Headhunting top tier leaders

In the first of our ‘market analysis’ series, Managing Partner, Luke Marshall, looks at how to better align your hiring process with the evolving expectations of top-tier executives, to ensure you get the hire you want. Don’t leave it to chance, listen, evolve and go the extra mile…

Can you believe it’s almost June! How did that happen… and as we navigate through another bustling quarter in 2024, the remnants of Covid-19, economic fluctuations, and the "free money" aftermath continue to challenge businesses across all fronts. Despite these hurdles, maintaining optimism and resilience is crucial as we know and have been tested to the max over the past few years. Amidst this backdrop, one pressing issue that our team discusses on a regular basis, is the evolving market dynamics of the hiring process when headhunting top tier leaders.

Understanding the Market Shift

In any two-sided market, changes between supply and demand often entail nuances—some apparent, others subtle. Staying attuned to these nuances is essential for success. Over the past 6-12 months, the most significant shift we have observed involves the cautious nature of executives when considering external career moves. Unlike in a bull market scenario where executives might leap at growth opportunities despite potential risks, the current climate has flipped the script. Today, even if a role offers progression and a pathway for further career growth—which remains a significant draw—candidates are taking a more measured approach.

Executives now prefer to step through the hiring process slowly, meticulously analysing each aspect of the position, company, leader and remuneration package  to ensure they're making the right decision. This shift calls for a critical reflection: Is your hiring process designed for a two-way assessment? Are you prepared to be scrutinised, and are you open to adapting your processes based on feedback from your search partner?

And perhaps the key one, are you prepared NOT to judge the candidate on why they are being cautious.

Aligning Stakeholders and Processes

Often, we find that not all stakeholders within a company are aware of these nuanced shifts, or if they are, there might not be alignment across the board. For a hiring process to be successful, everyone involved needs to be on the same page. It’s about constant assessment and iteration based on market changes and executive expectations.

A recent search experience underscored this point beautifully. A Chief People Officer, fully grasping where the candidate was coming from, managed to align all stakeholders to meet the candidate's needs. This not only facilitated the necessary due diligence for the candidate to feel comfortable in transitioning but also exemplified the power of understanding and meeting executive expectations. Yes they took their time, yes they were allowed to be critical of the company and open in their assessment but the CPO drove a clear pathway for the ELT to understand where the candidate was coming from and provided a candid look under the hood and multiple touch points during the process.

The Role of Trust and Communication

Achieving successful outcomes in this tighter market boils down to trust and open communication between the client and the search firm. When both parties are committed to a common goal and trust each other implicitly, navigating even the most challenging market conditions becomes feasible. We all want the same outcome but because we deal with people and they’re unpredictable we need to over communicate to achieve the optimal outcome. Our advice is to be flexible on the platforms of comms that work, that could be a mix of text and whats app and could also involve direct comms with the candidate if during the process they need to hear that voice.

Securing ‘the one’

For those in the midst of the hiring process or reflecting on a strategy that might not have fully succeeded, consider this: patience and a willingness to go the extra mile can make all the difference. Engage deeply with your search partners and potential candidates, invest time in understanding their perspectives and needs, and be ready to adapt your approach accordingly.

As we continue to face economic and post-pandemic challenges, rethinking how we attract and hire leadership talent isn't just necessary—it's essential for future-proofing your business. Let's remain adaptable, strategic, and above all, patient as we strive to not only meet but exceed the expectations of the leadership talent we are seeking to acquire.