We were delighted to host a webinar recently featuring Lisa Hart, Head of Executive Search operations for retained search firm Wheless Partners. Lisa shared a lot of terrific insights into how her firm manages top level searches.

The webinar is available on demand here – but we also posed some follow up questions – if you are involved in an executive job search, you’ll find Lisa’s thoughts well worth reading!

1) How do recruiters “find” executives? 

Lisa: Finding begins with understanding our clients’ needs, so we first meet with client representatives and ask good questions about the organization and position to develop an understanding of what characteristics we should look for when considering who to connect with. Once this is accomplished, I look at LinkedIn and GatedTalent to determine the best match in the areas of experience, education, organization size, etc. If indications are a person checks many of the boxes for the position, then I send an email. Connecting with someone is the beginning because we still must determine fit along the lines of leadership and personal perspectives that would lead to a good fit. This is done by having phone conversations.

2) If I am not actively looking for a role but don’t want to miss an opportunity, how can I ensure I am on the radar for a firm like yours? 

Lisa: Assure your online profiles are up to date and represent your history, experience, skills fully utilizing key words. You may not receive interest however simply because of the great number of people present online. I filter by keywords that pertain to the position when I begin to view profiles. For example, “E-commerce”, and “Startup” are key words I’m currently utilizing.

3) What are the key areas you are likely to research before you establish contact with me? 

Lisa: I view positions held, work history, how long you have held positions, education (if our client specifies), geographic areas where you currently reside or wish to do so (though I will reach out to you if this isn’t a match and I feel you are a good fit in other ways). If I’m uncertain about whether to make contact, I’m swayed by references. If what others have said about you, seems to align with characteristics I’m seeking, I will reach out. So at least one reference on a profile is beneficial. Articles and bios are helpful but for the sake of time, I don’t begin with a “web wide” search. A brief description at the beginning of a profile that displays some of your personality is always beneficial.

4) How long does a typical search process take? 

Lisa: From the time we begin to recruit candidates from two to six months. Finding a great group of candidates doesn’t require most of this time. Scheduling and conducting interviews is where the process is slowed at times. Timing is mostly driven by our clients.

5) As a recruiter how valuable are services such as GatedTalent & LinkedIn? 

Lisa: Extremely valuable. It is where I go first. It has made recruiting much less time consuming than even 5 years ago. It is very important for executives to maintain an accurate presence on professional platforms. Unless you are Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or Sir Richard Branson, then it isn’t necessary. Or if you wish to keep a low profile.

6) Are there any key areas of advice you can give me if I am not establishing initial connections with executive recruiters? 

Lisa: As I stated earlier, you may have a fantastic profile and have no one connect with you because of the numbers are so great. If you utilize LinkedIn, change your setting to “open to opportunities”. Broaden where you are open to relocate. I personally don’t pay attention to these aspects but I would guess others do. If I feel someone is a good fit, I will pursue regardless of their being open to opportunities because it never hurts to ask.

7) What would be your best tip to give an executive going through the search process? 

Lisa: Be genuine. Expect a lengthy process. Think of the process as relationship development. Ask great questions. Great questions are “what is the timeline” “what is the process”, “will you provide feedback” and “will you communicate regardless of the outcome”, “what are the clients expectations/goals”, “characterize the culture of the organization”.

I would Like to thank Lisa for her time taken to answer these key questions I am asked by senior executives I speak to everyday. 

Lisa Hart - Director of Search Operations for search firm Wheless Partners.Lisa has led national search operations and executive sourcing strategies for key president, CEO, executive director and senior officer search initiatives on behalf of a broad array of not-for-profit, academic, manufacturing, distribution, services, corporate business and global enterprises, resulting in outstanding client outcomes including an extraordinary percentage of top female executive appointments and diversity hires.