Unlocking Leadership – Exploring the Essence of Executive Recruitment

Learn how to navigate C-Level recruitment: from best-practices to common mistakes & unusual tips

by Szilvia Blanck, Team Lead Talent Acquisition

Executive recruitment is one of my true  passions as a recruiter. Throughout my career, I’ve recruited for a wide range of  positions, but what I enjoy most is connecting with experienced and mature professionals both in life and in their careers.

Individuals who have managed to reach the top level in their professional career are usually established, curious and authentic by nature. As a result, conversations with them usually flow seamlessly and are always insightful and meaningful. Even if the position is not a fit, it is never a waste of time: such connections can be the most permanent ones in our professional lives. This is what makes executive search and recruitment truly substantial.  

Direct Search importance and approach 

Direct Search is crucial in terms of Executive recruitment. Since top C-Level profiles are usually very niche, thus hard to find,  and the search is often confidential, it can be challenging to hire from incoming applications. 

At the  C-level, candidates are rarely actively seeking new opportunities. They have reached a point in their professional lives when opportunities come to them.  

This is why communicating effectively is key: through my experience, I have observed that these candidates prefer to be approached by a senior representative of the company with a concise and straightforward short message. In many cases, mentioning the name of the company is not crucial and they usually are willing to get to know more about the position in question through an initial call. 

C-level recruitment – what is the difference between C-level profiles and other roles at a  lower seniority level?

The main difference between recruitment on all levels and executive hiring lies in the maturity and experience of C-level profiles. 

Since the communication in the context of recruiting is a trustful exchange, I am usually quite transparent in my calls, clearly outlining the expectations. This allows the candidates to reflect on the offer at hand and provide sincere responses.

Nobody wants to waste anybody’s time with unnecessary further calls if the position and the candidate are clearly not a match. Candidates at this career stage also understand that there is no value in overselling themselves without having the prerequisite experience, as it can ultimately backfire on them, whether during the recruitment process or later during the probation period. This is why trusting your candidates at this stage is quite safe – no need to ask tricky questions 😉 

Common mistakes

Due to the fact that high-level profiles are often older and much more experienced than the recruiters, there’s a tendency for recruiters to shy away from asking deeper, more difficult questions or asking too many (obvious) questions due to feeling nervous and intimidated by the candidate. However, it is not enough to have a surface-level understanding of the profile. Recruiters must ensure the candidate’s experience aligns with what the hiring manager needs. The recruiter must have the courage to ask follow-up questions or interrupt the candidate if necessary.

Here again the communication style is absolutely key: Keep it respectful and on an eye-to-eye level.

If I don’t have a clear understanding of the profile and exact responsibilities by the end of the conversation, it’s a red flag to me. It does not matter how well qualified a candidate may be on paper, if they are not able to translate their day to day tasks to the audience, it certainly raises concerns.

Candidate Management 

It is very important to handle all candidates with careful attention and consideration. Often there is a natural connection between candidate and recruiter that can last for years, allowing for successful placements even after time has passed through the relationship and trust that has been built. When a strong candidate shows genuine  interest in a position, it’s a strong indicator for potential success with a  very high chance of hiring – around 90% from my own experience.

Even if hiring a particular candidate does not work out, maintaining connections with candidates is important for future opportunities. 

Investing time in the recruitment process and even in the rejection pays off in the long run. Personally I prefer to go the extra mile and call the candidates in case of a rejection in order to explain decisions and keep them engaged, connected and motivate them to be part of our talentpool.

Good news is that the candidates always appreciate the extra effort and even a rejection call can turn into a positive interaction. 

Main learning: keep connections alive 😉