Reducing the risk in executive hire

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How can you reduce the risk of hiring an executive that does not meet your requirements, while also ensuring a positive candidate experience?


Tim Noble, head of procurement at Transpennine Express, and Iain McKenna, managing director at Sourcing Solved, share their views.


Tim Noble


It’s important to know if you want someone to complement or challenge what you have already. Being explicit in what you want is a good starting point in terms of ensuring your hire doesn’t become a misfit.


A good recruiting partner will liaise with a smaller number of candidates and, through a mature discussion with them, quickly determine whether any are a good fit. They will liaise regularly with both the client and the candidate, making it clear where candidates are in terms of their propensity to move, and where the client is in the process. It’s important to give people clear views of when things will progress or if they’re not going to.


The risk often comes down to the client being unclear about their real requirements; it sounds simple but we often find this difficult. In my own experience, one of the businesses I worked for had recently been audited by one of their customers and concluded that they needed to bring in procurement and supply management experience. The knee-jerk reaction to the audit findings was to think they needed an experienced permanent senior procurement manager, but, in reality, they needed someone to manage a fairly low level of spend (£15-20m per annum) which was spread across a large number of diverse spend categories. In these circumstances, introducing a good mid-level professional or bringing in interim resources to drive a number of focused projects would have been a more appropriate approach.

You can find yourself in a difficult situation if the new hire moves into a role where they are uncertain whether they have a substantial task to take on, or if the rest of the business is left wondering why a new hire has a high salary, yet is unable to deliver the level of added value to correspond with it.


A recruiter may not feel it’s in their interest to talk down a job and salary but if you want that role to be sustainable, they need to have the maturity to challenge the candidate’s needs.


Iain McKenna


Not long ago, an organisation I know received 140 applicants for a position and had to whittle this down to four. I would say that around 80% of candidates who applied for this role didn’t have a positive experience and this comes down to a poorly managed recruitment process. If senior management delegate the project without a clear plan, it’s going to be very much what I classify as ‘panic recruitment’: top management haven’t communicated what they need to middle management, who in turn haven’t communicated effectively with HR. The process is running off a specification that isn’t clear, and the result is a high volume of candidates, of which very few actually meet the high-end requirements.


When an organisation is trying to reduce risk in hiring, they must understand what the business requirements are and how the new position will fulfil these needs. Only after this has been established should it be delegated to the recruiting partner. If you’re working with a headhunter, they will spend a lot of time getting to know your organisation; if the initial setup is thorough then straightaway you are reducing risk and only targeting well-matched individuals.


Candidate feedback is important to the process, and when you’re working in a senior management capacity you’ve got to try and give feedback to each individual person. If there’s no feedback, it will create a negative experience for the candidate.


In the future you may be looking for someone else to fill a gap in your management team and that individual may be suitable, but because of this bad experience they are unlikely to consider your business in the future.


Tim Noble is head of procurement at TransPennine Express


Iain McKenna is managing director of executive search firm Sourcing Solved


This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.

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