4-minute read

Recruiting an Executive: How to Align Your Interests

Hiring an executive isn’t the same as recruiting for other positions. The influence they will have on your company and teams means that it must be a highly strategic decision. The selection process therefore requires scrupulous preparation, and since candidates will also be evaluating what you offer them, you need to make a convincing case.

Tailor the Discussion

In my 20-plus years of recruiting executives as a president, CEO and, more recently, recruitment consultant, it has become clear that when you’re talking to candidates for a high-level position, the discussion is not the same.

First of all, you spend less time evaluating candidates’ technical knowledge and capabilities, which will generally have been established by this point in their career. On the other hand, you spend more time on their soft skills: leadership, decision-making, organizational abilities, communication style, etc.

Last but not least, the company is often thoroughly scrutinized by the candidates as well. Make sure you know your business through and through, so you’re ready to deal with every eventuality and answer every question.

Know the Company Like the Back of Your Hand

Take the time to document the attributes of your business: its history, market, market position, growth potential, reputation, financial situation, etc. The goal is to be able to present it in a comprehensive manner but, if possible, without going into excessive detail.

Even if it’s your company and you know it inside out, don’t underestimate candidates’ capacity to ask highly probing questions.

Thanks to this type of preparation, I was able to fill a national leadership role in five weeks. I had established a good relationship with the client, who provided me with excellent support. For instance, he gave me access to the company’s HR, sales and marketing teams, which allowed me to collect relevant information, describe the position and company properly and convince the candidate that it was the right choice.

The idea is not to tell candidates everything but rather to show that you’re thoroughly knowledgeable about the topic. This will enable you to answer the key question: “Why should I join your company?”

Be on the Same Wavelength

As a matter of course, the selection process for an executive position involves meeting other members of the leadership team or the board of directors, either one-on-one or as a group. 

Make sure that everyone concerned is fully aware of the nature and scope of the position and on the same wavelength when speaking to candidates.

This will ensure that your case is presented in a consistent manner by other members of the team, greatly enhancing its effectiveness.

Conversely, a lack of consistency or disagreements among company leadership could dampen a candidate’s enthusiasm for the position. 

Offer a Stimulating Challenge

The elements that you choose to highlight in the interview will also depend on the type of profile you’re looking for. Do you need someone to turn around a struggling business unit? Or someone to build and develop teams in a fast-growing organization?

Carefully studying the position’s raison d’être and its fit with candidates’ profiles is one of the basic principles of recruitment. Company managers are aware of this and they do it well. However, they sometimes forget to ask candidates about their wishes and intentions. What interest candidates the most is finding new challenges commensurate with their ambitions.

Before showing your hand, take the time to get to know the interviewee and find out what motivates them. This may help you to answer the question “Why me?” with greater relevance and stronger conviction.

Between 70% and 80% of executives whom Strato helped to recruit were not looking for a new job, but they were convinced to move because they believed that the challenge would allow them to develop their talent.

In my view, the winning combination includes three elements: competitive employment terms, a healthy environment and, above all, a worthwhile challenge. When you’re recruiting an executive, it’s not about “selling” the position – it’s about aligning your company’s interests with those of the candidate.


About the Author

Richard Portelance is Vice President, Executive Search, at the consulting firm Strato. During a career of more than 35 years, he has worked for leading companies in the consumer goods sector, the electronic media industry and the printing field. He has held positions as vice-president, president and CEO, building strong teams while taking care to develop the next generation of leaders. Drawing on his valuable business knowledge, leadership and professional expertise, he recruits executives who make a difference through their contributions. 


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