Put Your Best Foot Forward

How You Conduct Your Executive Search Can Impact Your Brand

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The hiring process is a lot like dating-especially when you’re really interested in the other person. In an effort to make sure s/he likes you, you do everything you can to put your best foot forward. You arrive on time, are agreeable, go somewhere the other person likes, express the desire to get together again, and may be even send flowers or a note afterward.

Arriving late, standing-up your date, or rude or offensive behavior can result in that person sharing the experience with his/her friends and damaging your reputation. While most of us work hard to avoid this outcome in our dating lives, it is, unfortunately becoming common in the executive search world. All too often we see hiring companies making missteps during the hiring process , misstep that threaten to seriously damage their corporate brands and perceptions in the marketplace.

According to the annual “Civility in America” poll released in June 2011 by KRC Research, 65 percent of American feels that civility is a serious problem in our country. More than 43 percent report experiencing incivility and rudeness at work, and almost as high a percentage believe the workplace is becoming increasingly uncivil.

Respondents don’t just blame each other, however, they blame company leadership. Some 65 percent of those who feels incivility is growing in the workplace, lay the blame on their bosses, while 59 percent blame themselves. This is not a good thing.

Many companies believe that branding their companies is strictly an external activity, a strategic blend of marketing and advertising activities designed to promote their product(s) and brand to their target audience. In reality, however, branding is influenced by everything your company does, including how you treat your employees, the working environment you foster, and even the hiring process itself.

Getting to know you

It can be extremely difficult to convince already employed executives to consider making a job change. Whether they are happy in their position or not, often they are secure and comfortable and are not always open to shaking things up. It may take some persuasion from the executive search firm to convince a candidate that s/he should explore a new opportunity. Once the candidate has decided to step into the ring, it is important that the hiring company remembers, as with everything in life, first impressions matter.

It’s crucial to set aside certain dates and times for interviews and stick to them. When you postpone or reschedule an interview with a prospect, you send the message that the candidate’s time is not as valuable as your company doesn’t have its act together. And you send the message that your “real” brand is nothing like the brand that you are touting to the market.

Wait until word of that gets around. And get around it will, if you make a habit of blowing off top executives, no matter what their industry.

On top of that, the executive may well lose interest in the opportunity. When professionalism and etiquette take a backseat to emails and other obligations, such obvious lack of consideration will very likely affect the rest of the interview process.

A candidate wants to be wowed and wooed by what you have to offer. S/he needs to be motivated into action by a full-scale interview process that addresses all of his/her aversion or concerns. It is important that you quickly discern what’s important to the candidate and address those issues during the process. For example, if the candidate is interested in career progression, arrange a conversion with a senior employee or executive.

A savvy candidate will utilize the interview process as a window onto your business – an opportunity to see how you operate, your policies and procedures, your culture, and the manner in which the employees are treated. Take the candidate on a company tour and allow him/her to speak with some of your employees. If this idea feels foreign to you, take some time to consider what you’re trying to hide – and why.

The candidate should leave your organization with a solid understanding of the position’s requirements, your company’s culture, what the next steps are, and a timeline for when a decision will be made.

You’re just not that into him/her

After the interview, it is important to keep the candidate apprised of where you are in the hiring process. If too much time passes without contact from you, the candidate may think that you are not interested in him/her. This lack of contact sends such a negative message it can actually cause the candidate to view your open position and company from a negative point of view and refocus on the benefits of staying put. By the time, finally you contact the candidate again, s/he may well have decided against making a change. Even if you’re not interested in the prospect, you’re doing damage to your reputation and brand by not keeping the candidate informed.

Whether you offer the job to the candidate or not, keep in mind that you may end up doing business with that person somewhere down the road. Never doubt for a moment that the candidate will remember how s/he was treated by your company. Therefore, be sure to handle all interactions with grace, courtesy, respect and sincere appreciation for that person’s consideration of your company.

The executive search process should be fulfilling for both parties. The ability to view the situation from the candidate’s perspective can be a powerful tool during the executive search – and can help ensure the process flows smoothly as you seek your ideal hire. Minding your manners and putting your best foot forward will help ensure your company’s brand will shine throughout the search and long after it is done.