How PE Firms and Portfolio Companies Win the Race for Talent

By: PierceGray Staff

As the pandemic recovery makes its way through the US and abroad, industries, and incidentally hiring, are bouncing back. Private Equity (PE) firms and their portfolio companies are emerging as more resilient and agile as cities and states reopen and as the “new normal” demands new leadership. As a result, our partners and PE clients find themselves in a new talent landscape. 10 years ago, the catch phrase commonly touted in discussions and hammered into op-ed pieces by search firms and executive recruiters was the nebulous “War for Talent”. We have noticed a dramatic shift in the executive search and executive recruitment industry that tells us the war is over and has evolved into the “Race for Talent”.

Today’s talent landscape is a candidate’s market as finalists are often in process for multiple opportunities simultaneously. This means an increased competition for interest, time, and attention. The faster companies can interview, select, and onboard new talent into a leadership role, the sooner they can begin adding value and reshaping culture. We call this “Time to Value”. Existing market dynamics support this in a ‘need for speed,’ that is differentiated from years past. To illustrate how things have changed: In 2019, the average search duration for an executive leadership role across all client industries was ~102 days. Today, that average has dropped 22% to 80 days.

As part of the Search process, we focus on removing latency wherever possible. For us, it is all about building trust and transparency, having the agility to shorten the hiring process without sacrificing quality and fit, creating a positive candidate experience from day one and accepting the competitive market for talent.

Building Trust and Transparency

Enabling trust is imperative when candidates are new to, or unfamiliar with, the environment they are being recruited into. When a candidate decides to shift their career path into the world of Private Equity this is a conscious decision driven by purpose, that they have taken considerable time to think through. Candidates often need to be educated in what to expect when it comes to pace, day-to-day resourcing, board-level expectations, and compensation plans. As front-end process stewards for emerging talent for PE firms and portfolio companies across the U.S., we represent our clients to the candidate. Being an objective third party allows us to instill confidence in the process, build a foundation of transparency, and naturally assume a trusted advisory voice during these deeply personal conversations with a candidate.

Agility to Shorten the Hiring Process Without Sacrificing Quality and Fit

One of the primary reasons companies lose a candidate in the “Race for Talent” is time. Latency is the enemy of any recruiting process. Partnering with PE firms and portfolio companies to shorten critical process milestones, ranging from interview scheduling to executive assessment execution, is a key tool to speeding up time-to-hire.

Creating a Positive Candidate Experience from Day One

Finding talent for the Private Equity space is challenging; hence the importance placed on the candidate experience. Each candidate interaction, whether a formal interview or discussions about scheduling creates an opportunity for engagement. Early in the process, we work to develop an authentic relationship with candidates, creating an open communication flow. This requires an open dialogue, where feedback is shared and constructive criticism provided where necessary. Candidate relationships should be viewed as long-term in nature, and command mutual respect in every interaction.