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Movieclips Monday: Recruiting “Top Gun” executives

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Posted by Jesse O'Hayon

January 16, 2012

Top Gun” is a movie that changed my world. Putting the political aspects of the film aside, as a kid I loved to watch elite naval aviators fly supersonic fighter jets and rattle off movie lines that would become iconic (mainly, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” and “You can be my wingman anytime!”).

Since “Top Gun” is a permanent fixture among my top three movies of all time, I couldn’t help but relate the movie to the experience of high-end executive recruiting in a Movieclips Mondays post.

When it comes to high-end executive searches, a recruiter must know as many aspects of the situation as possible. One must fully understand the industry and the marketplace: your client, its industry reputation, and corporate culture; the competitive landscape; your candidate (on many levels); and more.

Regarding the position to be filled, understanding the responsibilities, culture, and lifestyle are important. However, the recruiter must also be extremely familiar with the compensation. Salary and bonuses are first, but in high-end positions, the company’s benefits package, stock options, and their disposition (underwater, vested, NQSOs, ISOs, oh my!) can also make or break a deal. Recruiters should spend time with companies’ HR teams to understand these benefits in order to best answer candidates’ questions and address any potential gaps or foreseeable problems.

When a company’s decision makers want to make an executive hire, they tend to have a particular person in mind. Sometimes they have the name of a potential candidate that they would like you to pursue. Other times they know the exact role -- without a specific name -- of a candidate at an industry-related company who they would like to meet.

As the recruiter, you might be dealing with executives whose titles outweigh yours. Keep your confidence high. Remember that you are engaged in the search for a reason, and work to control as much of the deal as you can. Keep your confidence and enthusiasm elevated to help your initial dealings with a candidate start off well and to help you maintain control when the deal comes together at the end.

That being said, from the moment you make the first call to a potential candidate, the margin for error is very slim. The executive recruiting cycle is much longer than the traditional cycle and therefore increases the chances of miscommunication between recruiter and client or recruiter and candidate. Your word selection in emails, phone conversations, and in-person meetings is weighted heavily, and one significant slip can break a deal.

The candidate pool for these positions is extremely limited. So if a deal goes sour, all your work could have been in vain. In Viper’s immortal words, which also hold true in the recruiting world, there are no points for second place.

As long as everyone’s intentions are good, another of Viper’s reminders holds true as well: “We’re all on the same team.”




This post was written by Jesse Ohayon, former Vice President of Recruiting at
Yoh.  Learn more about Jesse.




















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