Why Should Companies Use Executive Search Firms to Diversify the C-Suite?

Jason Hanold
4 min readApr 6, 2022

Oftentimes the most important hires that a company will make are those of the C-suite executives. This group of officers is responsible for the overall success of the company. Making the right decisions as to who to put in these positions is a process that requires a great deal of time and effort.

A wrong hire could cost the company millions of dollars, while putting the right person in the job can push a company to new heights of profitability. It is essential to get the right person for the job. So what qualities are companies seeking in these individuals? And how can businesses best find excellent candidates? Here’s what you need to know:

Qualities Companies Are Looking for in a C-Suite Hire

The use of the term “person” in the paragraph above is intentional. It is a fact that, historically, the vast majority (well over 90 percent in most cases) of C-suite executives have been men. That doesn’t mean that it needs to remain that way. Many companies have invested heavily in DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) programs to make their workforces more representative of the communities in which they operate and serve.

For these programs to be successful, they must extend to the very top of the company hierarchy. There are more and better opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups in the C-suite than ever before. Companies looking to become more attractive to top job seekers at all levels are beginning to realize the value of diversity at the very top.

Leadership skills are a necessity for any potential C-suite executive. Executives need to coordinate and lead entire departments. The ability to manage those people effectively is paramount. This doesn’t just mean giving orders to subordinates, however. Two-way communication is vital to understanding the needs of employees as well as their special skills. A good dialogue creates a better functioning team.

Other important facets of leadership are humility and respect for both employees and the rest of the C-suite. The growing emphasis on the C-suite as a team that works closely together to implement the goals of the company means hiring executives that are capable of being team players. Recent surveys have shown that C-suites that are involved in regular collaborative work across departments are more likely to expect better company growth.

Recruiters are also looking for varying experiences in potential C-suite hires. No one succeeds all of the time. How people deal with failure, and if they are willing to acknowledge their faults, is important to a well-rounded C-suite executive. How executives react to failures gives a good sense of how they will deal with future challenges.

This is where the face-to-face (or virtual during the past couple of years) interview process comes into play. Recruiters are better able to understand a person’s authenticity during an interview; interviews can also help recruiters determine how self-aware a potential hire is. Most candidates will come with impressive CVs, so the personal interview is where recruiters get their best chance to find the person behind the qualifications.

Using an Executive Search Firm

Making a C-suite hire can have serious and long-range consequences for a company. This is why many larger firms utilize the services of executive search firms. These “headhunters” are able to put more time and effort into the search for the right executive than most companies could do on their own.

Executive search firms maintain large databases full of potential executive candidates. In addition, search firms use their extensive network of contacts to keep current on all hiring trends and discover potential new executive candidates. This comes in handy after the search firm consults with the company on exactly what qualities they are looking for in their new executive.

Search firms customize their interviewing process to concentrate on finding the best fit for the client company. This in turn saves the company time that can be better utilized in the normal operations of the firm.

Search firms are experienced in DEI and are often better able to identify candidates who identify as minority than companies could on their own. This can be important in diversifying the C-suite, a goal for most companies these days. Search firms also provide discretion. Their networks can look for candidates at other firms without appearing to be poaching executives or causing embarrassment to anyone.

It is important to remember that any C-suite hiring process is going to take some time to ensure that the candidate ultimately chosen for the post is the right one. The more candidates interviewed for the position the better the chances for a good hire. This is why the search firm route is often the best way to go.

Their experience lets them maximize the time spent on the selection process while still pulling from the best available talent. Those companies wishing to conduct hires in-house need to understand the time and effort required to ensure a successful hiring experience and commit to the process fully.

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Jason Hanold

Executive Recruiter, clients NFL, Google, Patagonia, Under Armour, Gucci, Nike, Northwestern, eBay, UFC, Vail, REI, Electronic Arts, Live Nation, #HR #Recruiter