How to Strategically Hire for Senior Executive Roles

When was the last time you hired a senior executive only to watch them churn and leave your organization a year or less, later?

To hire for senior executive roles is no easy task. While you’re sourcing and recruiting top talent for niche roles, the stakes are higher to ensure you onboard the right employee who will have a hand in shaping the direction and future of your business. Imagine what that can cost your company if they quit—nearly 23% of that hire’s annual salary. 

To ensure you’re hiring not only the right candidates but are doing so strategically when you hire for senior executive roles, follow along with the 5 tips we share below!

Create a plan and market map before you recruit 

Hiring for senior executive roles can look quite different from recruiting for other positions in your organization, and there’s a strong likelihood that some of the senior candidates you communicate with are being pursued by your competition. 

So it’s crucial you have a hiring plan and market map in place before your team invests time and resources into recruiting for these roles. 

Market mapping refers to using an outline—or a map, if you will—that helps your organization understand the current landscape of your market regarding both your competition and the supply/demand for candidates. By using a market map, your hiring team can dive deeper into information and data around talent availability, compensation, future business needs, and recruiting opportunities. 

And market mapping is helpful for more than just understanding what you’ll need to offer a senior exec to win them over; it can also give recruiters a holistic view of why they’re sourcing candidates for this role and what your organization needs in its next senior executive hire. 

For example, before your team reaches out to potential candidates or actively sourcing talent for an open role, they’ll need to answer questions like: 

  • What challenge or problem will this senior executive help us solve? 
  • What level of experience does the executive need in order to be successful?
  • Do we need a seasoned candidate with experience scaling rapidly growing companies?
  • How many people will this role oversee, and what level of hiring responsibility will they have?
  • Do we have one or more internal employees who could be a fit for this open exec role?

Keep in mind that, when you hire for senior executive roles, you must align every stakeholder involved in your hiring process to the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of the role—this goes for hiring from within, too. 

hire for senior executive roles

Define the leadership role(s) you’re hiring for

Sourcing and recruiting, then interviewing a candidate for a senior executive role is one thing, but actually defining that role is quite another. And, really, your team can’t hire for such a role without knowing what and who you’re hiring for. 

This ties back to your market map and hiring plan, however, when defining a role, you’re answering specific questions about the role, how it will function in your organization, and the long-term goals you have for the role. 

Knowing this, you can break down defining a leadership role into 3 aspects: 

  1. Organizational stage: Most companies experience growth at various stages, where one or two quarters will see staggered growth whereas others will focus on consolidation. If you’re growing, you’ll want growth-focused and experienced execs, while other companies may require someone who can help them build the foundations of their organization. Where does your next senior executive role fall?
  2. Short versus long-term goals: What goals does your company have that a new senior executive or leader can help you solve? For one company, this could be a seed round, but for another, it could be expanding to several more locations or pivoting by producing a new product for a new vertical. 
  3. Internal and external challenges: Between a pandemic, changing market conditions, political landscapes, and more, there are many internal and external challenges that force your organization to hire leaders that help with change management. 

Of course, there is a myriad of other factors that will influence how you define a senior executive role—knowing how the role must function to drive your business forward will help your hiring team recruit the right senior executives. 

Work on your talent pipeline strategy 

As a talent acquisition pro, you know how long recruiting can take when hiring people into senior executive roles. There are more stakeholders involved, several steps to the sourcing and interviewing process, and multiple rounds of approvals before you can extend that offer of employment. 

But what this really means is that your hiring team needs to recruit these roles early on—not just when you’re in desperate need of replacing a senior exec. 

This is where your talent pipeline strategy comes in. 

What is a talent pipeline strategy?

A talent pipeline gives your company access to a consistent source of qualified talent that you may want to hire in the future—whether in place of employees that have left your organization or when new roles and opportunities emerge. 

You can think of a talent pipeline as a pool of candidates you have vetted in the past or who have communicated with your company before. By keeping this pipeline consistently full of qualified talent, your recruiting team can make more effective (and faster) hiring decisions. 

A talent pipeline strategy comprises the tactics your hiring team uses to build a repository of qualified candidates you can source from for current and/or future roles. In other words, it’s the process your team goes through to source, attract, and recruit talent so you have a wealth of candidates on hand. 

When you hire for senior executive roles, it’s important that your talent pipeline strategy considers the following:

  • How you’re nurturing relationships with candidates—Do you stay in touch with past applicants; do recruiters focus on building their networks; do you leverage referrals; do you make past applicants aware of new roles? 
  • What internal mobility looks like in your organization—Whether you have an existing internal mobility program or you’re working on one, sourcing internal candidates for a senior exec role will require a different process versus sourcing externally. 
  • The data your hiring team uses when recruiting for senior executive roles—Your team can leverage recruiting data and HR analytics to better understand the gaps that need to be filled when hiring for senior executive positions while looking for opportunities to expand upon the diversity of your senior leadership. 

Focus on nurturing candidate relationships

It’s tempting to post a role and let LinkedIn or another job board do the heavy lifting in attracting candidates, but relying on these tools alone won’t get the job done (no pun intended). 

Instead, recruiters should focus on doing their due diligence in nurturing candidate relationships by doing their own research. For example, using a third-party service to hire senior executives specifically, or sending LinkedIn InMail messages won’t allow you to do the research you need to perform in order to vet a senior exec. 

On the same hand, you can’t hope to attract these experienced professionals to your open roles if you have no intention of nurturing them. So, here are a few ways you can do your due diligence before you nurture a relationship with a candidate: 

  • Identify people in the candidate’s previous company(ies) and contact them. Ask them questions based on the candidate’s expertise, skills, and business intelligence—don’t rely just on culture fit questions, if at all. 
  • If the candidate is active on networking channels like LinkedIn, talk to people in their network and deep-dive into the content they share. Are they thought leaders or influences in your industry? Do people in their network have a positive view of their reputation? 
  • Ask your internal teams about the candidate, and whether they’ve heard of/interacted with them in the past. Maybe your CEO knows the candidate, your Marketing Manager has worked with them before, or the CFO has networked with them. 

Once you’ve researched the candidate, build a connection with them using personalized outreach. This requires you, as the recruiter, and your hiring manager to leverage things like personalized email communications or social media messaging (perhaps even SMS, with consent). 

If you’re looking for resources to help you nurture relationships with top senior exec candidates, check out these blogs and actionable tips: 

Consider hiring from within using internal mobility

When an employee leaves an organization, it’s not only costly to replace them but their knowledge and expertise around your company, too. When an executive leaves, that loss can be tenfold, especially if they managed a large team. 

While hiring to replace a churned employee has its own price tag, ignoring the potential of existing employees to step into these roles can be expensive when they leave in favor of a company that will up-level them. Our own data had found that 41% of employees will ask for some sort of role change in 2022. 

That’s where leveraging an internal mobility program to hire from within can benefit both your organization and its existing employees. 

What is internal mobility?

Internal mobility refers to the movement of employees within an organization. An internal mobility strategy takes this a few steps further by implementing a process or framework for moving existing employees between roles, vertically and laterally.

For senior executive roles, internal mobility can help your team hire not just for skill, but for potential. Given how high churn rates can be for senior roles, not to mention the impact the Great Resignation has had on recruiting, it’s crucial you optimize your existing talent. 

Hiring from within is also an effective way for employees to upskill while contributing what they know about your organization to their work. 

How can you use internal mobility to hire senior executive roles from within?

To make the most of your teams while offering employees the opportunity to grow within your organization, consider leveraging these internal mobility practices when hiring for a senior role from within: 

  • Use data and insights from 1:1 meetings and performance reviews to determine whether an employee had the skills to be a high-forming contributor or a people leader. 
  • Pay close attention to what others have said about the employee—not just their manager. For example, do their direct reports and/or colleagues feel positive about their project management abilities? Have people performed better or produced better results when working with the employee? Does the employee consistently receive good feedback from others?
  • Consider the employee’s career trajectory, and what they’ve expressed interest in pursuing. If an employee has clarified that they want more leadership responsibilities or would like to move positions or departments, dive deeper into these conversations. 

While not every employee will want to move into a senior exec role, some may be prepared or ready to take on the challenge. And, even if they still have much to learn, these employees can be mentored and guided along their path to gaining a more senior position. 

However, recruiters and hiring managers should be careful not to hire an existing employee into an exec role based on culture fit. Doing so can cause a lack of diversity while stifling diversity of thought. Instead, your aim should be to bring the most qualified employee into a senior role based on factors like:

  • The employee’s performance and consistency 
  • Results and outcomes based on their work 
  • Demonstrated capability to lead and manage a team
  • How the employee approaches problem-solving and project management
  • The strategic insights the employee has (market, customer, sales, etc)
  • Whether the employee continuously builds their business intelligence (ex. industry knowledge, competitor awareness, subject matter expertise) 

Conduct effective and fair interviews to find the right candidate

You want to hire the best candidates for your senior executive roles, but how effective is your interview process in helping you achieve those recruiting outcomes? Structured interviewing has been shown to not only be more reliable but also more effective than traditional hiring, where interviews are unstructured. The crux of structured interviewing is putting a process in place that standardizes how you interview, in turn nurturing more equitable and productive hiring.

Our Structured Hiring 101 eGuide teaches you everything your hiring team needs to know about developing and implementing an effective structured hiring process so you can hire the right candidates and eliminate bias in your interviews!

hire for senior executive roles