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Posted almost 2 years ago by James Taylor


This is an obvious statement but an important one nonetheless - recruiting to Senior Management/Board positions is different from acquiring lesser qualified staff.  They present different challenges, one is no easier than the other… in fact they’re both difficult – that’s why the recruitment industry exists after all.

I believe (and experience suggests) that the more senior the vacancy, the more boxes our customers are likely to want ticked by the successful candidate.   Hiring managers become more selective, more risk-averse and have a tendency to procrastinate. Hiring at an executive and senior management level is about reviewing your businesses overarching goals, rather than focussing on short-term operational needs and tactical tasks that need completing.



Many businesses get it wrong at the start – mainly because too many decision makers want to have their say.  So it is essential that you decide on the type of person you need and ensure that all key internal stakeholders, such as fellow board members, agree on the job and person specification. Make a written statement of intent and apportion tasks, including:

  • Draw up a detailed job spec and agree it with the internal team.
  • Most importantly agree on a person specification as personality type and behavioural preferences are super critical to success – don’t just hire someone who is the same as you, you need different personality types to create a balanced team.
  • Understand what you need (to help take your business to the next level) as opposed to what you want right now to ease stress or tick an operational box. 
  • Decide on your interview methodology and make sure you have answers to the following questions: 
    • would an external expert on the panel help?
    • should you use a psychometric assessment tool?
    • how many stages are there to the process?
    • do you want to include a candidate case study or presentation?
  • Publicise your opportunity – be innovative with the way that you market the vacancy to help you, as an Employer Brand, to stand out from the crowd.
  • Decide which search consultant you will use.  (We’re great by the way and won’t cost as much as a London based headhunter).
  • Hire someone who lives close enough to the main place of work as this de-risks the appointment considerably.  Starting a new job is stressful enough without having to move house and negotiate the kids changing schools.
  • Make sure you know who is going to take the lead on due diligence and reference checking.

This is a brief selection of elements from a long list needed to ensure success, and every case will have it’s own nuances. Sitting down and planning each individual staff member’s role in the campaign will save time and help avoid damaging oversights.


'Identifying top talent is easier than it once was due to the emergence of LinkedIn.'


The ‘dark art’ of headhunting is now seen in a new light. Much of the research done ahead of a headhunting campaign is carried out on the social media channel. From our experience, roughly 80 percent of hires at executive level should come through utilising your own professional network. 

Last year, a local based HR Director called me to recruit a Finance Director for their business as they had spotted that I was connected on LinkedIn to every potential candidate that appealed to them. That particular business didn’t have the time to make the phone calls and realised quickly that emailing via LinkedIn really doesn’t work as well as pro-actively speaking to people.



In fact, sending an email to a prospect you’ve come across on LinkedIn is likely to get lost in the excessive ‘noise’ of the internet – it is essential to pick up the phone, sell the opportunity and bring your brand and Employee Value Proposition to life. This is why most businesses engage with us here at Macildowie. The process of identifying and then communicating with the best candidates in the market can take a lot of time, especially when the majority aren’t actively looking for a new job – you have to work hard to nurture and entice the best people.


A word of caution now…

Beware if you choose to advertise a senior vacancy, you could receive hundreds of applications.

A number of these candidates will often ‘fit the bill’, creating work in sifting through applications and talking to ‘possibles’ before drawing up a shortlist. It’s important to consider candidate experience and ensure that they hear from you and gain feedback, especially if you’re a B2C or “business to consumer business” and the people applying for your job are also potential customers.  This is an aspect of senior recruitment that is often overlooked and it can be brand damaging.



When we work with you on a senior assignment, we put together a fully branded experience questionnaire which has become the best “initial” sifting mechanism if you choose to advertise the position.  As well as protecting your employer brand by ensuring every application receives a response (from you), it also puts the onus back on the candidate to bring their own experience to life for the specific role applied for.  Hiring Managers love it and candidates believe it gives them a great opportunity to “sell” themselves in order to secure an interview.

We utilise this methodology to move from a “long-list” to a medium list.  We meet the medium-list of between 8-12 candidates face to face and then advise you on who to meet.

After narrowing the field in this way, we help you to agree on the methodology to underpin your interview process, in order to ascertain each candidate’s commercial and strategic acumen.



We will also benchmark competitors to understand how your salary and remuneration package compares. If you want the best you need to work out a suitable reward strategy, including:

  • A car (or car allowance)
  • ‘Super’ bonus for high achievement
  • Long term incentive plans for creating strategic value
  • Increased company pension contributions
  • Private healthcare
  • 30 days holiday


'Around 30 percent of managers and executives leave their new job within 18 months of starting.'


Identifying future leaders from within and succession planning can negate the need to look beyond your own organisation. However, if you do recruit externally, make sure the job lives up to expectations and you have spent both time and money on a quality on-boarding strategy.  You simply must give the new person a chance to succeed and fully engage them from day one. 


If you would like to talk to James about your business or about your plans to hire at Board Level please call him directly on 07887 754805.