We work with a wide range of private equity and venture capital clients and have a privileged opportunity to see how different firms approach recruitment. Each firm has its own way of running a process with varying degrees of effectiveness. Our checklist of best practice ideas is a synthesis of what we have seen work well in identifying the best candidate through a process where time and people are scarce internal resources.
Plan well in advance.
A typical process lasts at least three months and can take much longer than this, especially at more senior levels. If it is important for certain people to interview candidates, block out specific dates for this in their calendar. Deals can always get busy at unexpected times but where possible avoid interview dates clashing with major conferences and exhibitions in your city or peak holiday periods which may affect availability of both candidates and interviewers and also the cost of candidate flights and hotels.
Be as specific as you can about your search.
Ideally draw up a detailed job description to define both the tasks to be performed and the preferred candidate background. In particular, the better you can articulate your own firm’s culture and personality, the more effective the process will be, since ultimately technical and commercial skills will get good candidates the interview but ‘fit’ will get the right person the job.
Think about the right number of candidates for you to meet.
Opinions vary on this with some firms wanting to see a sample to benchmark, others who hire more regularly, usually know exactly what they want and will limit interviewing to candidates with a 100% match.
Consider giving your recruiter a specific set of case studies to screen candidates for you.
The right recruiter should have the commercial experience to test these effectively themselves before your own interviews.
Discuss key parameters such as compensation and track record with your recruitment partner before meeting candidates so that you have a proper understanding of the level of experience available, and the associated costs and depth of the candidate pool. By all means vary your criteria in response to the people you meet, but avoid starting a process with a set of targets that practically cannot be delivered.
Engage properly with the recruiter throughout the process.
Ideally get senior team members to make time to express exactly what they want in setting the criteria. The decision makers should know what they want and in our view the best results come when they give the instructions directly to the recruitment firm. If you have been vague or indirect in your instructions, don’t be surprised if your shortlist has varying standards – it is like trying to hit a moving target. This engagement is especially important at the feedback stage, after you have met candidates, to express what you liked, what you need to test further in later rounds and also to identify aspects you did not like, so that a sharper focus is ensured for the ongoing process.
Use your recruitment partner to flush out concerns or potential obstacles and to manage candidate expectations.
In particular, understanding any issues around compensation and timing of joining as early on the process as possible will enhance the likelihood of securing the right candidate.
An open dialogue and a commitment to the process makes for a successful recruitment.
Committing to the recruitment process, meeting the interview timetable and maintaining the momentum of the process considerably enhances the chances of succeeding.
Don’t leave the offer process to chance.
A slick process from verbal offer to written contract is crucial in securing the chosen candidate. You may well be competing for the candidate and all the good work to date can be lost if this stage is inefficient.
After the offer – involve the candidate.
Keep your chosen new hire engaged with meetings, dinners and as much involvement with you as possible that doesn’t result in conflicts. They should maintain the good feeling they had after your slick offer process and be ready to go on the day they start.
Your recruiter can guide you through all the steps. A bit of planning at the beginning can prevent a scramble at the end and minimise your own commitment of time and energy ensuring a pleasant and productive experience.