7 Tactics for Recruiting Executives - Glassdoor for Employers

The Art of Recruiting Executive Talent

An interview with Ryan Polich, partner of IQTalent in Silicon Valley

Ryan Polich got into recruiting fresh out of college, during the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000. And from the beginning he focused on executive recruiting. While a lot of recruiters like the fast paced search of tracking down hard to find tech talent, Polich likes the more thoughtful process of getting to know the candidates who could one day become his client’s next leaders.

“I’m helping companies decide who is going to guide them in the future,” Polich says of the executive search process. “It’s exciting to witness and satisfying to do.”

But it’s not always easy. Senior level executive candidates can be difficult to find, hard to access, and they are rarely looking for work when he finally tracks them down. But with persistence, good research skills, and a willingness to get to know those high-level passive job seekers, executive recruiting can be a great job, he says.

Polich offered this advice to recruiters interested in moving into the executive talent space.

Start with research. “Seventy five percent of executive hires come from original research,” Polich says. In other words great candidates don’t just turn up; you have to go find them. Polich likens executive recruiting to an in-depth market research project. “You have to identify talent, build a list, and comb through your network until you have a body of material to work from.”

Focus on past experience. Executive searches often start with a business problem rather than a list of skills, he says.  For example, a company may need a leader who can help it break into global markets, transition to ecommerce, or improve its corporate reputation. In these cases, the best strategy is to look for executives who’ve lead similar transformations, in the same or unrelated industries. “When companies are looking to solve a business problem, having that fresh perspective can be a plus.”

Look beyond LinkedIn. “LinkedIn is very useful, but it’s also where everyone goes,” he says. “And the population of candidates you’re looking for won’t all be visible.”

He encourages his recruiters to include company profile sites, like Zoom and Hoovers in their searches, to review conference speaker lists, and to explore the leadership teams in companies with similar profiles to their client’s in order to unearth those hidden high-quality candidates.

Have thoughtful conversations. “The best executives are surprisingly friendly,” he says, noting that he regularly calls potential candidates with no introduction and finds that they are open to conversations. “Even if they aren’t interested in the position, they will often make referrals and introductions to someone who might be.”

Court your candidates. Even if an executive isn’t open to a new job today, they may be ready down the line. So you should use every opportunity to build that relationship. “Take the time to interact with them, talk through their background, and build a rapport,” he says. That way, when they are ready to make a move, you’ll be the first person they call.

Don’t let hiring managers slow you down. Polich notes that one of his biggest obstacles is hiring managers who get crippled by indecision. “They don’t want to be held accountable for a bad hire so they avoid making the choice,” he says. That’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources.

As an executive recruiter, Polich won’t know if a hiring manager is going to delay or support the hiring process until he’s already in the middle of it. And while he’s not in the position to reprimand a client, he can guide them. “It’s a coaching process,” he says. “You want to remind them of the parameters they established for the hire and the timeline they agreed to, then hold them to it.”