boards or social media like other roles, CEOs and founders think they can cut corners and find the talent themselves. However, this informal approach to hiring can be full of bias and can stand in the way of business growth. Firstly, you may not be getting the best or most qualified candidate, and secondly, they’re likely to have similar mindsets and experiences to you. While cutting corners in this way isn’t intentionally excluding people based on race, gender or background, it can work out that way and even lend itself to nepotism. Diversifying the c-suite team is all about getting more perspectives and making your leadership more inclusive to scale your business successfully.

Expand your networks

As a growing business, you should constantly be networking and looking to meet with new people. After all, these people could provide investment or collaboration opportunities. Now that the world is opening again, networking is back on our radar and should be used to your advantage. It also can be used to help you connect with a wider range of candidates, especially at the executive level. Networking events, joining a wider variety of LinkedIn groups or even helping initiatives such as those that help get women into tech could allow you to meet driven and determined people who could make brilliant team members. However, if you look in the same places and attend the same events, you’ll never meet anyone new. Therefore, to expand your networks, you need to find virtual and physical spaces that are new to you and your business. Think outside of the box and open yourself and your business up to new people.

Map talent 

Talent mapping is an incredibly useful tool to help you scope the market and search for talent. First, you can source where relevant candidates are located geographically and identify which businesses they’re working for right now. Next, you can look at the organisational structure of your competitors and determine how these individuals fit. In doing this, you can identify a range of candidates who may not necessarily be on your radar; perhaps they are in a senior role but not quite at c-level yet, and you could offer them that highly anticipated career boost. Or maybe, they work in a similar position but within a different industry. When you gain a broader perspective of the talent market, the possibilities become endless. Therefore, you can reach out to a wider range of talent, many of whom you may not have considered before.

Think creatively about the perfect candidate

In executive hiring, it’s easy to get caught up in your idea of the perfect candidate. For a role with so much influence over your business, it’s only natural that you set more significant boundaries and criteria. However, as a scaling business in such a competitive talent market, can you afford to be so selective? Sometimes, the perfect candidate isn’t exactly who you had in mind; you just need to give them a chance to prove that they can add value to your business. Therefore, having more of an open mind regarding executive hires could help you diversify your business. It may be that they have experience in another industry or have less working experience than you’d ideally like, or even that they don’t have a university degree. All of these factors could help you to find candidates who break the mould and diversify your business. In a competitive talent market, no criteria should be set in stone. Instead, a bit of agility and flexibility will help you get ahead and potentially bring in perspectives that will accelerate growth in ways you didn’t expect.

Outsource recruitment

Another way to expand your horizons when it comes to executive search and avoid bias in the process is to outsource your recruitment efforts. By trusting an RPO provider to search for c-suite positions, you’ll be taking the pressure off your own in-house HR teams and benefit from wider networks and more diverse strategies for talent attraction. RPO providers can use research and insight to help find the right people for the job and reach out to them directly. With teams dedicated to executive search and filling senior positions in a range of industries, RPO providers are uniquely positioned to bring you the best candidates and a range of candidates. They’ll be able to recruit without bias and without your preconceived ideas of the “ideal” candidate.

RPO providers take the time to get to know your business, to help identify individuals who will fit your company culture and thrive in the environment. But as an outsider looking in, they are also perfectly positioned to identify areas for improvement when it comes to diversity.

Finding an RPO provider you trust to carry out your executive search could help you to recruit senior talent with confidence. They’ll use their networks and tactics to find the best possible talent to fill and diversity your c-suite, giving you the skills, experience and perspectives your business needs to scale.

Talent Works offers a flexible approach to RPO, which reflects the agile and ever-changing nature of startups. We know hiring isn’t always a priority, but other times it’s needed in volume. Therefore, our flexible approach allows you to scale hiring up and down when needed. For example, it could be hiring an executive role at one point and then hiring at volume to scale the next. We have experts in sourcing, digital attraction, employer branding and market research, and executive search professionals working to help businesses of all sizes solve talent attraction problems.

Click here to view our work or to learn more about how we can help your business. Contact us.

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