Written by Douglas Rosen

Navigating a recruitment process is complex under any circumstance, much less a global pandemic. In the face of uncertainty, employers and candidates alike are forced to consider new risks.

As a retained search firm, we help companies recruit high-impact executives. These A-players are typically happy in their current roles, compensated well, and have a good career track. They have many opportunities, internally and externally.

In today’s environment, risk is a chief driver behind whether a candidate opts into a search process. Is the offer attractive enough to leave a good situation, where things are known? Is it enough to move to another role and company, where many things are unknown?

Both the offer and “what’s enough” is subjective, of course. There are various levers to consider: salary, increased responsibility, or perhaps equity. And often, more personal reasons, i.e. “My Aunt Suzie is from Scottsdale and I’ve always wanted to live there.”

As advisors between company and candidate, one of our responsibilities is removing unknowns for both parties. Now more than ever, objective conversations with candidates about their readiness to make a move are essential. Doing so will fast-track you to spend time with the right people. We are all presented with an opportunity to build closer, more authentic relationships based on a common lens: we are in this together.

To build your team, build agility into your search process in these three ways:

1. Expand your horizons.

Our current climate will likely mean top-performing candidates are more reticent to switch roles. Hiring managers, and the recruiters they partner with, may need to incorporate ‘stretch candidates’ into their candidate pool. Some ways to expand your horizons could be to look at industries one concentric circle outside of your direct competitors and talent at companies with best practices and transferable skillsets.

2. Acquire “A” players.

There is a real opportunity to pick up usually hard to get A-players. Certain segments will outperform others. Travel, hospitality, and entertainment are clearly taking a huge hit. There is likely an opportunity to acquire top finance, accounting, and HR talent. On the other hand, we are seeing a surge in demand across consumer goods, biotechnology, and telecommunications. Companies like Amazon, The Clorox Company, Campbell Soup Company, Gilead Sciences, Netflix, and Citrix Systems are ramping up and performing well. These well-positioned companies can meet customer needs by building out their teams with top talent otherwise unavailable.

3. Consider over-hires carefully.

In a rapidly evolving situation such as this, be careful of hiring executives who are “bigger” than required, even if you’re scaling. It’s too soon to predict the economic consequences and which of the three V-U-L scenarios will come to light. A V-shaped, rapid recovery would be amazing, but I would highly recommend planning for best-moderate-worst case scenarios. Think about what will happen when the market turns (and it will) and if you can retain your newly acquired talent.

Having led executive searches through two significant economic downturns (and in the midst of a third), I can aver that inaction is not an option. We must all do our part to keep the world working and step up to support our families at home and at work, be it colleagues, clients, candidates, or our community at large. To find your mission-critical talent, remain nimble, expand your horizons, and get crystal clear on your needs.

Our situation is only temporary. I know we will rebound stronger together. The deepest human connections are born though shared experiences and we all share this unprecedented moment in time. When it passes, I’d like to look back and be proud of how we rose to meet the times with courage, creativity, and action. And let’s temper this conversation with an acknowledegment for those leaning into dramatic risk: the frontline heroes providing health care, food, and essential services. A heartfelt thank you to you all!

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