Sep 22, 2022

What Do Executive Recruiters Look For In A Candidate? 

When executive recruiters choose a candidate–who exactly are they looking for?  How can I get on an executive recruiter’s shortlist? These are questions we get asked often at Lancor. The truth is most search firms fill an opening with a cookie cutter approach where they simply source their candidates from the hiring company’s top competitors.  We feel that this approach doesn’t always lead to finding the best fit for a company’s transformative growth.

At Lancor, we don’t take that simplistic approach, nor do we simply focus exclusively on exceptional resumes with Fortune 500 firms or Ivy League degrees (a common myth). In fact, if you look at the top PE returns, the portfolio executives often did not go to Ivy League schools. So how do we distinguish candidates from each other?

We focus on first helping to develop an investment thesis by collaborating with operating executives with firsthand experience in the asset, it competitors or in the specific industry sub-sector.  This helps us examine exactly what transformative actions have been tried (or could have been tried with hindsight)– and then craft a plan to leverage this information.  We look for people who have the specific skills that will drive these changes, regardless of their industry. Then as we interview and connect with talent, we look for the more subtle characteristics that will result in the right match. In my experience, the hard skills are just beginning. They are essential, but the following five differentiators are key indicators of success in a C-Suite role. 

HUMILITY: We are always looking for smart executives, but there is a fine line. Too many successful people are convinced that they are the smartest in the room and their leadership style can tune out other viewpoints. That mentality doesn’t play out well long term. The strongest C-Suite executives value and implement other opinions and strategies. Having the humility to know that your opinion isn’t the only one that matters creates a better work culture for the firm overall. There is proof that diversity of opinion and background can be a driver of success in business. 

INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY: What are you reading? What was the last class you took? What are you trying to get better at? All of these questions reveal a curious and actively engaged mind. Outside of having strong technical capabilities, people who are always and actively learning and soaking up new information, provide a fresh and current perspective. Particularly now when the world is changing so rapidly, those candidates who are expanding their knowledge base consistently are ones we want on our short list. 

CULTURAL FIT: When we work with a firm to fill an opening, we focus on what type of person would be the best fit for each firm’s goals.  Do they need a hard charging individual or someone who is more analytical? Would someone who likes to work collaboratively be the right match? Are they looking for someone to play off a challenging personality on the C-Suite team? So much of what makes someone the right match for a company goes beyond their experience and the fact that they can do the work. It is also about who is going to work best with the team in place and fit in with the company culture. 

LEADERSHIP MENTALITY: Do you think like a principal or owner? That’s something that is often overlooked by executive recruiters. Some people are simply more comfortable having others lead and they are best in a supportive role.   A servant leadership approach can often be the key to unlocking value.  Others want to take charge, solve problems, and do things differently.  Leadership has many different definitions but inspiring the team is a common thread.

VISION: Every firm needs a visionary leader, but they are not easy to find.  Through the Lancor Advisory Business (“LAB”), we like to talk to executives who can see specific value in assets coming to market.  We can shape this plan with over 13,000 assets that are coming to market and help an executive highlight specific opportunities and market trends with specific assets to “prove” an ability to drive returns – not just talk about historic successes.  This shows us how they think, what risks they are willing to take, and what they would do if they were in a leadership role.