Handling C-level almost certainly means you’re going to have a story to tell. That’s the nature of executive search recruitment. Several months ago, CNA International IT had quite a case study to share – we’ve managed to close a C-level position with just one candidate in the mix. 

And it is not just the standout case of lady luck whipping the whiskers – it is an example of our recruitment modus operandi in practice. 

In this case study, you will find out how we managed to do it.

Executive Search One-Shot: The Context

executive search CTO C-level case study

The client came in after one of our past clients recommended us as a viable recruitment partner. The query was straightforward:

  • The company was gearing up to enter the Ukrainian market and looking for a high-profile specialist for a C-level position.

 The position’s goals were quite a feat: 

  • Establish the company on the new market;
  • Build the team from the ground up;
  • Spearhead the product in the new direction.

This kind of scope means quite demanding requirements, and that was exactly the case. The three major requirements were:

  • Self-reliant autonomous approach to work; 
  • Experience gathering the team;
  • Knowledge of an industry niche’s intricacies.

The position wasn’t exclusive. We had a competition in the form of several other recruitment agencies from Europe. This aspect meant an opportunity to showcase our expertise and ability to close complex positions and subsequently develop this particular query into a full-blown business relationship.

But there was a caveat. 

Cultural differences: How to deal with them?executive search CTO C-level case study

The client was a Japanese company with limited knowledge of the Ukrainian market and the IT segment in particular. Due to that fact, it was essential to develop a trustworthy relationship with the client and provide them with viable information regarding the Ukrainian IT segment and its specialists.

Furthermore, in addition to general cultural differences between Ukraine and Japan, there is also one more important aspect of Japanese business proceedings that significantly transforms the recruitment workflow. 

  • The Japanese recruiting process is much slower than in European or American companies. Japanese companies are meticulous in their consideration process – weighing pros and cons and making well-informed choices regarding candidates. That’s their approach to an effective hiring process, they take their time to pull the trigger.
  • Given that it is a C-level executive position, the workflow will be even slower.
  • Because of that, recruitment partners need to put additional effort into candidate experience and candidate retention in particular. 
  • The most important aspect is to explain the nuances of said cultural differences and then maintain candidate engagement throughout the process so that, in the meantime, they wouldn’t bounce off with the counteroffer.

How we managed to find a viable C-Level candidate?

As we’ve mentioned in the introduction – we have managed to close that position from the get-go and got an exclusive recruitment deal out of it. What’s important is that it wasn’t a stroke of luck per se. It is a result of a specific approach to executive search C-level recruitment.

Here’s why.

Executive Search is like pearl diving compared to commercial fishing. It has a lot in common, but the executive search is more peculiar. 

The thing with finding C-level candidates is that it is more than just rounding up the usual suspects, running them through routine assessments, and then sending them to interview. Finding a viable C-level candidate is like an investigation. It’s a twofold process:

  • On the one hand, you need to take a deep dive into the company. Feel its vibe, understand its company culture, its mission, vision and values, their employee value proposition. It is critical to inspect expectations for candidates and adapt your candidate search accordingly.
  • On the other hand, you need to take hold of a candidate. Get to know them, study their mindset and worldview, and how it fits with the company’s position. You need to assess their soft (especially emotional intelligence) and hard skills to determine whether the match goes beyond the requirements. 

C-Level Position Executive Search Challenges

But the executive search is not without its challenges: 

  • C-level candidates mostly do not advertise their openness for opportunities. It takes networking and substantial industry knowledge to find out whom to approach. 
  • Even more so, the majority of C-level specialists are passive in one way or another. Most of them are employed and not actively looking for opportunities.  
  • There’s no C-level candidate “marketplace” to speak of. You can’t just post the position on the job board and expect a response. It takes a more proactive recruitment approach to get to the right candidate.
  • There is strong competition for high-profile C-level specialists. C-level specialists know their worth and are in-demand. This aspect means two things:
    • The recruiter needs to put in an effort to match the frequencies; 
    • The employee value proposition needs to be extra persuasive.
  • Specific technical expertise is hard to come by.
  • Poor or inconsistent candidate experience can backfire.

How did we find a viable candidate for a C-level position?

Olga Shmigol
Olga Shmigol

Here’s what Olga Shmigol, the recruiter responsible for closing this position, got to say about her workflow:

  • When I took on this position, my first step was to ask around viable C-level folks in my network. The success probability is around 30/70, but you never know which side you’re on. 
  • My backup plan was to beachcomb LinkedIn and take action. But I never got to do it because I got what I was looking for in my mailbox a couple of days later. 
  • I got several valid references for C-level candidates with various degrees of requirements match. Upon looking through, I realized that one candidate was a total match on every requirement and experience level. 
  • After arranging the initial interview – I got all my checkpoints passed.
  • It was a done deal, and I sent the candidate to the client.

However, finding the candidate wasn’t a challenging thing. CNA International IT has a history of “one shot – one kill” case studies. The challenge was to keep the candidate in the recruitment process all the way through.

Given that the proceedings were going at a measured pace, it was critical to keep the candidate engaged.

How to keep the candidate engaged in the slow recruitment process?

Our solution is simple:

  • Stay in touch with the candidate throughout the entire recruitment process.
  • It is essential to find something in common with the candidate, a topic or hobby you can talk about in the meantime. It helps a lot keep the conversations consistent and develop a trustworthy relationship with the candidate.
  • Keep the casual conversation going and ask for feedback regarding recruitment proceedings after each stageIt is important to keep your hand on the pulse, as upon challenging situations, this kind of feedback can keep the candidate from quitting the recruitment process. 

How Did The C-Level Position Interviews Go Down?

executive search CTO C-level case study

There were three interview stages:

  • Generalget to know one another” interview with one of the executives;
  • Technical interview to showcase technical expertise and overall business acumen;
  • Final interview with the top brass to seal the deal

Our biggest concern at this stage was that the cultural differences would derail the recruitment. The thing is – both the client and candidate have English second language, so there was more than enough space for misunderstanding and misinterpretation. 

  • Because of that, we provided the candidate with an extensive explanation of the Japanese business negotiation style. As a result, the interviews went down without a hitch. 

While it was going on – the other companies working on this position also provided a steady supply of candidates. 

  • However, none of them went beyond the second interview due to lack of experience, expertise mismatch, or lacking soft skills. The rest had fallen off due to the slow recruitment process.

Our results

Consequently, after several months of recruitment proceedings, our candidate received an offer and accepted the position. At the moment, he is instrumental in gathering the team for the Ukrainian office and gearing up to scale the operation. 

CNA International IT’s performance on closing this position was impressive enough to warrant an exclusive deal for further vacant positions all over the world. 

If your company requires executive search services and needs high-profile viable candidates – our recruitment consultant can help you out.

Author: Taisiia Mliuzan