by: Kay Francoeur
At ECA we’ve figured out a few things over the years about hiring the best people for our clients – but we’ve also learned from occasional missteps along the way and revised our processes to avoid these common recruiting mistakes. Below are some of our top insights on how to avoid these blunders and bottlenecks in your quest for your company’s next stellar VP or CFO.
Much of what goes into a successful hiring strategy happens behind the scenes, in the steps you can take to optimize your processes before even engaging your first candidate. First, it’s important to think about your funnel. Recruiting is a numbers game but many hiring teams don’t reach out to nearly enough candidates. Searches can fail when all hopes are pinned on one “star candidate” who could drop out late in the process for any number of reasons.
We advise approaching your funnel by breaking it down into the necessary 4 or 5 stages that will result in an accepted offer from your preferred candidate. A thoughtful funnel will focus on 1) Outreach, 2) Candidate interest, 3) Interviews (subdivided into multiple interview stages, though not too many!), and, finally, 4) The offer stage. Building out a spreadsheet from the beginning of the search with realistic numbers and conversion rates, and applying these metrics consistently, is a great way to set yourself up for success.
Next, you’ll want to determine who your ideal candidate is, so you can tailor the search strategy to attract these folks. A common pitfall occurs when hiring teams focus on the profile, which narrows the pool unnecessarily, rather than taking the time to thoroughly outline the objectives of the role they’re aiming to fill and then searching for groups of candidates who could achieve those goals. There are often multiple career paths with overlapping functions and competencies that can lead to someone being successful, for example, as a CFO for a PE Portco.
Once you’ve attracted interested candidates, it’s crucial to ensure transparency and accuracy about the role during the interviewing process. It’s tempting to gloss over the difficult bits and emphasize the glamorous aspects of the position, but doing this results in misaligned expectations and, ultimately, a misaligned fit that harms candidate and client both. As Jeff Weiss and Atta Tarki write, the interview process should be about finding a genuine fit and providing an opportunity for job applicants to interview you as much as you’re interviewing them. It’s imperative to be honest about expectations and realities of a particular role from the get-go – highlighting what makes the position attractive, but also “showing your warts,” explaining what some candidates might find tough and verifying that the interviewee is eager for the challenge before moving forward.
A final important tip is limiting the number of interviewers and putting safeguards in place to ensure the decision-makers avoid biasing one another too much about a given candidate. Just as lengthy interview processes with too many hoops can unnecessarily drag out a search and damage relationships with candidates, having too many decision-makers (without a clear decider) results in a slower process, reducing the chance a candidate will accept the offer if one is finally made.
At ECA, we love collaborating and sharing our thoughts about candidates who we think are perfect for a role, but we establish a clear evaluation process from the beginning and stick to it, allowing us to take informed but quick decisions about candidates rather than embroiling searches in “death by committee.”
Make sure to check out this post by ECA’s CEO Ken Kanara for a quotable, shareable summary of these common recruiting mistakes and a playbook for avoiding them in your company’s hiring practices.
Kay Francoeur is a Project Manager at ECA Partners. She can be reached at [email protected]