How to be a More Effective Leader When Hiring Talent

The recruiting industry has been talking about the War for Talent for years, and there are some recent signs that indicate we should be paying more attention to this issue – and sooner, rather than later. As noted in Forbes, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in November 2016, and in May 2017 it dropped even further to 4.3 percent – the lowest jobless rate since August 2007. Additionally, LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends in 2016 reports that 59 percent of companies are investing more in their employer brand compared to last year.


As we continue to hire new talent, the competition is nipping at our heels. It’s not uncommon now to speak with an executive who has received several offers simultaneously. Given the increasingly competitive search environment, having a recruiting strategy in place before you need to hire a new team member is a critical step to attracting the talent you need. Here are some steps you should consider:


Clarify Your Needs and Wants

Work closely with your human resources colleagues to ensure you have a job description that clearly outlines the responsibilities and priorities of the role as well as the qualifications and experience needed. What goals should they be able to accomplish in the next six to 12 months, as well as in the long term? What skill sets and experiences should they possess to be successful in both the specific role and general business environment? In addition, the description must be compelling. This document will be candidates’ first impression of the potential job opportunity with your company, and you want to make sure candidates are eager to learn more.


Prepare for the Interview

Read over the candidate’s credentials thoroughly in advance of the interview. Map out what competencies you want to probe and learn more about. Create an interviewing environment that is warm, friendly, intelligent and conversational. If you make the person feel comfortable, they will most likely reveal more about themselves. Preparing before the interview makes you more effective, and the candidate will be impressed with your thoroughness. Have you ever interviewed with someone and were convinced they never saw your resume? What kind of impression were you left with as a result?


Be Responsive and Act with a Sense of Urgency

Good candidates are in high demand, so you need to act swiftly. Streamline the hiring process and make sure it’s efficient. Do they really need to come back a third time? If there is time between the interviews, pick up the phone and engage them. Candidates like to be “wooed” as much as you do, and staying in touch may help them remain interested throughout the process. On the other hand, taking a long time to reach a decision can be concerning to the candidate. They may end up questioning if this reflects how long it takes your organization to make decisions as a whole. Will they become frustrated in this environment?  Being decisive can be the difference!



Don’t think your job is done once they accept the role. Keep engaging them in conversation.  Create a welcoming environment. Be available to them and give them every opportunity to succeed. Setting the stage and tone in the beginning will help put them on a positive path with the company. It takes time, persistence and a positive attitude, but it can be instrumental in retaining a newly hired, talented employee.

Putting the “Service” in Customer Service:
4 tips to create an exemplary customer experience

Imagine this: you’re sitting at your favorite restaurant waiting excitedly for your meal, when suddenly, your server tosses your food carelessly onto the table, refusing to make eye contact with you. Before long, you’re marooned with an empty coffee cup, thinking about how Tom Hanks felt more connected to humanity in Castaway than you do in this very moment.


We’ve all been there at some point. Unfortunately, these experiences with non-exemplary customer service often lead people to create inaccurate, negative generalizations of an entire industry. The recruiting industry is no exception to this. Despite the many brilliant professionals who are always “on the ball,” a few bad apples can spoil the barrel for many job candidates and employers seeking help from search firms.


Those professionals who don’t strive to provide outstanding customer service are missing an opportunity to create lasting relationships that will further the interests of both their companies and clients. Over the years, I have developed a few key customer service principles that I use during every interaction I have throughput the day. Here are a few:


  • Become a subject matter expert. Sharing your specific knowledge in a meaningful way can help create positive experiences for your customers. Whether you are talking with a prospective client or attempting to solve a problem within your own organization, researching topics like current trends or emerging issues in your industry will develop a more memorable dialogue.


  • Go the extra mile for your clients. Having an “above and beyond” mentality truly goes a long way. However, this is not to say that you should over promise to those who depend on your services. Instead, show that you’re invested in the relationship by being the one to initiate follow-up calls, or remembering specific details from your conversations with them.


  • Do your research. As you prepare for any conversation, do your homework to add warmth and sincerity to your interaction.


  • Develop the mission-driven nature of your work. For example, if you work in retail, don’t think of your job as a sales associate as a purely transactional role. Remember that you’re providing a service that enriches the lives of others by helping them receive the goods and services that they desire. Knowing that your work makes a difference for your clients is a great way to stay energized and focus on completing the project or task at hand.


To quote our very own Sally Stetson in one of her most recent blog posts – “the most effective searches we conduct are with clients we’ve formed a close partnership with over time.”  To build those partnerships, it begins by applying these principles and holding our team accountable to the highest quality of service. Whatever your role is within your organization, following these steps will only enhance your interactions with people who are counting on you and your expertise.

It Takes Two: Tips for Clients and Search Firms to Build an Effective Relationship

When clients retain us to conduct an executive search assignment, they usually have a definitive sense of who they want to hire. Typically, the position has been open for some time, it’s a critical role for the organization, and the client is feeling frustration and a sense of urgency. Time is of the essence, but they also want to ensure they hire a highly qualified candidate and avoid a missed opportunity.


We’ve worked with many clients over the last 20 years and seen some of the same patterns in searches across varying industries. Based upon our experience, I’ve highlighted a few suggestions that may help organizations maximize their experiences with search firms:


  • Role Clarity: Take the time up front to gather as much information on the position’s responsibilities, key objectives and priorities, and create an overview of the team reporting to the role. This insight helps the search consultant be more efficient when launching the search.
  • Key Stakeholder Access: The search consultants should have a series of conversations with whoever manages the specific role, members of the team, and key internal clients. This information allows the search firm to learn more about the position and what type of person will be a good fit, as well as get a sense of the overall office culture. Additionally, it helps the client and consultant make sure they’re both on the same page.
  • Collateral Materials: Provide the search firm with background documents, such as an organization chart, company materials, news releases, etc. The search consultant will become an unofficial PR agent for your company, so the more information and perspective you provide them, the more effectively they’ll be able to “tell your story.”
  • Communication: The lack of communication and feedback from the client can be the most frustrating aspect of the search process. While we don’t need to talk to clients every day, having an ongoing dialogue is crucial for ensuring everyone is on the right track, identifying the right kind of candidates, and providing the feedback necessary to continuously engage and retain candidates. A significant lapse of time between interviews and feedback is a recipe for disaster – it disengages candidates quickly and leaves the impression that the client is not decisive or interested, and the search is not a priority.
  • Lend a Hand: Candidates hear from the search consultant regularly throughout the process. If there is a time lag due to scheduling issues, or if several candidates are in the queue to be interviewed, we recommend clients call candidates they are eager to retain in the meantime. “Showing them the love” goes a long way in spreading good will. It truly takes a village to reel in a good candidate.
  • Offer: It’s fairly common that the compensation package provided at the onset of the search is different than the offer that is actually extended. Unfortunately, some of our clients end up developing lower offers than what was stated in the beginning, leaving candidates feeling discouraged. The reason for this can be unclear; the client may not have had all the information at the beginning of the search, or they may have been too optimistic with their original plan for the salary range. Whatever the cause, the lack of transparency often frustrates candidates and pushes them to turn down the opportunity. We recommend giving some thoughtful, realistic consideration about all aspects of the offer when the search is launched. Having an upfront discussion with the search consultant can help prevent problems and surprises.


The most effective searches we conduct are with clients we’ve formed a close partnership with over time. We prefer to develop an open and honest relationship and share an ongoing dialogue that will allow us to identify a pool of candidates that closely matches their needs. We want to exceed our clients’ expectations and find those elusive “A-level” candidates who will make significant contributions. The only way we can achieve this goal is to work together as true partners.

I Call Shotgun!

I had a twenty-something professional colleague give me an eye roll the other day that led me to a question of insidious intent, “Is it time to start thinking about hanging it up?”


It’s only been within the last few years that professionals who are my kids’ age started joining the workforce en masse. They are fearless, fun, and frustrating. Fearless in that they haven’t had a chance to experience any true failure yet, so they’re willing to try anything. Fun in that everything is new to them, and they have an enthusiasm that is refreshing and infectious. Frustrating in that while they’re smart, they’re not yet wise, and sometimes don’t understand the difference.


It’s been a challenge for me to adjust, as I am sure it has been for every 51-year-old that has come before me in the past 100 years. How do I treat these people? How do I swallow my own biases and pride enough to learn from them? How do I teach them without appearing condescending? How will I know when I should slide over to the passenger’s side and let one of them drive? How do I accept that they have a different approach to work? These are not rhetorical questions, people! There’s a comments section for a reason!


This is not a piece about Millennials as a group. Rather, it’s about one aging GenXr trying to find his place in the world as his recall and his knees begin to fail him. The short answer, for me at least, is to focus on how I have to work differently with them instead of how they’re different from me as a whole. Honestly, they’re different because they’re young, not because they’re digital natives. I was different when I was young too, much in the same way they are. A quick aside: thanks to my (considerably) older partners for putting up with me when I was an insufferable 27-year-old.


So, here are a few strategies I’m going to employ to be a better multi-generational colleague:


  • Listen more. This is never a bad thing in any situation.
  • Check my privilege. I’m not automatically wise just because I’m old(er).
  • Encourage debate. I have to stop telling people what to do (although, if I’m honest, I could’ve given myself that advice 30 years ago, too.)
  • Give actionable feedback. It’s ok to make a puppy sad if it benefits them in the end.
  • Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables.


For those of you in my age bracket, it’s more about us than it is about them. Stop complaining and start adjusting to the inevitable approach of your doom. For you Millennials, the next time a fifty-something calls a meme a “may-may”, cut them some slack.

How to Get Noticed by Executive Search Firms

John Touey shares a few tips to help candidates get noticed by executive search firms and get on a recruiter’s radar.

Watch it here:

Vlog – Common Interview Mistakes

Sally Stetson, Denise Christman, John Touey and Donna DeHart discuss common interview mistakes and give suggestions on making a good impression and successfully marketing yourself to prospective employers.

Watch it here:

Vlog – Make Sure the Internal Candidate is Qualified

In this episode of SSG’s ongoing vlog series on topics of interest regarding executive search and recruitment, Sally Stetson provides some insight on our process for including internal candidates in a search assignment.

Watch it here:


Vlog – Job Searching in 2017

In this episode of SSG’s ongoing vlog series on topics of interest regarding executive search and recruitment, John Touey gives advice on entering the job market in 2017 Click the link:
Vlog Series – Job Searching in 2017

Vlog – Most Efficient Interview Questions For Executives

In this vlog, John Salveson, Jennifer Prefontaine, Dom Scafidi, Mike MacNamara and Tammy Townes give their thoughts on interviewing candidates and asking the best questions to get the answers they need.  Click the link: 
Vlog Series – Most Efficient Interview Questions for Executives

Unintended Consequences

The life sciences sector has continuously been one of our most robust practice areas at Salveson Stetson Group. We regularly perform searches for pharmaceutical and bio tech companies of all sizes to help them find their newest executives. Although we normally work with these organizations to recruit talent across multiple functions, there’s one specific group of people on my mind today: scientific and research professionals.


I have always described the research and development professionals we recruit as “citizens of the world.” They are highly degreed, often holding both Ph.D. and M.D. degrees, and usually have been employed and educated in several countries. While we may find these people in different places across the globe, they are all connected through the common goal of identifying new therapies for various diseases. Their conferences may look like United Nations meetings, but their focus is not on where they were born or educated; it is on treating one of hundreds of diseases that still baffle and torment the human race.


Through our work in the life sciences sector, we’ve collaborated closely with these exceptional people for many years and have formed great relationships. However, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a change in their spirits that we’ve never experienced before. They have become cautious – even fearful – about joining an American company. When discussing relocation, they show even more hesitation. The reason for their concern is obvious; the announcement of our new President’s travel ban from a handful of largely Muslim countries.


The fact is, none of these candidates come from the countries affected by the ban. And certainly, none of them have any history of dangerous behavior. They are accustomed to traveling the world freely, and that will most likely not change. What is different for them, however, is the growing chaos and confusion caused by President Trump’s unpredictable changes to U.S. immigration policy.


Think about it from the candidate’s perspective. When going through the search process, we are asking them to make a major career change, often requiring them to uproot their family. They then see the conflicting and concerning messages coming out of Washington D.C., and quickly decide that there is far too much risk involved in such a move.


It’s still too early to cite this as a trend, but I must say I was shocked by how quickly and definitively these people reacted to the uncertainty of our political landscape. I’m sure the travel ban wasn’t designed to slow down research on insidious diseases. But, my experience over the past few weeks makes me think it’s entirely possible that this will be one of the unintended consequences of this ill-conceived and short-sighted immigration ban.


I wonder what other harmful repercussions await us?