Founders, we hear you: building out your executive dream team seems a little bit like accomplishing the impossible. Incredible executives are hard to find (and even harder to reach), your startup might still be getting its sea legs, and there is a rampant talent shortage that shows no signs of slowing down.
But with all that being said, you still need to bring executives on board to support your bustling new business. That’s where executive search firms come into play. Just like you’re a pro at running your business, executive search firms are the pros when it comes to helping startups hire the perfect executive.
So, what separates the best executive search firms from “those other guys,” and what special qualities should you look for in an executive search firm? Here are 10 things the best executive search firms do for early-stage companies, that other hiring services simply don’t.
How you write your job descriptions determines which candidates you attract and how they think about the role. In fact, if the tone of your job post doesn’t match your company culture, candidates are up to four times less likely to apply. That’s why the way you write your executive job descriptions is absolutely critical for finding excellent executive candidates. But nailing an executive job description can be downright tricky. Executive roles are complex, come with a lot of responsibility, and might also be ambiguous in some ways. So how can you be sure that what you’re writing is exactly what you’re looking for in an executive, and that you’re going to attract the right people for the job? Enter: the best executive search firms.
Top-tier executive search firms don’t simply leave you up the creek without a paddle. They do everything they can to help you attract the right candidates, and that includes ensuring your job descriptions are accurate, and that they’re going to draw in the right people.
It’s very common for early-stage companies to still be figuring out exactly how they want to present themselves, and to still be sorting out some (or all) of their branding and messaging. While this makes sense, it can also be something that makes the executive search process more challenging. For example, you wouldn’t want to deposit your life savings into a bank with an early-2000’s website, MS Paint logos, and color pallet that is hard to look at. Likewise, executives might not want to join your team if your branding isn’t aligned.
The best executive search firms know what executives are looking for in early-stage startups, and they know that elements like branding matter. That’s why these search firms will take steps to help you build out your employer branding, before you begin the executive hiring process in earnest.
The executive interview process can be a very interesting balancing act: you want to find out enough about your candidate's background, goals, and ideas, and even get to know them on a personal level, so you know what they’re going to bring to the table. But you also want to make sure you’re sharing enough and effectively communicating when it comes to what exactly you’re looking for. It’s almost like both sides are interviewing one another.
In order to ensure you nail that interview, the best executive search firms can actually teach you how to do the interview process. They can give you guidance, feedback, and tips, so that you’re able to make the most of this valuable one-on-one time with your candidates.
Interviewing a few entry-level candidates while you’re growing your team is one thing. Interviewing highly-trained, seasoned executives who are themselves likely experienced interviewers is another thing entirely. When you start to identify great executive candidates, the next step is a comprehensive interviewing and hiring process. This multi-round process requires skill, efficiency, and a pointed understanding of exactly what both you and your potential executives are looking for.
It would be a shame to have an excellent executive land in your lap, only to have the interview process be riddled with hiccups. You want to make sure the right people are present, that interviews aren’t redundant, but that the important information is being discussed. That’s why the best executive search firms ensure you and your team have a great talent infrastructure in place, so you can run a top-tier interview process, that goes far beyond simply asking questions.
The best executive search firms know that the hiring process is dynamic. It starts well before the official “hiring” happens, and it continues even after new hires are onboarded. How are new hires integrating? Are things in alignment with what you thought they would be?
That’s why the best executive search firms don’t simply leave you hanging at the end of the hiring process. Instead, they follow up about new hires, to see how things are going. That’s because they genuinely care about your happiness when it comes to the new executives on your team.
Hiring and recruiting processes are far from standard across the board. Hiring entry-level workers en masse is a much different process than hiring an A-team roster of executives. That’s why when a recruiting firm has a speciality, it can make all the difference in how the hiring process goes.
For example, here at Will Reed, we focus on early-stage teams who are looking to hire executives. This is our bread-and-butter, and we take a highly specialized and specific approach to this process.
Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to executive recruiting, firms that have a niche specialty (such as early-stage companies looking to hire executives) are far more likely to successfully match you with the perfect candidate, and to see that hiring process through to the end.
A general recruiting process can be lengthy, and typically runs three months or more. But there’s a paradox when it comes to recruiting executives: the best candidates usually only sit on the market for 10 days.
So what does that mean? The best executive search firms need to understand how to navigate this search flow. That means helping set up a base and infrastructure before the hiring process begins, so your company is perfectly poised to move quickly when matched with the right candidate. It also means that those recruiting firms need to know how to act quickly when the right candidates are lined up.
(Psst… Our average search time here at Will Reed is 45 days – half of the average pace.)
The reality about executive recruiting (and hiring in general) is that it is very much about who you know, not just what your company is. In general, about 85% of positions are filled thanks to personal or professional connections. So yes, individual networks can be very valuable resources for hiring executives. For example, if someone has worked as an executive before, they probably have a lot of other executives in their close network.
But for early-stage founders, your list of go-to executives might be shorter than you’d like right now. That’s why when you partner with the best executive search firms, you can expect them to tap into their deep networks of executives to find candidates.
Having the right network for executive recruiting means maintaining an ecosystem and community, and networks like that are only built over time, and with the right skills.
Executive hiring is far more than just reading a resume and ticking the boxes. When you’re bringing an executive on board, they really have to align with your company culture, or at least want to contribute to it in a way that works with your company. That’s why the best executive recruiting firms go above and beyond simply recruiting.
Instead, they know how to develop an understanding of your company culture, and how to find candidates that match that culture. At the end of the day, who you bring on as an executive is going to have a big influence on your company, and you want to make sure that they’re a perfect match for what you’re building.
Early-stage founders are in a very unique position, even in the business world. Your company is doing well, it’s fast-growing, but it’s still new-ish. Maybe you think your business isn’t quite strong enough to attract the executive candidates you long to have, or funds are still tight when it comes to big hires, so where you spend that money really matters.
The best executive recruiting firms get that. They won’t treat you like established businesses with endless pockets, and they won’t treat you like someone who is brand new to the industry. They also know how to help you leverage your strengths, and work through some of your potential challenges, so that you can smoothly hire incredible, experienced executives.
We’ll say it like it is: the best executive search firms are the best for a reason, because they take a different approach than your run-of-the-mill firm. Especially when it comes to early-stage businesses, who have very specific needs when it comes to executive recruiting.
At Will Reed, we definitely do executive recruiting differently. We’re experts at helping early-stage founders strengthen their brand, solidify their hiring process, connect with the best candidates, and masterfully execute the interview process. And did we mention that our hiring team is obsessed with helping you cultivate your company culture?
Want to see how we can help you build out your executive team? Contact us today.