The recent Easter break has been a welcome chance to pause and reflect on 2022 so far – a year that has already delivered significant surprises and paradoxes on both the geo-political and macro-economic stage.
On the one hand, we are seeing an extremely buoyant and thriving executive finance recruitment marketplace, where many of our clients are showing remarkable success as we forge out of the pandemic. On the other, businesses are yet again facing unprecedented challenges brought about by the much more sobering backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine and rising costs exacerbated by increasing inflation, natural resources challenges and supply chain issues.
'War for Talent'
You don’t need to look too far to see that 2022 so far has been an active period in executive search. Research by the CBI, Vistage and Deloitte to name a few all point towards the fierce ‘War for Talent’ intensifying, with the abundance of quality executive finance opportunities fuelling demand for the best candidates.
These conditions have been very much felt by Axon Moore Executive, where the buoyancy and pace of the market has been significant.
As shareholders appraise their options, investors assess ‘where’ to invest not ‘if’ and an ever widening range of funding options are available, management teams and their decision making have rarely been more in the spotlight than they are now, creating both opportunity and challenge.
Considering such market dynamics, I thought it may be helpful to our clients and partners to provide some insights and pointers for how to approach appointing the best finance leaders in the current marketplace.
Be Prepared to Offer More than One Candidate…
This does not mean ‘appoint’ more than one candidate for your role. A good shortlist should contain more than one appointable candidate. In this highly competitive market, where top candidates are securing roles quicker on average than they were before, it is important to enter into the final stages of a process with an open mind, and not, for example, be fixated on appointing ‘that stand out candidate from the 1st interview’.
Thinking seriously about appointing, and not ruling out any candidate until you are absolutely convinced they are not suitable is a sensible approach, as that stand out candidate from the first interview may just take another role. Appointing the candidate who may have come 2nd in the process does not in all cases mean you are settling for the 2nd best candidate – the best candidate should be determined by their achievements in the role and not being the best at interview – and the best candidate, by definition, should be an available candidate. Assessing the former of these should be the main priority, and this can only be done by working closely with your search partner and all the key decision makers as a team.
Move at Pace…
Many of my colleagues in our Executive Practice have commented on the pace becoming more aligned to junior / mid-level recruitment, where losing momentum can lead to candidates becoming more focussed on other processes that move more positively, or securing another role. Running a quicker process does not mean running a less thorough process – it is sensible to agree key timescales and objective milestones upfront and stick to them wherever possible. An opportunity becomes infinitely more appealing to a candidate if the process is decisive, well structured and moves at pace.
Communicate, Communicate & Communicate…
All stakeholders in a process must strive towards a ‘no surprises’ mentality throughout. This means that timely and thorough communication should take place through every step of the process. Any changing of plans, reviewing of requirements or changing personal circumstances should be communicated with all parties via regular, timely updates on the process. Although this would be important at any time, the need to prioritise this has become more acute in the current market conditions. This can be hard to achieve – modern life can get in the way, things change in our businesses at the drop of a hat, but recognising the importance of communication should be paramount.
This is in no way intended to be an exhaustive ‘How To’ guide of appointing an FD or CFO (far from it!), but I hope that sharing a small portion of our perceptions of the market may lead our clients and partners to a more successful hiring outcome.
The key question for us at Axon Moore Executive is, how long will this continue? With the aforementioned challenges likely to bite harder on the UK economy in the coming months, will this period of increased activity be sustainable? We may find that our next market update provides a very different commentary, however for now, we can reflect on a positive 2022 so far.