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How To Recruit Executives: 5 Things you Need to Know

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The hiring process is always a challenging process. You have to find someone who’s well-qualified for the position, who fits in with your corporate culture, and who’s willing to work in your area and for the pay you offer. When you’re hiring executives, that process becomes even more complex and important.

Conducting an executive search is unlike any other sort of hiring process. It requires special preparation and handling, but with the right steps, you can find an executive who will lead your company to bigger and better places. Read on to learn more about what you need to know before you start your executive search.

What Is Executive Recruiting?

Executive recruiting is a different form of hiring than any others you’ll do. This is the process where you hire a new executive leader in your company. These people can include CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CTOs, CIOs, and more.

Executive recruiting is sometimes called C-suite recruiting – as in “chief officer” recruiting – and it comes with a unique set of challenges. For one thing, this choice will shape your company more than any other hire you make. But for another, top-level executives are not like any other employee.

There’s Lots of Competition

One of the biggest challenges you’ll run into in executive recruiting is that there’s a lot of competition to find people to fill these top spots. If someone has made it to the top position of a company, it means they’re very good at their job. This gives them the ability to almost choose where they want to work, and you need to be able to compete. 

When you’re trying to recruit executives, you’re going to need to be able to compete not only with salary, but also with work conditions. For more and more people, flexibility in their job is a huge priority, and things like commute and fringe benefits can make or break a hiring choice.

You’re Recruiting Passive Candidates

In usual hiring situations, you post your job and people who are searching for a new position apply. This puts you in the position of power in the negotiation. The applicant is the person who needs the job, and you have a sea of applicants to choose from if you don’t like them.

But when you’re running an executive search, you’re often hiring people who already have jobs and may not be searching for a job change. You have to entice them away from their current position and compete with the other companies who may be courting them. According to one study, as many as 97 percent of senior job candidates want to be approached for a job rather than applying.

Leadership Is Getting Younger

Another challenge you may have to manage when you’re hiring execs is the changing workforce. Baby boomers have traditionally held the top positions in companies, but these days, boomers are retiring more and more frequently, and Gen X and millennials are starting to take over these positions.

If you’re looking at hiring millennials, it’s important to know that they value different things in a work situation than boomers. They’ll be looking for flexibility, fringe benefits, and a strong corporate culture. And you need to be prepared for their leadership style to differ from that of an older exec.

Understand the Job

When you’re launching an executive search, the first thing you need to do is have a solid understanding of the requirements for the job. This doesn’t just mean knowing that a chief financial officer should be familiar with budgeting. It means knowing the specific things your company needs from that officer, including what sort of work philosophy they should have, what kind of people they’ll need to work well with, and what sort of corporate culture they’ll need to promote.

You also need to know a lot about the industry you’re hiring for and what requirements that industry brings to the job. The job requirements for a chief technical officer will be very different for retail, restaurant, construction, and software development companies. Use these requirements to draft your job description and create a hypothetical ideal candidate.

Use Employee Referrals

As you know, strong connections are one of the biggest advantages you can have in the business world. An executive search is no exception to this rule, and you need to use your connections when you’re beginning one. Start by talking to employees and leaders in your company.

Ask valued employees and leaders who do a good job of meeting their goals and promoting your company mission statement who they would recommend for the open position. Take a look at whether any of these leaders fit your ideal candidate description. And take a look at your investors, former employees who left on good terms, or other relevant players in your company.

Be Discreet 

As we mentioned, when you’re courting new potential executive hires, you’re likely talking to people who are already settled in jobs. You won’t do them any favors if you let their current employer know they’re considering a job with you. So one of the most important things you’ll need to be during an executive search is discreet.

When you contact your potential candidates, be sure to do so through a private email address or online network. Do not contact them through their existing work email, as that may cause problems at their current company. If you don’t have a private email for them, talk to a mutual contact about getting their contact information. 


This step in the executive search process is something that you should be working on all the time, not just during these searches. When you’re trying to hire someone away from a job situation, it helps if you have a personal connection to them. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to ask a contact for a personal email address for your potential client; you should have emailed them Christmas well wishes last year.

When you get the opportunity, do some networking with top executives in companies in your industry. Make a note of their name and position, as well as any personal information about them. Make it a point to touch base with them once or twice a year to keep the lines of communication open so that when it comes time to hire a new executive, you can go to people who already know you.

Find Their Passion

When you’re competing with a dozen other companies to hire a talented exec, you need to have something that makes you stand out in their minds. Rather than trying to sell the same points about your company that every other competitor is, why not use something that already stands out in their minds? Try to find out what your potential candidates' passions are and put those to use.

When you’re networking with all those executives, make a note of what they seem most excited about during your conversation. Ask them what accomplishments they’re most proud of in their career. Then show them how working with your company can help them pursue other such achievements and passions.

Be Patient

During a normal hiring process, you can usually expect to spend a couple of weeks on job postings, interviews, and hiring formalities. In some cases, you may have a top candidate within a couple of days. But executive searches are much longer, more delicate processes.

An executive hiring process may take as long as three or four months. You’ll need to have a lot of discussions with your top candidates about the security and benefits you can offer before they’ll be willing to leave their current position. Be patient with this process; the right candidate is worth the wait.

Provide a Good Experience

One of the overall most important things you can do during an executive search is to provide the best experience possible for your candidate. The people you’re hiring are extraordinarily talented, have worked very hard to reach the position they’re in, and are being courted by a lot of different companies. You need to bring your A game. 

Take your candidates to nice restaurants and have their favorite coffee ready to go when you pick them up from their interview. If they’re traveling to meet you, put them up in a great local hotel, and provide them with a local gift when they arrive. Do everything you can to provide an experience that stands out from the crowd.

Learn More About Leading an Executive Search

Conducting an executive search is a delicate process that needs to be handled with extreme care and patience. Use your connections, do your homework, and provide an experience for your candidates that other companies can’t. You’ll wind up with an executive who can take your company to new heights.

If you’d like help recruiting talented employees for your company, reach out to us at Scope Recruiting. We can help you recruit everyone from top executives to supply chain and manufacturing employees. Learn more about how we can help you with your executive search and find the right person to helm your company today.


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