Ah, the internal executive search assignment—for some corporate recruiters, it’s the pinnacle of the talent acquisition world. Goodbye, days of customer service rep phone screens and hello, exploratory dinners and intriguing “meetings over drinks.” I think a bunch of talent acquisition pros dream of the day when they get the call to fill a senior VP or C level impact role that will literally change the organization. How often can HR say that?
So, when the CEO asks you to help recruit a direct report, I get that you feel like you have arrived. You have been grinding for years, filling countless entry and mid level jobs, knowing that one day you would own an executive search when the company had a need. You were sure that HR was going to deliver.
Here’s my take though: HR does not own executive recruitment. Recruiters don’t recruit executives; executives recruit executives. You are the expert, but not the leader. Weird, huh?
When I have seen this done right, it’s typically because the CEO leads the charge and the successful recruiter plays a combo Kingmaker/Market Expert role. The talent pro is the trusted adviser, coordinating resources and teeing up the CEO with competitive talent intelligence and introductions in the niche market.
Don’t get me wrong. The in-house recruiter needs to be the expert when it comes to defining requirements, identifying sourcing strategies, developing a sophisticated team approach and moving through identification, attraction, selection and closing. Talent Acquisition articulates and builds that strategy, but the CEO is the person who will close a senior exec. Sorry, it’s just not HR.
I have succeeded and failed in this area over my career, so it was nice to read that industry expert Dr. John Sullivan agrees. From Involve your CEO in Selling Top Candidates:
Some CEOs are smart and automatically assume the role as “the chief recruiter” for the firm. In other cases it takes some convincing and building the business case…CEOs are routinely called upon to influence key customers, key vendors and strategic partners, so it’s only logical that they play a role in recruiting too. While time management is a major concern, most CEOs actually enjoy and learn from the process of meeting with top professionals.
One way to look at it is this: your sales team is feeding the CEO info about your competitors’ product development strategies, R&D is reporting on global innovation and the CFO is working on competitor and market pricing trends. In the same way, one part of your role is to consistently feed the CEO intelligence about key players in the market.
That takes hard work and networking before you have a need. Check out Kelly Dingee or Glen Cathey for sourcing methods to identify players in your industry–they are brilliant. Then call the people you find. Introduce yourself, network, talk about the business and over time, build relationships. Evaluate who is successful in your market, and then involve the CEO when it makes sense. When an executive opening or succession planning gap presents itself, if you’ve done it right, you will know who you want. The CEO will lead, but you’re the Kingmaker/industry spy expert pulling it together.
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.