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With exceptionally skilled government managers in high demand, attracting top executive talent is a task that should not be taken lightly. A misstep can result in significant consequences for a public sector organization, affecting its strategic direction and culture.

Because recruiting for a top position differs from other positions customarily filled by the human resources department, many organizations engage the services of a search consultant to find highly skilled or specialized candidates.

In part two of Baker Tilly’s three-part series on executive recruitment for public sector positions, we explore the process of recruiting for difficult positions. Search consultants draw upon their experience in organizational management and human resources to address the difficulties described below that may arise during a public sector executive search.

  • Encouraging passive candidates to apply. Many viable candidates for executive positions are not actively seeking a new job. Therefore, search consultants research and reach out to passive candidates who appear to be a good fit and encourage them to consider the position. They provide these potential candidates with background on the position, their first-hand observations of the organization and its culture, and an understanding of the leadership opportunities associated with the position. Passive candidates are often cautious about the impact of exploring a new job and appreciate the confidentiality provided by a search consultant. 
  • Starting a second recruitment after an unsuccessful first attempt. When an initial search does not yield a successful conclusion, consultants begin by reviewing the past process to ensure that desired qualifications are clearly understood among those making the hiring decision and to re-brand the search. This effort may include revisiting the desired qualifications and revising recruitment brochures and postings to better reflect the position and to highlight the leadership opportunities the position offers. Consultants also develop a new recruitment strategy to target prospective candidates. 
  • Addressing market pay and other compensation issues. Salaries and other elements of the compensation package can negatively affect a public sector search. An overview of compensation for comparable positions may identify the need to increase the advertised salary to attract a qualified candidate pool. Of course, other elements of compensation influence a candidate’s decision to apply for the position, such as benefit programs and relocation assistance.
  • Attracting talent to organizations that may be perceived as troubled. Organizations experiencing financial problems, a lack of strategic direction, repeated turnover in executive positions or tension and incivility among governing body members frequently express concerns about whether they will be able to attract top talent. Characteristics perceived as challenges by governing boards are sometimes seen by candidates as opportunities such as improving an organization’s fiscal condition and executing a strategic plan. However, frequent executive turnover and difficult dynamics among governing board members can limit the pool of candidates. In these situations, consultants share their observations with candidates to provide a context for past events and an understanding of organizational priorities going forward.

Executive recruiters typically have greater interaction with candidates as well as ongoing coordination with individuals involved in the hiring decision than other positions for which the human resources department typically recruits. Public sector search consultants assist organizations in hiring top talent by providing an objective process that lays the foundation for decision-makers to act collectively in selecting top candidates and extending a job offer. Search consultants also help the candidate determine their fit with the organization and ultimately prepare them to accept an offer.

By gaining awareness of the difficulties that can impact an executive search and utilizing the described solutions, public sector organizations will strengthen their recruitment processes and attract a pool of high-value candidates from which to hire.

Check out the full public sector executive recruitment series:

Read part 1: Five myths about search firms >

Read part 3: Hiring recommendations for government entities >

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly executive recruitment specialists can help, contact our team.

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