Gary Shawhan, Contributing Editor
The CHEMARK Consulting Group

The need for talented and creative people is always there, especially when hiring for mid to high-level positions within the organization. Depending on the size of the company, this effort is led by individuals or human resource departments responsible for managing the company’s hiring procedures and practices. At least in concept, the intention is to ensure that the company makes the “right” hire.

The processes that are put in place to screen potential candidates have their value. Testing methods, often custom-designed to fit with the company culture and perceived job requirements are commonplace today. The variety of options for employers to choose from are almost endless. Their value, when measured against past results, varies.

In addition to Federal and state government laws targeting discriminatory practices related to hiring , company’s and corporation have developed their own guidelines. In today’s world of social media and unbridled means of sharing information and opinions via mobile communication technology, the need for such procedures is unquestioned even for smaller privately owned companies.

Of particular importance, especially when hiring for mid-level to higher-level positions in the company, is the role that non-compete clause restrictions, contained in current employment agreements of potential candidates, play in the search and hiring process. In this regard, targeting hires from direct competitors serving the same or related markets is a problem that needs to be examined early-on in reviewing perspective interviewees.

In this article the focus will be on offering added perspectives that employers should consider when filling mid to upper-level management positions.

In today’s business environment, the hiring process for key positions has continued to move in the direction of more structure and organizational procedures.

The simple fact is that the number of candidates available to fill key positions is greater in today’s busines climate than ever before. The growth in the talent pool has been the result of several factors which have completely difference origins.

Industry consolidations, through acquisition or merger, have been and continue to contribute to the availability of quality, experienced talent. This is particularly true for individuals that have been in mid-level to upper-level positions at their most recent employer.

As organizations combine, job duplication in certain functions is a reality. Separately, through the process of planning and implementing a merger or acquisition, head-count reductions that improve the financial profile of a company prior to sale, is one consequence. In either case, it is the higher-level, higher-salaried positions that are generally impacted the most by these events.

Globalization has created large, complex organizations. As the product /technology mix and the relative importance of certain geographic regions shifts so do staffing requirements. Difficult choices on people and the location of key personnel may need to be re-thought. A centralized management philosophy may not be the right or best way-to-go. Regional business knowledge, language, variations in market size and customer requirements, etc. are among the important changes impacting staff and hiring choices.

Most recently the impact of the pandemic, which has resulted in significant, unanticipated shifts in the financial performance of many companies, has created the need for organizational re-engineering efforts among a number of companies whether they be privately-owned or large corporations.

In summary, for a variety of reasons, today’s business dynamics provide employers with a larger number of very talented and capable individuals from which they can select. Even more important, it provides a real opportunity for creativity and vision to be applied when targeting hires of more senior personnel.

So why do companies struggle to find the “right” talent to fill key positions when they become available? A place to start looking is in the process that is in place within the company to manage and lead to process from start-to-finish.

Search methods and guideline practices

How you go about setting the table for “the search” has a lot to do with where you wind up when the process finishes. This includes the internal personnel involved in managing and leading the process. It also includes those external search participants that are enjoined into the search and candidate screening process.

Identifying the key skill sets and background experience that are critical to the hire is the #1 priority. These represent a set of criteria for any candidate which are the must haves.

After establishing this initial list of criteria, it is important to ask, do we have too many must haves? How many of the must haves are actually nice-to-haves or even of low importance when considering what it takes to do the job going forward? Too often candidates that belong in the initial interview cue are excluded right at the outsets of the search by the list of job criteria that has been developed.

Avoid setting too many rigid requirements. Conveying such job criteria to those involved in the search will remove highly qualified candidates very early in the process. Some examples of things that take candidates out of consideration early in the game are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Thing to Look for and Avoid

  • Historical company attitudes and pre-conceived notions on hires for key positions
  • Rigid requirements on years of directly related experience
  • Geographic location limitations
  • Establishing an extensive check list for experience and involvement in products, technologies, or business-related skills
  • Target a duplication (as close as possible) to the person that previously held the position

The organization

No question, every company and situation has it quirks and differences in their hiring practices. Differences in approach are often determined by the size of the company and the role human resources plays in the search and hiring process. Privately owned, medium to smaller-sized companies can provide a significant contrast to corporate hiring practices and the policies of their human resources departments.

Injecting Creativity in your Candidate Searches and Selection

Today’s business climate provides employers with more options for locating candidates for key positions in the company. As mentioned earlier, the continued activity level in acquisitions and mergers has created a pool of mid to higher-level talent available to companies looking to hire.

Consolidations among competitors result in duplication of responsibility and turn into position eliminations in many cases. When companies are contemplating a sale of their business, these job eliminations precede the actual event. Such actions are intended to improve the financial profile of the business before and after acquisition takes place. It is the more senior people in the organization that are normally the targets.

While it is logical to value candidates that come from a competitor for many reasons, this does have its downsides. The existence of a non-compete agreement (especially if they extends over a significant period of time) can limit the ability of a candidate to do the job. It can also leave a company open to legal scrutiny or potential litigation.

Cultural fit (or lack of it) is another important element that needs to be assessed. Hiring someone who brings an approach and business philosophy that is based on a set of business practices and market philosophy’s that do not fit well with the needs of the company and the individual they will need to interact with normally have a short half-life.

Other Things to avoid

First, repeating the same playbook on hiring key people for specific positions has several potential outcomes. You replicate something close to what you had in the past. This can easily side-step the opportunity to bring new ideas and creativity into the position. Since markets and business positions are not static (for any company) adding vision and new perspective brings value to the organization.

Experience always has a value, especially when trying to fill key management or senior management positions. Setting a minimum requirement for years of service at the outset of a search can preclude consideration of some very capable candidates. Track record and past accomplishments are key. Setting minimum years of direct experience coupled with additional specific experience criteria can easily leave out some individuals that should at least be brought into the interview process.

Location and insistence on relocation should be much less of an issue today. Some of the best talent is avert to relocation. With the increased use of virtual meetings, many positions can be managed just as well and more cost-effectively operating from remote locations. Face-to-face meetings can always be scheduled as needed. In addition, global businesses and positions that involve supporting various geographic regions alter the value proposition and the importance a designated position location.

The COVID 19 pandemic has pushed companies further into the practice of virtual meetings as an alternative to past travel-to-meeting approach. When considering candidates for key positions in the company, there is a real opportunity to look beyond the traditional geographic boundaries to find the best talent and skill sets for the position.

Global growth or aspirations for expansion of the business into offshore markets is a dynamic that also increases the talent pool available to fill key positions in many companies. The important of regional presence, market knowledge and language skills has become a requirement that companies need to address in personnel planning going forward.

How does the position fit with the long-term strategy goals and priorities for the organization?

If the priority goals are short-term, it signals finding individuals that are able to address more immediate problems or identified opportunities already in the pipeline. Even then a hire that can inject new thinking and perspective to accomplishing these goals can be a better choice.

As the position scope shifts toward longer-term strategic goals and priorities, the opportunities to add creativity in the candidate selection process also increases. In one sense it allows for re-engineering the requirements of the job to fit with longer-term plans and the individual talents of the candidate. This approach invites a focus on the overall skills and unique talents needed to do the job. It can bring a fresh approach to the position.

Candidate Searches

The many internet accessible networking forums that exist today provide visibility for potential candidates.  Second, internet job search sites now provide a forum for individuals re-entering the job market. Of particular importance, is the role that specialty search firms play in aiding the process of identifying and screening qualified candidates for higher level positions.

 Table 2: Locating the “Right” Candidates for the Job

  • Internet recruiters have streamlined the process for identifying perspective candidates and for candidate to reach a broader audience
  • Specialty search firms continue to play an important role for filling more demanding positions
  • Networking software has provided a platform for individuals to reach out and increase their visibility to the market
  • Virtual communications today and the impact of global markets on doing busines expand the candidate talent pool
  • Business dynamics continue to provide a growing available talent pool from which to find the “right” candidate

There is no question that in today’s market there are more talented and experienced people available to fill key positions than ever before.