As cliches go, the old “needle in the haystack” is often more apt than others. That’s especially true if you are in the thick of an executive search to help find the best leader, someone who can help your business move on to greater things.

Whether in a bourgeoning industry such as cannabis or in something more established, it may seem daunting to find the right person for your executive team. At the same time, there are techniques you can use — and some help you can get — to narrow your search.

There’s a great article in the business journal First Round Review that talks about executive searches. One person quoted extensively in the story is Jennifer Rettig, who used to do executive recruiting with Apple and Yahoo, among others. She’s currently the head of recruiting for a business data firm that’s part of Google Cloud called Looker.

Getting help to gather the perfect candidate list

Her first piece of advice is to make up a list of the different networks you have already established. Places like current boards, advisors, investors or current employees could be a help to this.

It’s also important to then pick three quick points that explain what you are hoping the executive you are seeking is going to accomplish specifically for the company.

“What capability will they bring with them?” Rettig writes. “Why is that so important? How will the role be key to the company’s product, technology, strategy, or roadmap? Be very explicit. Paint the picture for them.”

Those same points you created could also be used in your contacts with the networks you’ve identified to try and source great candidates. This also goes beyond just asking them, “Hey, who do you know?” according to Rettig.

“They’re not going to go through their 500 or thousands of connections on LinkedIn, and that’s what you really need,” Rettig said. She follows that statement up by suggesting you look at their LI network in public view for a 24-hour period, so you can find potential job candidates. Be sure, though, to stress that you’ll be confidential about what you find, and to discuss with them who you might find that would be a potential for the role you are seeking.

“Stress that it’s low-risk and low-impact for them, that you understand why they might be nervous, and that they’re still in control of what happens,” she adds.

Research is key for your executive search

Another idea involves research. Whether this is a hiring manager, a team or even junior leadership members helping you along, finding the right candidate will rely on asking the right questions and making sure you are looking in the right places.

One of the first steps in this idea to come up with questions that will help you hone in on candidates once you find them. Rettig has a list of questions that could be good for this including what role the company wants to go in with the right person, what success for the person looks like within the first year, and what other companies might have someone in a similar role.

Making sure to involve your recruitment team will be vital to the success of this step, but with some caution. “When you ask people on your team to think of the ideal candidate for a role, their mind will probably jump to a real person they actually know,” Rettig says. “That can be super helpful, but it can also be very limiting, and you want to avoid that early in your process.”

From that point on, it’s important to list out what places you would look for when it comes to candidates, and then do the research to see what they may have to offer now. The parameters should include all of these:

  • Industries
  • 
Specific companies or brands
  • Professional associations
  • Professional publications
  • Events or conferences
  • Specific degrees and/or certifications
  • Specific locations

Once you start finding the right places to research — and potentially join, if it’s an organization — you can then start to make some connections to see what the talent pool might be like for the role you seek. When making those connections, though, just don’t make it a simple ask for who that person knows that might be a good fit.

“(I might) ask about the big issues impacting the industry,” Rettig says. “What was everyone talking about? What were people concerned about? What kind of jobs seemed to be grabbing attention? What challenges really interested people? Could someone transition from a governmental role into a tech role?”

There’s also something to be said for making these connections that could make your business more attractive to the right kinds of candidates. There could be more credibility if they know who you know, and if you as much if not more about their industry than they do.

What all of this research does is make it that much easier to bring the right candidate into focus. “You want to inventory all the places this person could be, and then narrow down more and more and more,” Rettig says.

Consider some help with interviewing



Once you get a good solid list of candidates in your executive search, the interviewing can start in earnest. It’s at this crucial point that assessing talent is key in your leadership toolbox, or of those who are helping you find the right new hire.

One of the services Y Scouts provides is interviewer training, where we help business leaders build skills and capabilities that work well during interviews with candidates. It’s an approach that aligns to your company values, addresses critical issues such as diversity and inclusion, and helps with the process so the input hiring leaders receive is impactful.

Go to our website to find out more about what we can provide businesses searching for candidates.