Written by Emily Wagner

In follow-up to the WK blog post, Hiring in No Man’s Land, discussing the strategy behind moving out-of-market talent and mobility… I have seen the flip side of this coin more often than I should probably admit in my search career. What happens when you are hiring a leader in a market filled with viable options right in your backyard, but they aren’t buying what you’re selling? The glaring disconnect must be addressed. Is it your front-line recruiting strategy? Is your competition’s voice booming over your own?

I recently conducted an introductory call for a potential client partner who was struggling to attract candidates for a mid-level role in a very lush market. They were identifying the talent, but losing them along the process. The company, very niche, but large enough in size to be known within their business community made inquiry to our team to consult on where the possible divide was. After our introduction, speaking with their hiring team and research, I understood the disengagement was simple… inconsistency. I noticed lack of uniformity in their brand and identity and an erratic education of the hiring team.

It is my experience, every executive search process has challenges that fall immediately into 2 basic categories. Controllables and the wild cards. Sure, you cannot control what competitors are doing, iron clad non-competes or office location, etc. However, what is in a business’ hands is ownership over an external identity and employer reputation. Every company out there has an employment brand, whether they realize it or not. No structured brand and zero visibility on the internet to locate employment information online, is in fact still a brand. Make your brand cohesive.

Recruitment disconnect is deadly. The first voice a candidate hears will lay the tone for the entire experience. Developing partnerships with search teams (both in-house and externally) that can truly represent a brand and opportunity in the best light is not only a goal, but a must. I personally wouldn’t want a lifelong vegan selling prime rib… In an executive search process, the hunt for the squirrel is actually only half the battle. Engaging leaders at this level in a thoughtful, educated hiring process with a recruiter who can speak to the culture and value of a company, beyond the job description, is hands-down more valuable than any flashy recruiting tool or interview gimmick. The best executive search team is doing more than filling a req, but is providing a positive voice for a brand on the front-line.

In the same respect, this theme extends throughout the hiring process. Every person in the hiring team needs to be on the same page. Every step of the interaction with a company influences the executive candidate experience. The recruiter to the executive assistant, HR manager and CEO. The needs the role will fulfill, goals of the organization, desired traits and outcomes should be an open dialogue with those involved on the executive hiring team.

An organization’s external identity is controllable. Every competitor your organization goes up against in the product market, is also the one your next leader is considering working for. Be competitive, consistent and educated.