Looking for a TA career change but not too sure how to get there? Our ‘So you wanna be a…‘ series of articles takes a look at some of the more niche TA roles and digs deep into the who, how, and why behind them. Our resident editor Jody Smith will chat with some of your favourite TA leaders in that space to find out how they got started, what their role really looks like, and what tips and tricks they have for other TA superstars looking to get a foot in the door.
In this issue, Jody sat down with Andy Steeds, Associate Director, APAC Executive Talent Acquisition @ EY to find out what really goes on in the life of an exec recruiter.
How did you end up in Exec Recruiting?
I transferred internally at a previous employer from the Experienced Hire recruitment team into the Executive Recruiting function. Making the transition in this way (internally within a business) was important as the stakes were immediately higher, so knowing the ecosystem and landscape by switching internally was super beneficial. Prior to this though I had worked across all levels in both agency and in-house.
What do you love about working in the exec recruitment space?
Personally I love the impact my role has when it comes to some of the larger business decisions; not that other recruitment roles don’t though just to be clear! But I certainly feel more involved in a lot more of the ‘longer-term/bigger picture,’ decision-making processes and being able to advise and influence on a more strategic level.
Tell us a bit about the hiring process. How is hiring for a an executive different to other types of recruitment?
So most of my time in Exec Recruitment has been spent in Management Consulting, which effectively means sourcing and hiring Professional Services Partners. This can range massively from role to role in terms of skill set, as the scope of Big 4 Consulting is quite broad. One day could see me hunting for a Digital Transformation leader in South East Asia, the next could be sourcing a Cybersecurity domain expert in Australia/New Zealand – the variety helps to keep it interesting!
To be honest, where and how I find prospective candidates doesn’t differ massively from the methodology at more junior levels (however remove ‘advertising’ as a source). Recruitment at this level in my industry is done mainly through extensive market talent mapping, headhunting and tapping into the external networks of senior leaders at EY.
Competitor mapping and analysis is a big part of it; but to take it a step further requires me to be extremely well networked and connected across competitors + other organisations where there would be a natural affinity to moving into a Partner level role.
I’d say some of the main differences [between hiring for an exec role verses a specialist candidate role] centre around trying to identify someone who is that ‘complete package’ as much possible. A Partner in a consulting firm is required to function well on all fronts in the same way one might expect a successful public company CEO to operate. Alignment to an organisation’s value framework is also massive; so for EY we are continually assessing alignment to our purpose of Building a Better Working World at the executive level especially.
Do I treat exec candidates differently? Good question! I think I’d be lying if I said ‘no, exec candidates are treated the same as junior candidates from start to finish.’ In some respects absolutely I do; clear communication, transparency, regular updates/responsiveness, empathy…all these things I would say are an absolute minimum standard when it comes to candidate experience regardless of level.
However, you wouldn’t find us inviting 50 Partner candidates to all come in at once for an assessment centre in the same way you would for graduate roles as an example. The nature of the role and the degree of assessment required does necessitate a high degree of tact, discretion and flexibility when it comes to the process as a whole and how a candidate is managed from start to finish.
What types of qualities do you feel make a good executive recruiter?
It definitely requires an ability to balance out patience with urgency. Sometimes processes can feel very drawn out, but at times this is unavoidable when you are dealing with individuals who haven’t been contemplating moving roles, longer executive notice periods and a whole heap of ‘golden handcuffs’ that can make transitioning businesses a much more challenging process at the executive level. The key is being able to manage expectations effectively, but still acting with a sense of urgency and challenging yourself (and your stakeholders) to think outside the box at every step of the way.
You only get one shot at the first approach or conversation as well when it comes to headhunting, so it requires persistence to get there in the first place. You also need to be very well prepared/researched in order to ensure you give yourself the best possible chance of engaging with a top-tier senior candidate.
Any ‘tips for success’ you can share with aspiring exec recruiters?
If people are aspiring to move into an Executive Recruitment role, I would say there are probably 2 primary routes into it. One would be the path I took, which was transferring internally within a business from an experienced hire role. The other would be making the ‘switch’ from agency to in-house; but doing this from a position of already being in executive recruitment with an agency/search firm.
To be clear, it’s entirely possible to get into internal exec recruitment from other paths and any hiring manager worth their salt will absolutely be open to considering recruitment candidates from other backgrounds! I just think that when the landscape for these sorts of positions is so competitive, it is going to be these lines of experience that an Exec Recruiting Team Leader will ideally be looking for.
Andy’s Cheat Sheet for Aspiring Exec Recruiters
What are some of the actionable things you can do if you want to be an exec recruiter? Here’s some suggestions from Andy of who to follow, what to use, and where to seek out your info.
Industry experts and influencers to follow
Mike Bertolino is a great one to follow regardless of where you work in the Talent world; he leads EY’s People Advisory Services globally and his work and thought leadership is very leading edge and insightful.
Aside from these, my focus would be more on DE&I when it comes to insight on socials. I would also recommend following any channels regarding diversity at the leadership level; The Female Lead is a good one, or check out some of these Australian Indigenous voices to follow on LinkedIn to get some great insight into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional community.
Absolute must-use productivity and tech tools to make your life so much easier
In terms of productivity, things like Trello or any Kanban Board application is amazing for helping to organise yourself and others; after being introduced to it in 2017 I don’t know how I’d live without it now.
Not solely recruitment focused, but I’d also say that the use of something like DocuSign is massively important too when it comes to anything contractual…without an effective application for secure virtual signing you open up a whole heap of challenges that can delay offer processes.
The recruitment tech stack is becoming increasingly overcrowded, and the right tools and software depend entirely on the organisation and what specific problems you are trying to solve. Hit me up if you want to chat more about tech solutions in recruitment as I’d love to share ideas with anyone who has a specific challenge
Newsletter recommendations to keep the brain ticking over and your network fresh
(Shameless company plug coming up here…)
Aside from those social media resources mentioned above – also check out EY’s People and Workforce insights and resources People and workforce | EY Australia . Recruitment is a core function of any Talent/HR division, and so taking the time to expand your thinking across the full people agenda and seeking out ways to be agile as a Talent professional is really critical
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