How to Hire for Senior-Level Positions

Recruiting Tips for Hiring VPs and Executive-Level Candidates

February 22, 2021

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Hiring a senior-level employee is no easy task. You’re working with a smaller pool of qualified candidates and because these hires will play a critical role in the future of your company, the stakes are high. Roughly 40% of leaders are hired from outside firms each year and nearly half fail within the first 18 months. That’s a striking statistic and the direct and indirect costs of these failures are staggering and far exceed the cost of strong recruiting upfront. But don’t panic! We’ve developed a guide to help you hire leaders successfully and reduce the risk of failure upfront.

How to Begin

It’s tempting to start searching for candidates as soon as you know of an open position, but it’s essential you don’t skip the planning phase. For senior-level hires, all company decision-makers must be on the same page regarding who they’re looking for. What problem is your organization trying to fix by making this hire? Do you need someone who already has experience in this role or are you open to hiring someone for whom this would be a new experience? Are you growing rapidly and need a candidate with experience scaling a company? Knowing what solutions you want your new hire to bring to the table will help you focus your search.

Note what type of candidate would be a good network fit, too. Are you looking for a “conformist,” whose work style mirrors that of the team they’ll be joining? Or a “complementary” fit, who will generate productive disruption within the current team? Study the current leadership team and see their strengths and weaknesses. What qualities should a candidate have to work best and uplift the team? Interview employees who are outperforming in similar positions and note what their valuable skills are. Also interview the executive team your new recruit would be reporting to and ask them the same questions. Make sure you have a detailed candidate profile that everyone agrees on before you start your search.

How to Source

To find the best senior-level hires, you must look for passive candidates. One study by Experteer reported that 97% of senior-level professionals would rather be discovered by recruiters than search for their next opportunity. This means you’ll be sending a lot of outreach! Take time to ensure your outreach is personalized. Top candidates for senior-level roles are bombarded with emails from recruiters. Most are vague or part of mass-mailings and will go unanswered. Achieve a strong response rate by alluding to why the candidate you’re contacting is the right fit for the role based on past experience or their career goals. Curating your emails for each candidate doesn’t have to take a ton of time. Fetcher can help! With Fetcher, you can automatically send personalized initial and follow-up emails to qualified candidates. Our in-house team will even help you create custom templates specifically for the position you’re trying to fill. Or, you can select from one of Fetcher’s many ready-to-use templates.

No matter how you decide to conduct your outreach, remember, discretion is crucial. Always use personal emails or LinkedIn accounts for outreach. If the candidate’s current employer finds out they’re up for a position elsewhere, before the candidate has told them directly, it’s a bad thing for everyone, as it could hurt the candidate’s growth at their current organization should they choose to stay or you decide to go with another person. It will also destroy trust between the candidate and the recruiter and trust between the client and recruiting agency which hurts future business all around.

How to Interview

When interviewing, consider the long-term future. Ideally, you’re looking for a hire who will stay with your organization for years to come. Look for personality traits that will mesh well with the rest of the exec team and company culture. An excellent way to gauge this is by having the tone of the interview match the tone of the culture. If your culture is laidback, make sure the interview has this same energy. If your culture is more high-pressure, don’t shy away from asking tough questions. Always ask questions that get to the heart of the candidate’s work, management, and communication styles. Always ask the same questions when interviewing for a position so you can compare candidates objectively. Check out this blog post for some interview question ideas.

And remember, candidates are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. Prospects will likely already be employed at a high-paying job. They’re looking to see what this new opportunity would offer. Be ready to explain why this is the right opportunity for them. Study their background and career path to get a feel for their professional goals. This will differ from candidate to candidate. Some are motivated by money, others by impact or the opportunity to lead a strong team. You can mention skills they’ll be able to develop or exciting projects they’ll get to work on. Determine if there is anything about their current position that they’re unhappy with. If there isn’t, your offer needs to be considerable.

Finally, streamline the interview process as much as possible. While it’s always important to show respect for all your candidates’ time, this is particularly crucial when dealing with senior-level candidates as the majority of your interviewees are already working busy jobs. Have interviewers score candidates and write feedback but make sure this information is centralized to avoid biasing other interviewers.

How to Check References

Once an interview is complete, always check “Back Door” References. Go beyond the individuals the candidate offered, all of whom will likely only give glowing reviews. You can reach out to shared LinkedIn connections to see what their experience was with your candidate, or even reach out to people the candidate has given recommendations to on LinkedIn. This person will likely be able to speak to their managerial skills. Your candidate could be a stellar employee and colleague but a terrible manager. Learn this now, before it’s too late.

How to Hire for Diversity

There are so many advantages to having a diverse leadership team. Building a homogenous leadership team won’t lead to innovations. Executives from a variety of backgrounds will bring a variety of perspectives and creative problem-solving techniques. Diverse senior management leads to a more diverse company. As Fetcher CEO, Andres Blank, explains, “It’s impossible to have a diverse organization if the leaders are not diverse. It creates an adverse selection for promotion in which people look for more people like themselves.” Check out our blog on diversifying your talent pool here, and ensure this is a top priority as your scale.

How to Make an Offer

Finally, you’ve found your ideal candidate and you’re ready to send an offer letter. Make sure you’ve done your research. Since you are dealing with passive candidates, you’ll need to match or offer more than their current salary. Always offer more than just a paycheck. Benefits, flexible scheduling, and paid vacation are all enticing perks to senior-level executives. Make sure that a significant portion of their compensation is linked to performance. This could be through bonuses or other perks. Since executives’ performance is closely tied to the success of your organization, it’s essential that their compensation is as well. Research your competitors’ compensation packages as well as regional averages to ensure your offer is as strong as possible. If you’re struggling to find information on a candidate’s current salary or competitor’s offerings, feel free to ask the candidate what they’re looking for.

How to Budget your Time & Money

Finding the right senior-leader takes longer than most positions. In some cases, recruiting for these positions can take up to 6 months. It’s worthwhile to be patient and not rush the hiring process when hiring for roles that will have a major impact on your organization. Additionally, hiring executives can be very expensive. Traditional recruiting firms typically charge 20-30% of the position’s first-year salary. So for an executive making $150,000, you’ll pay up to $50,000! But recruiting a senior-level employee shouldn’t empty your wallet. Use Fetcher to find top-tier candidates without breaking the bank.

So, let’s review. When hiring for senior-level roles always…

  • Create an ideal candidate profile before you start searching.
  • Use discreet and personalized outreach.
  • Appeal to candidates’ motivations (money, impact, leadership).
  • Check references.
  • Prioritize diversity.
  • Don’t let recruiting for executive roles stress you out! Leverage tools like Fetcher to save you time and money during your hiring process.

About Fetcher

At Fetcher, our mission is to introduce companies to the people who will help them change the world. Our full-service, recruting automation platform automates those repetitive, top-of-funnel tasks, so you can focus more on candidate engagement & team collaboration. Simplify Sourcing. Optimize Outreach. Hire Top Talent. Learn more at fetcher.ai.

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