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The killer keywords for attracting leaders aren’t related to recruitment at all

By Jamie Hoobanoff


Leaders aren’t looking for a job, which can make them difficult to hire. This is why you cannot use the traditional language of recruitment to attract the talent that will lead your organization into the future.

Every business today is in uncharted territory when it comes to hiring and recruiting leaders. Companies need to become more nimble, adaptive and innovative to recruit the leadership talent in their sectors. It’s a new world.

The meaning of leadership is evolving and traditional job postings can often restrict potential candidates from applying if the wrong keywords are used. Talented people want an opportunity that will fit with their goals, their values and their mission in life. Leaders also want these things, of course – but they want more. Especially in a shrinking labour market, the most sought-after leadership talent cannot be poached, swayed or attracted by the same strategies used to recruit most candidates.

They won’t be won over by a job title and a benefits package. Leaders want the opportunity to lead. Bringing new talent on board at the top means asking them to invest their time, their reputations and their career currency in your business.


Addressing leadership candidates as investors, not recruits

The same keywords companies use in their pitches to venture capital investors can be the secrets to persuading industry influencers and leaders to join your organization.

Begin with your company’s position in your sector, whether you are a major player, an ambitious start-up or a scrappy innovator. Speak in the language of your industry. Leadership talent will be seeking opportunities in fields that fit with their areas of expertise. They know how businesses thrive in the sector and what the potential return on their investment would be.

Talk about your growth potential. Leaders who grow organizations also want growth opportunities for themselves. When you demonstrate that joining your organization offers unique potential for growth, you will set your position apart from others. If your company provides potential leaders with an opportunity unlike any other, they are unlikely to look for other opportunities.

Much like investors don’t want to put their money in a company that is complacent, leaders also look for opportunities in companies designed with scalability in mind – particularly when it comes to start-ups. Can your company pivot and grow to meet shifts in market demands?

Are you leveraging the latest technologies and leading communication tools such as digital marketing, data utilization and content strategy? Are you looking for new revenue streams? Demonstrate your agility and scalability for potential hires.



Top-level candidates do not want to sign a contract when they are not sure that they have all of the information. Make a thorough pitch to potential leaders – with the same level of detail as you would put forward to investors. Be transparent about the state of your business and the market, the challenges your company is facing and your roadmap for tackling them. Just as an investor’s capital can play an essential role in a company achieving its potential, sell senior candidates on how their investment – their time, talent and leadership – can be instrumental to the success of your company. Leaders want to lead.

They also want to associate with the best in the business. Meaningful relationships always count. Emphasize the reputation and capabilities of both your company’s founders and its current leadership team. Leverage the talent you have to boost your attractiveness to the talent you need.


Vision and growth

Attracting top leadership talent to your company is a necessity for success. And while it has never been easy – especially for smaller or lesser-known organizations – that challenge is only increasing in today’s shrinking labour market.

Smart businesses need to demonstrate for those top candidates in their field that partnering with their business is a sound investment. Highlight the best parts of your business plan and discuss your challenges frankly. This works because the opportunity to overcome these hurdles – to help your company succeed – is also a high potential opportunity for personal and professional growth.

You don’t recruit leaders like employees. You sell to them like investors. The capital you will receive matters even more than money. n

Jamie Hoobanoff is the founder and CEO of The Leadership Agency.



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