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How to attract executive talent

Nasser Oudjidane
December 19, 2022

Just as Pele or Maradona could turn a match on its head, a winning business can only benefit from hiring those indispensable A-players who can make all the difference. But getting a tech rockstar to walk through the door is easier said than done. Luckily, we’ve sifted through some expert opinion so we can share some valuable tips on how to hire executive talent.

There were some fascinating insights shared by investor Dave Ambrose (below) about the so-called exec talent crunch, whereby many companies are finding it harder to lure the best senior leaders. 

Ambrose observes that many businesses are being massively over-valued despite being “nothing more than a deck or memo”, or in some cases, a million miles from a product market fit. Because of this, “it’s often really hard to attract strong talent who believe their equity can grow in multiples”. Offering equity is a nice carrot to dangle at a candidate, but if the executive believes that your business is “irrationally valued”, it’s perhaps unlikely that they’ll join your company.

But if the executive hiring landscape is a hard nut to crack, what are the creative ways that founders and hiring managers can give themselves the best shot?

There were some great insights from Maddy Cross, a partner at executive search firm Erevena, on how early stage startups can lure the best executive talent from their cash-rich competitors.

Here are just a few takeaways from Maddy’s First On interview.

  • Offer 1 to 3% equity. Notwithstanding that ‘equity isn’t everything’, if you’re unable to compete on salary for C-suite appointments, “equity is something that you’re going to have to give up”, Maddy says. “There’s not an endless pool of people out there that are willing to take a huge cut in salary to come and join you. But they are out there…”
  • Prioritise competence, not just passion. “The reality is that no one is ever going to care about your business more than you do, ever,” says Maddy. “An adequate level of passion doesn't need to mean evangelism”.
  • Use interview scorecards. Formalising your hiring processes can ensure your internal candidates don’t feel wronged if you make a high-quality external appointment. “If you have interview scorecards you can say to internal candidates who may not be as strong as external candidates, ‘We asked you these questions and these are the answers we were looking for. You scored a three and the candidate we gave the job to scored a five, for these reasons.’ The same logic works for compensation as well.”

Elsewhere, Jan Tegze, author and director of talent acquisition at Invicti Security, had some interesting takes on why we should never forget the human dimension of recruiting. In a world of chat bots, AI and dungeons full of data, Tegze suggests that recruiters who understand what makes people really tick are the ones who will prevail.

He writes:

…The future of recruiting will be more about humans and their well-being and their experience through the entire process [rather] than chatting with chatbots.

“Well-trained recruiters”, writes Tegze, who are empathetic, with good industry knowledge, can help persuade candidates to choose one company over a competitor. This human-first approach is worth pursuing for all candidates, but especially those senior players whose options aren’t exactly limited.

For more templates and guidance to help on your executive talent hunt, explore the Intrro toolkit.

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