By Steve Touhill, Partner.

My brothers and I were great at getting the best candy at Halloween. We got out right after dinner, started at the houses that handed out the best, full-size goodies, and we moved with speed to maximize the number of doorbells we rang before having to report home for the evening. The late-starting, unfocused, and slow- moving kids had to be satisfied with whatever was left over after the wiser, experienced Trick-Or- Treaters did their damage. Now and Laters were for losers! Snickers, Milky Ways, even cans of Coke and dollar bills went to those of us with a plan and a sense of urgency.

The hunt for top talent in the marketing-technology and advertising world is not all that different from those childhood Halloween days: those companies that land truly exceptional executives commit to a process, have a sense of urgency, and move swiftly and decisively. Those that don’t will have to be satisfied with whoever is left over.

You must do the following if you want to attract the best possible leaders in a candidate-driven market:

  • Identify The Hiring Team and Assign Specific Responsibilities: decide up-front who has a voice in the hiring process and make sure that each person will vet the candidate for a specific reason. For example: a board member for strategic thinking ability and financial acumen, the CEO for leadership, peer department heads for teamwork, head of HR for cultural influence, etc. Too many interviewers or vague interview questions muddy the process and turn off qualified executives.
  • Be Clear On The Role’s Requirements and Goals: before the first recruiting call is made, the key members of the hiring team must be on board with the scope and performance expectations for the role in question. Best to resolve discrepancies in expectations before the process starts, rather than surfacing at the end and slamming the brakes on a search with many hours already invested in it.
  • Make Interviewing A Priority: Clients frequently ask, “how long does a search take?” The answer is, it largely depends on the schedules of the interviewers. If time kills all deals, then rescheduling or lack of prioritization are the poisons. The best executive candidates have multiple options so if they receive the message that they’re not a priority, they’ll respond in kind.
  • Make A Decision: See Point 2. There is no back burner in an efficient search process: the candidate moves forward, or he doesn’t. Use the criteria you established in setting forth the requirements as your guide. If you’re not getting 90%+ of what you’re looking for, move on. But be realistic about who you are, too – your expectation for the ideal executive must be in line with an objective view of your organization’s value proposition, competitive position, and financial footing.

There’s still good candy out there, but the neighborhood is getting crowded. Are you going to get the good stuff?