Recruiting upper-level management in the age of Covid-19

      Originally published in the Puget Sound Business Journal – Seattle, WA

      Shawn Cole is President and Co-Founder of Cowen Partners Executive Search.

      Although the country has experienced higher unemployment rates than those of the Great Depression and the great recession, unemployment rates for senior-level executives have remained low amid Covid-19. Why? Because the value of strong leadership, innovative problem-solving and a wealth of technical knowledge has never been higher.

      Employees crave unified management to redefine and reignite commerce, save the bottom line and cultivate a sense of renewed longevity and stability in the marketplace.

      Identifying and bringing the right people to the table has become a much more ambiguous process, though. In the midst of a public health crisis, the hiring process has changed drastically.

      Here are four pillars of a results-driven, adaptable and successful hiring process in a post-Covid-19 economy.

      1. Invest in recruitment.

      Active recruiting efforts remain paramount in hiring strategies. Leveraging upper-level management hires to alleviate company-specific pain points is one of the most effective Covid-19 recovery strategies. Doing so successfully entails a level of precision.

      The time to reexamine long term company plans, goals and management is now. Post-pandemic conditions have left companies with vastly different needs, strategic approaches and priorities than they had before. The key to setting organizations up for success and establishing strong, cohesive upper-level management will be identifying and recruiting specific executives who have the skills and qualities necessary to fulfill such radically changed and evolving company needs.

      2. Develop a consistent, structured hiring process.

      Filling positions based on company culture has long been considered an ineffective and obsolete method of hiring, particularly with high-level executive positions. In a pre-Covid-19 recruitment climate, though, impressions of candidates made during in-person meetings and interviews undoubtedly contributed to the final decision. In a digitally driven world, however, in-person communication has been reduced to almost nothing.

      To make informed, successful hires, approach hiring in a clinical, consistent and precise format. Understand the nuances and responsibilities of a position and how those responsibilities contribute to the areas within company operations that need the most innovation. Utilize that information to create interview guides and candidate scorecards that align with the specific needs and constraints of the position in question.

      3. Live by the 10/5/2 method.

      At our company, we use the 10/5/2 philosophy that outlines an interview process for all upper-level management and executive positions. Narrow the pool of candidates down to 10 qualified and vetted contenders, at minimum. Then, conduct five phone screens, hold two finalist interviews with team members and conclude the search with one offer.

      This is one hiring strategy that can and should be applied to all executive searches as it fosters precision and diversity throughout the hiring process. It will also reinforce the objectivity and informed evaluations established throughout the development of your company’s hiring structure.

      In such an uncertain economy, there is no doubt that results-oriented organizations will be the ones to thrive.

      4. Prioritize the candidate experience.

      Hiring and onboarding top executives in a post-pandemic economic landscape demands that the recruitment process prioritize the candidate experience. Many companies have struggled to navigate hiring upper-level management virtually — a risky and highly unusual proposition at best — or conducting in-person interviews with their final candidates in a modified format.

      Covid-19 is unique in that there are hugely varying levels of discomfort surrounding its spread and select individuals are at much higher risk than others. Consider your current company operations and protocols when electing to hold in-person or virtual interviews. To prevent bias, only move forward with in-person interviews if all candidates agree to meet in person. Implement safety protocols into the experience: masks, sanitizer and spaces with appropriate social distancing guidelines.

      Establishing an open and transparent line of communication with candidates and considering their experience, safety and comfort throughout the interview process in a post-Covid era will be pivotal in finding the right hire.

      Check out our industry-leading retained search resources to see why Cowen Partners is a 5-star executive search firm in Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and beyond:

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