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6 strategies to recruit the right people to executive positions

It was 2008 when Brian Acton left Yahoo for good, unhappy with their focus on advertisements and profit and the resulting impact on users. After a year traveling South America with his fellow former Yahoo employee Jan Koum, they were ready to continue their journey of using technology to do incredible things for the world.

They both applied to Facebook – and failed.

Shortly after, Acton and Koum founded WhatsApp together, which sold to Facebook for $22 billion in 2012. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook might have an additional $22 billion and the talents of Acton and Koum at their disposal had they realized their potential at the time. Spotting the right managerial talent is not easy, but once you do, it’s crucial that you don’t let them get away.

A strong recruitment and vetting process for executives is the only way to make sure you get the right people in the right chairs in your company without missing big opportunities or falling short of your potential. Here are some ways to make sure giving executive candidates the kind of in-depth consideration that is necessary.

Strategy 1: Mutually beneficial
Never forget, especially in times like these, recruiting executives is a mutual process. As much as candidates need to sell their skills and experience to you, you need to sell your company to candidates. Remember the principle of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), and that executive candidates will be asking themselves this question at all times. Additionally, they want to join a growing company that can show its success in numbers, values, products and innovation. Therefore, you need to know how to tell your story in a way that both reflects company values and captures candidates’ interest.

Strategy 2: Get to know candidates out of the office
Don’t be afraid to make things personal. One of the best ways to get to know a person is to break the boundaries of an interview in the office and go out for a walk or out to lunch. Anywhere they can relax and open up. Recruitment on the executive level is more personal and in-depth, which means conversations need to be authentic, pushing the borders of formality.

Strategy 3: Give candidates a real issue to solve during the interview
We believe in asking managerial candidates to tell you about a significant challenge they faced and how they overcame it. This presents two important aspects of their thinking. One is what challenge they choose to tell you about and if they are challenges they will face at your company. The second is how they chose to overcome it, which gives you some indication of their character, priorities and strengths.

Strategy 4: Do deep research
Get to know a candidate and prepare for interviews by taking the time for in-depth research on social media. For executives specifically, one interesting avenue of research is to search for their names on “TechCrunch” and see what comes up. Another important step is to check your joint networking circles. This has to be with extreme care, but talking to the right people who have had dealings with candidates in the past can tell you a lot about how they work and present themselves.

Strategy 5: Have another team member interview candidates
It’s generally not a good idea to make decisions all by yourself. It’s easy to fall into your own biases, so you need contrast, additional input – a different perspective. It’s also important to recognize that there are many layers of interests and personal relationships involved in the managerial level of business. For example, if a CEO interviews a candidate for VP R&D, we suggest that the VP Product be included in the process as early as possible. This allows key players with a stake in a position to form an early relationship and mutual commitment to candidates from the very beginning.

Strategy 6: Ask candidates to prepare presentations
Executive candidates must come equipped with combined abilities in analytics and communications. Candidates should prepare a presentation that shows they can punch in numbers, be involved in the market and aware of the competition and also be able to deliver the message in a clear and convincing way. This allows the recruiting company to see beyond a candidate’s resume, while candidates get the opportunity to provide value that makes them stand out against competitors.

Whatever you do, don’t go into executive recruitment blind. If you want to make sure you catch a big fish, you head out on the lake well prepared and well equipped to do so. Sit down and plan out a recruitment process that takes into consideration what candidates want while testing their skills and knowledge with presentations and challenging them to solve problems. Do your research online, get to know candidates outside of the workplace and don’t forget to include other key managers and executives in the interview process.

Just like what label a person buys says something about the person, the companies we work for and associate ourselves with say something about us. Candidates want to be part of the best brand in the world. It’s up to you to find those candidates and make sure they have the opportunity to help you build it.

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