Don Kennedy, Managing Partner.

As an executive recruiter, there’s nothing more fulfilling than connecting talented individuals with great companies to create a transformative opportunity for both parties. I know how cliché it is to deem something “Win-Win” but it’s true when things successfully come together for all parties involved in the search process.  I’ve been fortunate as a recruiter and an operator to see the process work flawlessly, and I’ve also seen the process go sideways for a variety of reasons.

A few months ago I offered my thoughts on why great people leave organizations, and what leaders can do to keep their best folks onboard.  This time around I’d like to address a few best practices in identifying and landing top talent to take your organization to the next level.

Consider the following “Must Do’s” to succeed in landing your next game changing team member:

Do the heavy lifting early in the process Successfully landing your next superstar starts with doing your homework and following a meticulous process before the real “recruiting” even begins.  It starts with clearly defining and documenting the strategic and tactical expectations of the role along with the required skills and cultural elements necessary to exceed these expectations.  Our practice has developed a hundred-point data capture process that we use before we even craft a job description.  That may seem a bit exhaustive, but that’s the point.  Get it right up front.  I’ve inherited some searches in which a company has struggled to land a leader through their own efforts, and just by reading the description for the role, it’s clear why they need help.  Nailing the details early on sets the stage for a smooth process. Slow down to speed up.   

Don’t forget that landing transformative talent is a two-way street – I’m still floored when I sense an “I don’t owe a candidate anything, they need to sell me if they want this job” attitude from hiring managers or C Level execs.  Fortunately I don’t see this often, but when I do, it’s a giant red flag. Top talent has options, and in many cases, the person you are pursuing has no reason to leave their current position, let alone join your company if given the opportunity.  It’s on you as the hiring manager or leader to sell the opportunity, company, and yourself just as much as it is on the candidate to sell themself.  It’s critical that you are present, engaged, listening, and open to answering questions throughout the process.  Don’t check your messages, don’t take any calls, and look them in the eye….not your phone. If you are low energy, distant, and placing all of the work on the candidate, you’re done.

There’s always an excuse to move an interview…don’t do it!  Senior leaders and hiring managers are busy…. often really busy.  Their calendars can be tough to manage, and sometimes things can go off the rails due to a fire drill of some sort.  That being said, there is nothing more important to future success than building a team of superstars, and any meeting that helps achieve that goal needs to be kept if humanly possible.

Establish, document, and measure clear cut criteria and benchmarks to inform your evaluation of candidates – As with many things, the “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail” mantra holds true through the recruiting process.  Nowhere is this more evident that when trying to organize feedback and doing a proper comparison of candidates.  There will always be a level of subjectivity that enters the process based on personal rapport, but in order to drive a truly effective process, there needs to be consistency in expectations and criteria throughout the process, and everyone in the hiring process needs to be on board with conducting interviews that meet this objective.  Failure to do this will result in less than stellar interviews (which candidates also notice and reflects poorly on a company), and unnecessary ambiguity when it comes time to make a key hiring decision.  


Time kills deals  Like any business opportunity, long drawn out processes with ambiguous deadlines and deliverables vastly decrease the likelihood of a successful outcome.  Hiring a senior leader is a big decision, and one that certainly requires thoughtful deliberation.  That being said, decisiveness and conviction are equally important.  Set firm timelines and hold yourself accountable to aggressively managing a timely process that drives towards a definitive decision in the most time efficient way possible.

Landing top talent is not easy, your competitors want the same talent, and there’s nothing more important to the success of a company than its people.  Like any business decision, the devil is in the details, and there are no shortcuts to a successful outcome.  Always embrace the concept that recruiting is a two way street, and one that requires a tight and thorough process, and you will see a meaningful impact on your company.