We have seen a continuous need to bring in new leadership talent across the portfolio – to drive through changes, introduce new ways of thinking and new processes, to fulfil investment plans, or simply to fill vacancies.
The sense that businesses have been in some sort of stasis has not been borne out by our experience, despite the severe disruption caused by COVID-19. Livingbridge has continued to assist our underlying investment companies hire throughout the pandemic, including a number of critical leadership and board appointments – Chairs, CEOs and CFOs – remotely.What have we learnt?
The interview process has had to evolve to operate effectively in virtual environments and to accommodate a lack of face-to-face engagement. Preparation, creating multiple touch points, referencing and engagement have all become more critical.
With almost everyone working more flexibly, access has never been better. Video interviews have become more convenient and can be highly effective, but interviewers should consider factoring in much more preparation; they need to think through the questions and look to optimise the impact of any calls.
Getting a feel for an individual’s characteristics, through tone and body language, for example, is more difficult compared to direct communication, and building a rapport ‘online’ is more complex.
We have also found that interviewers have had to be more accommodating towards potential candidates, helping them to better understand the company, the strategy for the business, its opportunity, the culture of the business and their career potential. Anyone making a senior hire should also consider 360 degree referencing on a potential successful candidate – we have found it to be hugely insightful and helpful in the onboarding of that individual, which again can be challenging when remote.
While applicants need to do their homework before the interviews, they should be encouraged – and helped – to do as much due diligence as they can, including connecting informally with team members and other stakeholders across the business.
Senior hires continue to look at corporate websites and similar assets, and these ‘shop windows’ remain fundamental in the evaluation process. As such, the information held on – and the quality of – websites and assets such as video blogs have become more important. These can feature employees talking about their work or client testimonials and enable a candidate to get a real feel for the culture of the business and engagement levels.
Sharing more information about the business and any future plans ahead of interviews has also become a compelling means to maximise the selection process. Informal conversations – such as allowing candidates to speak to other executives, for example – are highly beneficial, in our experience. We encourage our candidates to reference .
We have seen that the wider economic uncertainty is making many people more risk averse, so giving them the opportunity to discuss details in a relaxed way, without any expectations, is key.
‘Virtual’ coffees and similar informalities should, if possible, be part of the engagement process – these can be very helpful with relationship building (especially with interim roles). Creating the ‘café moment’ converts into strong engagement. Likewise, physical walk-in-the-park meetings, adhering to any social distancing requirements of course, can show flexibility and a willingness to create valuable personal connections.
Once a relationship is established in person, again if possible, it can be easier to cultivate it in an online ecosystem.
The pandemic has turned working from home and virtual working into a mainstream, normalised environment. Flexible working patterns, with individuals working two to three days in the office, has opened the market up to more candidates. It has also meant that many people have had time to (re)think about what they want to do next and who they want to work for.
Adapting interview methods to suit new working-from-home processes, and thinking flexibly about any potential deal breakers, has helped Livingbridge in 2020 and we believe this lays a strong foundation for next year. As we look towards the start of 2021, many companies are adapting to new strategies and business plans in the wake of the pandemic and these are already informing hiring requirements in 2021.
In a far more tech-enabled, albeit somewhat dislocated environment, adaptability, flexibility, and transparency – and informality – have become even more vital in hiring company leaders during the pandemic.Key takeaways
- The need to hire senior leaders and C-suite talent has not diminished over the past 10 months
- Livingbridge is one of the few PE houses that have hired throughout the pandemic for our underlying investment companies, including a number of CEOs, Chairs and CFOs
- The interview process has had to evolve to operate effectively in virtual environments and a lack of face-to-face engagement
- Video interviews can be highly effective, but interviewers should consider factoring in much more preparation
- While applicants need to do their homework before the interviews, they should be encouraged – and helped – to do as much due diligence as they can
- Informal conversations – such as allowing candidates to speak to other executives, for example – are highly beneficial, in our experience
- ‘Virtual’ coffees and similar informalities should if possible be part of the engagement process – these can be very helpful with relationship building
- Adaptability, flexibility, and transparency – and informality – have become even more vital in hiring company leaders during the pandemic