The prized catch

Tanya Lewis looks at what companies must do when trying to land the big fish

Tanya Lewis looks at what companies must do when trying to land the big fish

Communications leaders are in demand around the world. Agencies and corporations must distinguish themselves and demonstrate commitment – to the process, the job, and the candidate – to land the best senior talent. Personal factors are as important as professional ones, and candidates and employers should have a holistic view.

A good fit is also paramount, as “the cost of a failed senior-level hire can be staggering,” says Don Spetner, CMO at executive recruiter Korn/Ferry International.

Jeff Hunt, GCI Group president and CEO, who recently rebuilt the agency's North America and London leadership, notes the importance of providing opportunity and communicating clearly.

“We've [hired] a lot of talented people who grew frustrated where they were in terms of decision-making and affecting the [company's] future,” he says.

Greg Waldron, partner and chief talent officer at Porter Novelli, agrees that helping senior-level talent understand their potential impact “is a huge differentiator” for agencies.

“The extent to which [a candidate] feels good about anticipated ability to make an impact is going depend on how they see [themselves] clearly fitting into our business strategy,” he says.

Bill Heyman, president and CEO of executive recruiting firm Heyman Associates, says commitment to the process includes flexibility and willingness to meet candidates when and where they are available.

As for the candidates, he cautions them not to get hung up on reporting to CEOs. He says access and influence are ultimately most important, but he notes that some companies will restructure reporting hierarchy if it's critical to landing great talent.

Companies and agencies that fail to consider candidates' life situations don't typically compete well.

“There's an arrogance among [many] companies that says, ‘We're a great place to work; anyone should want to come here; and it pays a lot,'” Spetner says. “From a recruiter's and a candidate's point of view, it should be a holistic assessment of [whether or not the job is] the right fit at this time in [a candidate's] life.”

It's important for candidates to evaluate personal circumstances. “Age of children, state of marriage, and aging parents are all important,” he adds. “I see senior people rationalizing the impact a job might have on the personal side. They so want the big glamorous job, they're not looking at the reality of moving a high-school kid, or they underestimate the impact [of] an unhappy home. It relates to job satisfaction and performance. Recruiters need to be candid and available to talk through sensitive [issues] and life situations.”

Flexibility in meeting individual needs and preferences – from location to pay – always benefits employers. “We're in a consulting business,” explains Hunt. “Geography is just a place you sit. Being accommodating about where people want to live is very important.”

Heyman notes many “well-respected organizations think people should take lateral pay or even a cut,” which usually doesn't fly.

“You don't want to lose someone over $30,000, yet it happens all the time,” Spetner adds. “The best employers view the compensation package as a flexible pool of money to be applied in the best way to get candidate.”

Compensation considerations include long-term buyout situations, retirement packages, and housing value.

“Companies must get creative,” Heyman says. “People with 18-plus years' experience won't sacrifice base and bonus for stock options. Successful searches have a tremendous match of chemistry and culture fit. When that works, there is desire on the part of the hiring managers to get this done, [and] they'll likely create a strong severance package and strong stock options.”

Employers also must act quickly. “With respect to making an offer, bring the family in and be as accommodating as possible,” Heyman says. “[If] the process drags, it can cost them the big fish.”

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