How to Hire the Next Great Senior Executive for Your “Boring” Company

Most companies aren’t making electric cars, developing private space travel, or changing the way the world communicates. In other words, not every company can be Tesla, Blue Origin, or Facebook.

And that’s okay. Being “boring” is okay. Most of the world’s wealth and economic opportunity comes from “boring” companies and industries.

However, recruiting executives in less-than-glamorous industries remains a challenge.

Here are a few ways to make your hiring process in a “boring” industry a little easier:


1. Look to the familiar first

Process optimization, long-term relationships, reduced competitive landscape.

If the executive candidate sitting across from you has grown his or her career in fast-changing technology start-ups, those words may inspire dread.

However, if (for example) he or she has grown their career in the manufacturing sector, those words may excite that candidate. In fact, process orientation, stability, and little change may be exactly what attracted the candidate to your industry in the first place.

When recruiting in a “boring” industry, start with candidates who come from your industry, and then move outward. A great place to start is to begin by identifying 3 potential internal candidates, and partnering with a recruiter to identify 3 external candidates.

If you are hiring a Head of Sales, start with having your recruiter identify senior sales managers within companies in the same industry. Depending on the candidate’s employment contract and applicable laws, your company may or may not get the advantage of the new hire’s existing clients. However, regardless of whether or not the candidate brings clients with them, you still get the advantages of having a new executive who knows exactly how your industry functions, and who the “key players” are.

If a qualified candidate doesn’t exist within the industry, brainstorm with your recruiter to identify industries with similar key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, if you are searching for an executive at a paper manufacturer, and can’t find the right candidate within that industry, it would be smart to look at candidates that are currently excelling in similarly commodity driven businesses.

The world might think your industry is boring—but there are senior leaders who have made remarkable and passionate careers in “boring” industries.

Start your search by having your recruiter look at those candidates first.


2. Emphasize the importance of the position

When it comes to recruiting a managerial or senior role in a “boring” company, it’s decisive to emphasize the position itself.

  • Let your candidates know that the future of the company depends on their ability to succeed in the position

  • Give the executive a direct line of communication to the very top of the organization

  • Have a specific idea about the growth path of the position, including how your company will invest in the candidate’s professional development

According to a Robertson Associates survey, salary is the least likely reason for managers to seek a job elsewhere. Instead, managerial talent prioritizes autonomy, excitement, flexibility (including the chance to work out of their home country, if the position entails a lot of travel) and new opportunities.

The good news is that successful strategic hiring in a “boring” industry requires you to incorporate those concepts into a new opportunity from the beginning.


3. Look for non-traditional candidates

You want the leaders in your company to relish a challenge.

What could be a bigger challenge than being one of the few females to serve in a leadership role in a primarily male industry? If your company is thought of as “boring,” it may be beneficial to look at un-traditional, atypical candidates.

In fact, regardless of industry, it’s always good to look at new sources of talent. Non-traditional candidates may lack the preconceived notions candidates from within the industry already have.

Including un-traditional candidates in your recruitment is the right thing to do—and it’s also the smart thing to do, and can elevate your brand by gaining positive attention from your stakeholders.


4. Have a Strategy!

If your industry is difficult to recruit for, the need for a strong succession plan and a recruiting strategy is all the more important. At Robertson Associates, we help you create that recruiting strategy and design a position that is rewarding and exciting, regardless of how your industry is perceived.

We have been doing this for over 60 years in Europe and beyond.

Because, while your industry or company might sound “boring” to some people, there are many candidates who are looking for exactly what you have to offer and who find your industry in fact very “cool”.

And we will help you find that candidate.


Pierre Collowald is a Senior Partner at Robertson Associates, a European Executive Search and Leadership Solutions boutique. Pierre is working out of Brussels, Paris and Zurich.