Hiring – The Bugbear of Senior Commercial Leaders

19 January 2017

Herringbone Information Snapshot – Part 1

Our clients are mostly in media and information. They live by selling good content, research and data. We (bravely) decided to compile some research of our own, about them – and for them.

Herringbone Search undertook a survey with sales directors, commercial leaders and CEOs working for organizations with combined revenue in excess of £20bn. Ryan Henshaw, Managing Director, invested just over 40 hours of his time taking some of his network to lunch. We’ve distilled their insights in to two information snapshots. One covering hiring and the success of their teams, the next covering their view of the organisations they work for and their approach to their own careers. The results were interesting.

There is a disconnect between preferred hiring methods and real action

We asked about effective and actual methods of hiring. Approximately 60% had conflicting answers; they used x method but preferred to use y. They didn’t (or couldn’t) use the method they preferred. The answers were unprompted. The results were as follows:

There is a preference towards using personal networks, recommendations and referrals. One respondent specified the benefit in regularly meeting people in the industry even without a role in mind. However, those that considered “networking” as their most successful method all mentioned a different option for their “first port of call.”

In brief

  • Discrepancy between preferred and actual methods of hiring for 60% of respondents
  • Networking is considered the “most successful” method for many but not the first port of call for those same respondents
  • There can be some reluctance to use internal recruitment functions
  • The use of internal and external recruitment functions was qualified (i.e. they had to be “good” external recruiters or “well-run” internal functions).

General frustration with hiring with good candidates proving elusive

H.S: What do you consider to be the most successful way of recruiting?

Executive X: I’m not sure I’ve found it yet…

This leads us into our next section.

FINDING THE RIGHT CANDIDATE Struggle to find good people – dross | Finding people full stop! | Finding business managers with P+L sense | Finding new business people | Attracting the right candidate and finding genuine sales professionals | Culture fit, profiling & behavioural match | Consistency of candidates getting to the final interview stage | Getting the volume on junior roles

AWKWARD INTERNAL PROCESS Internal process/ resources “clunky,” “unstructured,” or “unreliable” | No ability to shortlist with existing internal function | Not able to actively recruit | No assessment tool to help with retention | Wasted time

WRONG PACKAGE OFFERED Not paying high enough wages | Competing against software companies | Package structure / Basic vs. Bonus weighting

PIPELINE TIMING Internal reluctance to forward hire | Holes are left too long

EXTERNAL RECRUITERS Not knowing which recruiters to trust | Recruiters missing the brief

INTERVIEW SKILL Decision-making in interviews
Myriad answers. The same effect. Gaps in the team and senior leadership bound in a frustrating process. Interestingly no one mentioned their employer brand being an issue.

We asked another question

CVs (Quality & quantity) | Volume of CVs | Sift through CVs | CVs | Looking at poor CVs, which do not demonstrate soft skills | Looking through a vast amount of CVs from 3-4 recruiters.

FRONT END RECRUITMENT (Time and volume) / Initial vetting process is time consuming, more rigor is needed in the initial assessment | Volume at front end of recruitment process | Initial search – would rather pay for someone who will challenge the brief, know sources, and get back with strong shortlists.

WORKING WITH THE INTERNAL RECRUITMENT FUNCTION Using the internal recruitment function | Working with internal team to set a profile and then cut out initial interviews | Having to complete Risk Assessment Framework before speaking to anyone about team or individual requirements.

DECISION-MAKING Front end decisions on CV’s | Decision to see a candidate.


WORKING WITH BAD RECRUITERS Bad recruiters | CV flow poor | Communications – nothing more valuable than a good recruiter and transparency

INITIAL INTERVIEWS (Post screening/ 1st stage) – particularly for junior roles

In brief

Finding great people is challenging, time-consuming and frustrating for most senior executives. The start seems particularly painful. Finding the right candidate is seen as the greatest challenge.

After all the effort of hiring, how are these teams doing?

On average, 40% of each team brought in 80% of the revenue. 60% of the team were considered satisfactory (with some reporting only 10% of the team as satisfactory).

We can see why there can be an aversion to decision-making in the hiring process, when a large proportion of the existing team are not really performing.

The human angle

We asked one executive what kept him up at night:

“Not meeting my sales target which represents treble-digit growth – which in turn means I won’t get paid my commission, a large part of my remuneration. Which in turn means I’d end up in debt, which means I would end up having to sell my house!”

Hiring is particularly personal (and stressful?) when income is pegged to wider team performance.

In the following article Herringbone Search will cover how these executives approach their own career, including what they value in commercial leadership and their wider business challenges.