The executive candidate experience: 20 ways to make a lasting impression

Recruiting top-level talent has never been easy, but the current global environment makes it tougher than ever. Even with some cooling in the job market, many organisations are still struggling to attract and hire the senior leaders and executives they need to drive business results.

With so many hiring companies out there, your dream candidate likely has options. So how do you convince them your leadership role and company is the right fit? The key is crafting an exceptional recruitment experience that turns your top prospects into devoted hires.

Let’s dive deeper into the candidate journey and explore how you can make a powerful impression at each step.

1. First impressions count – put your best brand forward

Long before a candidate applies for your executive opening, they’ll be researching your company online to determine if it seems like a potential match. You want to make it easy for prospects to learn about your culture, leadership and achievements so they gain confidence you’ve got an environment where they can thrive. Create easily accessible content on your website that provides an authentic inside look at your company. Share company news and announcements that highlight recent wins, new product/service launches, diversity and inclusion efforts, community outreach initiatives and other happenings that bring your culture to life. Executives will want to understand your leadership team’s vision and approach to determine if it aligns with their own leadership style and priorities. Share profiles of your executives that provide insights into their backgrounds, leadership philosophies and what motivates them.

2. Spread the word on social

Executive prospects often leverage their social networks to research companies. Use your social channels to provide real-time updates on news, events and company milestones to give prospects a genuine feel for your culture. Consider an executive recruitment hashtag to boost engagement. Routinely share company news, photos/videos from recent events, employee spotlights, executive Q&As and other content that brings your culture to life. Respond promptly to any comments or questions. Social media gives candidates an unfiltered view into your company. Make sure your channels consistently reflect your values and mission.

3. Craft compelling job descriptions

Your job descriptions play a pivotal role in sparking interest from the right leaders. Grab their attention quickly with an intro that spotlights what makes the role exciting and impactful. Hook top talent from the start by emphasising how this executive role drives strategic impact and business results. Share a brief yet energetic overview of how they will lead critical initiatives or partnerships that influence your future success.

4. Clearly articulate the opportunity

Ditch confusing titles and use language recognised in your industry. Executives search for roles matching their experience, so be specific about the required background, leadership capabilities and business acumen needed to be successful. While creative titles can be enticing, standard industry titles make it easier for the right talent to find and identify with your opening. Outline must-have qualifications and competencies so prospects can determine if they have the right mix.

5. Illustrate what success looks like

Describe the key objectives, metrics and outcomes that define success in the first 6-12 months so executives can evaluate if it aligns with their strengths and aspirations. This insight provides confidence in what would be expected. Spotlight major milestones or deliverables such as launching a new product line, hitting a customer acquisition target or expanding into a key market. Quantify metrics and goals around revenue growth, market share, customer satisfaction scores or other relevant measures of impact.

6. Emphasise the broader impact

Don’t just focus on responsibilities. Share how this executive role drives your business strategy and makes a difference – both for the company and society. Top leaders want to know their role has purpose. Elaborate on how the executive will influence your vision and long-term plan. Explain how their leadership and accomplishments in this role contribute to the greater good – whether through innovation, sustainability, community development or other societal benefits.

7. Use inclusive and engaging language

Your job descriptions represent your brand. Inclusive language that embraces diverse backgrounds is key to attracting the best executive talent from all walks of life. Avoid gender-coded language and encourage applications from all qualified individuals regardless of race, gender, age, religion, disability or other protected characteristics. Use an empathetic tone and phrasing focused on the value someone could bring versus who you’ll exclude.

8. Make the compensation and benefits package compelling

For senior and executive talent, the total compensation and benefits package can be a deciding factor in whether they accept your offer. Make sure your offerings are competitive and attractive compared to similar roles. Provide details upfront on the salary band or range, bonus potential, equity incentives and executive benefits. Outline perks like flexible work arrangements, professional development stipends and sabbaticals. Emphasise unique aspects of your rewards package. The more compelling and differentiated your offerings, the higher the offer acceptance rate.

Be prepared to negotiate if a desired candidate requests improvements to the compensation, equity or benefits. Sometimes customising an executive package can get a winning candidate across the finish line. Just be sure any exceptions align to internal equity and budgets.

9. Remove roadblocks to apply

Even the most intriguing opportunity will fall flat if your application process is tedious and time-consuming. Keep applications brief and easy to complete quickly. Draw top talent in rather than screening them out. Resist asking for information upfront that can be collected later from the best candidates only. Allow prospects to easily submit a resume/CV and minimal other details to get started. Make sure your application process is optimised for mobile.

10. Set the stage for a standout interview

The interview is your chance to evaluate a candidate’s experience and gauge cultural fit, but they’re also evaluating you. An organised, thoughtful process can boost engagement while identifying the right leaders. Provide an interview schedule detailing who candidates will meet with, along with their titles and bios. Share what each discussion will focus on so prospects can prepare. Explain the interview format, such as video conference, in-person, panel-style, etc. Allow time at the end for candidate questions.

11. Communicate clearly and promptly

Consistent, professional communication throughout the process makes candidates feel valued. Promptly confirm interviews and provide timelines for next steps. If delays pop up, notify candidates so they feel respected. Follow a structured process where candidates know what to expect and when. If schedules shift, let them know right away and apologise for any inconvenience. Quickly answer candidate communications to demonstrate responsiveness.

12. Provide insights to succeed

Brief prospects on who they’ll meet and share interview insights so they can shine. Consider providing sample questions upfront so you can focus on their leadership style versus interview skills. Give candidates intel to prep for each discussion, like the focus area, stakeholder relationship or business priorities. Share a few sample questions to allow them to reflect on experiences versus feeling put on the spot.

13. Stick to what matters most

Respect an executive’s time by keeping the process as streamlined as possible. Too many interviews or a drawn-out timeline can diminish interest in even the best opportunities. Be selective on who meets candidates and for what purpose. Try to limit interviews to 2-3 discussions with critical decision-makers. Move candidates through the process efficiently so momentum builds rather than stalls.

14. Train interviewers on experience

Ensure hiring managers provide an exceptional experience by training them on arriving promptly, staying engaged and leaving time for candidate questions. They represent your brand. Educate all interviewers on keeping interviews focused, inclusive and free of inappropriate questions. Emphasise the need for sufficient two-way dialogue. Set expectations around timely arrivals and interview prep.

15. Solicit candidate perspectives

The best way to improve your recruitment process is collecting candid feedback at each step. Use surveys to pinpoint what works versus potential pain points to address. Ask candidates for anonymous input on their experience during screening, interviews, communication and more. Track trends to guide refinements that will enhance engagement and satisfaction.

16. Keep communication lines open

The recruitment process doesn’t end once an offer is accepted. Maintain open communication with new executives leading up to their start date. Check in periodically to answer any questions, provide logistical details and continue building rapport. Schedule regular touchpoints to see if they need anything prior to their first day. Introduce them to a future colleague they can reach out to. Provide guidelines on pre-boarding activities to complete. Continue nurturing the relationship.

17. Start strong with smooth onboarding

Your new executive’s onboarding experience shapes their first impression and early tenure. Use it to build confidence, connectivity and excitement to hit the ground running. Create a customised 90-day onboarding plan that outlines activities, training and introductions during their ramp-up period.

18. Revisit virtual onboarding

Many organisations rapidly transitioned to remote onboarding. Reassess your virtual approach to ensure senior hires have the tools, technology and information needed to seamlessly onboard from anywhere. Confirm all equipment, access and logins are ready on day one. Outline virtual orientation and training sessions. Share guidelines for using video conferencing platforms and collaboration tools. Schedule dedicated check-ins to provide guidance and feedback.

19. Bridge the gap from candidate to new hire

Welcome new leaders before day one with guidelines to complete pre-boarding activities and details on what to expect in their first week. Ask if any accommodations like reserved parking can ease their transition. Send a welcome package with company swag, resources and a personal note. Share the onboarding agenda.

20. Make connections with the team

Help new executives build relationships early on through introductions, meetings with key stakeholders and team events. A sense of inclusion is critical. Schedule 1:1 meetings with their direct reports and key cross-functional partners. Introduce them via email or a virtual coffee to the broader team. Have the CEO welcome them publicly. Include them in relevant meetings during ramp-up.  

Final thoughts…

In today’s competitive hiring environment, an exceptional recruitment experience can make the difference between landing a game-changing executive or losing them to another opportunity. While you’re evaluating candidates, they’re evaluating you. Consistently demonstrate your values, culture and professionalism. When top talent feels engaged and respected, they’re far more likely to join your leadership team.