In today’s candidate-driven, highly competitive talent market, an effective launch process is critical to a successful executive hire. Alignment at the onset between the company (client) and search partner is critical.

Key deliverables, including a well drafted position specification that clearly captures key functions of the role and attributes of the candidate, set the stage for a successful search process. A strong understanding of the company culture, search committee alignment, and setting realistic expectations based on the market—are all prerequisites to ensure that CEOs and hiring teams land top talent.

As an executive search provider, our team is in the market consistently navigating the tight talent pool in search of top candidates for our clients. Over the last four decades, we have continued to fine tune and implement four best practices to ensure a successful search launch and ultimately place the best talent to support the unique needs of each client.

Capture the Culture

There can be a natural tendency to dive straight into the role during a search kick-off process. However, we find that excellent placements always begin with a detailed conversation and understanding of the company culture. With heavy competition for top executives, it is critical that team dynamics and soft skill requirements be discussed early in the launch process, enabling the search partners to get to the right executives that have the hard skills and will be additive to the company culture.

“During the launch of a search, focus on company culture and team dynamics. We can better serve the client by understanding the unique culture of the business, identifying critical soft skills to vet, and capturing all team dynamics. Meeting with the hiring committee, visiting for an on-site, and gaining exposure to additional team members, peers, and board members helps us learn the culture. It is the most important part of the launch.”

Chris Grimming, Partner at JM Search

Capturing the company culture from both individuals on and off the search committee can be highly beneficial. For example, a conversation with a C-level peer may offer insight into Board or C-suite dynamics. Likewise, a direct report may help to identify additional leadership skills needed. By focusing on culture, clients and search professionals ensure the recruited executive is the right addition for the business and contributes to the company’s culture, growth, and success.

Clearly Define Roles on the Search Committee

The search committee can become complex. Traditionally composed of the CEO, investors, independent board members, and HR and/or talent leaders, the search committee can offer diverse perspectives on business needs. At times, it can be challenging to dissect potentially competing priorities and drive the search process forward.

Like anything, it comes down to open communication and establishing trust with members of the search committee. Identifying the key decision maker(s) and making sure you have someone – an HR leader, or the like – who can support the process and navigate the stakeholders is essential. Defining the role of everyone on the committee and keeping communication channels open will set the search up for success.”

Phil Menzel, Partner at JM Search

Align on Industry & Market Expectations  

Have you identified key decision makers? Is everyone in alignment? Do we have process steps assigned? Understanding everyone’s role is important. From the search firm to the investor and executive team, determining communication tactics and building a strong relationship can drive efficiency throughout the process. A search committee’s ability to recognize the role of each individual can ensure a positive candidate experience, strong feedback loops, and an accelerated process.

Having realistic expectations of the talent market—from talent availability to geographic constraints and compensation demands—is vital. By illustration, today’s top talent will often reject relocation and/or commuting, preferring a remote or hybrid workplace. By addressing expectations during launch process, the search partner and search committee will be best equipped to evaluate candidates going forward.

While new market expectations can result in seismic shifts in the talent pool, it is critical to find a balance between candidate demands and business needs. During the launch process, being transparent about the state of the market and the business should be a point of focus.

Bob Reitinger, Partner at JM Search

A good search partner will also use the launch process to capture any industry or company biases. Understanding a client’s partners, integrations, and relationships can further positively impact the search process and significantly adjust the talent pool and search strategy.

Use Calibration as a Validation Tool

Calibration can be leveraged as a checkpoint and additional learning opportunity. Aiming to ensure the search partner and client are aligned, calibration seeks to validate what was heard. It also serves as a pressure test on candidates. Showing candidate profiles at various career stages, industries, compensation levels, and skill sets enables the search partner to best build a candidate slate and navigate later stages of the recruiting process.

“It is important to thoroughly test the outer boundaries of the candidate pool. Developing a calibration slate of 4-5 profiles of varying background, size, stage, geography, and industry can prompt hiring teams to further assess their hiring needs, set additional market expectations, and maximize the talent pool. A calibration prior to the introduction of candidates, has proven to accelerate the process and drive further alignment.”

Kevin Kuzmick, Principal at JM Search

Today’s talent market is highly competitive. Across functional areas, industries and geographies, talent is at a premium. To prepare for a search process, hiring committee and search partners must run a thorough search launch process. Establishing robust communication channels, setting expectations, and defining process steps from the starting line are critical. By ensuring alignment early, employers will successfully compete for talent that matches their unique needs and leads to the best outcomes.

To stay up to date on trends shaping the executive talent landscape, subscribe to our blog for additional insights.

Insights in your inbox

Stay up to date on the latest trends and insights shaping the executive search landscape from JM Search’s Blog.