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4 Tips for a Successful Executive Search

June 15, 2023

This post was originally published on HR Dive.

A new leader can change the trajectory of your business. But how do you make sure you’re hiring the right person for the job? It all comes down to how you run your search. To improve your chances of finding the perfect executive for your team, consider these ways to approach your process differently.

1. Look for someone ready to grow into the role

Instead of searching for someone who’s already held the role or title, hoping they’ll have success repeating strategies that worked for another organization, focus on finding a candidate with the skills, vision, and drive to grow alongside your business.

It takes patience to run an executive search based on impactful skills, cultural fit, and competency over specific experience. The candidates you’ll find, though, can help take your business to the next level.

2. Change how you think about job descriptions

Don’t try to cover every facet of your open role. Instead, think of the job description as a starting point, meant to provide alignment for your search committee and attract candidates who are both interested and a good fit for your team.

Don’t try to encompass the entire role

A good job description paints an accurate picture of the role, but leaves room for flexibility and evolution.

The job title should already accurately reflect the position and the level of responsibility, so your goal is to give a short summary that captures key expectations and specific skills needed for the role. Leave out the comprehensive task list.

Remember, this is a starting point. You’ll dive deeper into the role during the interview process. Ideally, you’re not looking for someone who fits a checklist, anyway—you’re looking for something much more dynamic: someone who will help your team grow.

Swap education and experience requirements for a focus on leadership and skills

Carefully consider the requirements you list in your job description. Does the role really require a specific level of education, or would an impressive depth of industry experience take precedence? Can you focus on the skills and knowledge a candidate brings to the table, rather than the amount of time it took them to accrue their credentials?

In some cases, the answers to these questions might lead you to keep certain requirements, but often, you’ll find qualified candidates from non-traditional backgrounds who you otherwise might have overlooked.

Avoid bias in the writing process

Some words, phrases, or tones may cause folks who are historically underrepresented in leadership positions to balk or lose interest in your role. This is a reason to consider whether your listed requirements are truly important enough to make it to the job description, and it should also prompt you to review your writing for unintentional bias.

Thankfully, online tools such as Gender Decoder or Textio can help. Avoiding biased language will help you reach a wider variety of candidates and increase your chances of finding the perfect fit.

3. Source a diverse group of candidates from outside your network

Often, especially when searching for a new senior leader, teams turn to their own networks.

Personal networks are a valuable resource, but they’re often homogenous. It’s in your best interest to include a variety of perspectives within your leadership team, since organizations with diverse leadership have been shown to grow faster, be more adaptable, have higher stock prices, and report greater employee satisfaction.

Focusing a search within your existing network limits your ability to reach the broader population and can cause you to miss out on spectacular candidates. Bolster’s diverse talent marketplace offers introductions to 12,000+ highly qualified candidates who you might not otherwise reach.

4. Work with a team that can help you understand your exact needs

Working with an experienced team like Bolster will help you assess and benchmark your team, understand your exact needs, and get aligned as you begin your executive search.

We take time to understand the gaps you need to fill and guide you through the process of meaningfully assessing the specific skills and experiences required of your next executive. We’ll also create goals for your search and help you get buy-in from your team. Identifying these needs and expectations ahead of time is key to a smooth and successful search.

Want to supercharge your next executive search? Bolster matches CEOs and their teams with transformational executives, mentors, and board members—without the hassle of traditional talent sourcing. Built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, our no-nonsense, no-frills approach makes it easier than ever for teams like yours to find the right leaders.