Posted on: 5/2/2023

How to Avoid the 3 Biggest Frustrations Senior Leaders Experience Today


SRI’s diverse client community shares one core focus: the consumer.

Sports organisations, retailers, media businesses, luxury, fashion or sporting goods brands, gaming or technology companies –all are focused on creating and delivering brand- and consumer-centric propositions as they compete to sell products, services, and experiences.

Collectively, our teams engage with thousands of senior leaders each year, and the expertise and experience of the executives who are most in demand straddle those converging sectors.

When we ask our candidates what their most frustrating experiences of the hiring process are, these are the three mentioned most in recent months:


1. The hiring process is protracted by many stages of interview and a start/stop approach.

Priorities change, people’s schedules get busy, and processes get delayed – both by the client and the candidate. However, many candidates cite this as their number one frustration. Often C-suite talent talk about interview processes that are between six and ten stages, and sometimes even more, conducted over many months.

Of course, it is critical that hiring processes are rigorous to ensure that organisations can appoint a candidate who has the required skills, competencies, leadership capabilities, and behaviours to deliver in the role. However, a long interview process doesn’t mean a better outcome. As SRI’s North American CEO, Willa Perlman discusses, candidate referencing is an essential tool in getting hiring right. Also, psychometric assessments can help decision making through science and rigour and can reduce extensive and often repetitive interview rounds that feel to the candidates as extra hoops to jump through. At SRI our consulting practice supports us in delivering search assignments with the Hogan candidate assessment tools, and Spotlight to help onboarding.

Today, many organisations grapple with increasing complexity, matrix organisations, and enterprise connectivity, resulting in growing numbers of stakeholders. Candidates sense when an organisation is stressed by complexity and slow decision making. Candidates quickly get turned off when the experience of a business they are considering joining isn’t aligned and the hiring processes lacks lack consideration of the candidate experience.

The longer a process goes on, the level of candidate engagement drops. Competitors chasing the same talent can swoop in with equally interesting opportunities and more agile and engaging hiring processes, and companies miss out on their number one hires. Pre-pandemic, candidates frequently had 2-3 genuine prospects on the go. Now, we are seeing many who are active in 5+ processes, even if they are a passive candidate.


2. Am I in or am I out? And is there any feedback please…

On a typical search assignment, four or five candidates who went through an extensive interview process are told they are not the one. Losing out on a job you really want is a big disappointment. Still, by the time someone has risen to senior executive level, they have dealt with missing out, and they handle rejection well. However, a lack of timely and truthful feedback is different. It feels like disregard or even disrespect.

Number two on our list of frustrations from candidates is not hearing back from companies or search firms to give them a steer. As the saying goes, people always meet twice in life. Candidates are current or potential consumers of your brand and possibly also potential future hires, and they should be treated as such.


3. Lack of client information and a one-way street rather than an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions in equal measure.

We expect candidates to be well-prepared when they step into the ring. They will have been briefed in detail about the role, the company, and the people by the executive search firm, and surely they will be familiar with the insights and information about the hiring company that is in the ever-growing public domain.

The traditional notion that the client holds the opportunity and the candidate wants it has little currency today. In most circumstances, the power dynamic must be re-balanced. Now, candidates and clients are both deciding on a ‘new contract’, and there is homework to be done on both sides.

As widely quoted, more than 40% of leadership hires fail in the first 18 months. The risk is on both sides. Candidates don’t want to leave an environment where they are successful for an unknown culture. Transparency on how an organisation works, where the pain points are, and what the areas of risk are becomes a critical success factor for whether or not a candidate accepts an offer.

Successful executives are busy people, and anyone who wants them to join their organisation should consider what information, insights, and reassurance they will need when the offer arrives and it’s time to make a big life-changing decision.

As the search partner, we act as the wingman of both the client and the candidate. Of course, we create compelling collateral in form of full and detailed candidate briefs, but we also challenge and support both parties throughout the process to make sure they have the factual and emotional assurances to make the right decision.

We set out a code of conduct that enables both parties to engage at eye-level, ask questions, and get a greater understanding of how successful a candidate can and will be successful in the new business.

In summary, if you are looking to hire senior talent, take the time to think as much about the hiring process and the candidate experience as you do for a customer journey. It should have the same level of thought and consideration.


SRI’s global consumer team places senior leaders with PE backed, family owned and listed businesses to drive transformation, growth and value creation.

We deliver non-executive boards, CEOs and leadership teams hires across multiple functions and geographies in Europe, North America and APAC. Our teams specialise in retail, consumer goods & services, travel, leisure & hospitality, lifestyle, luxury, fashion & sporting goods, health & wellbeing.



David Nobbs

Managing Partner, Consumer

Carola Frisch

Managing Partner, Head of Lifestyle, Fashion and Sporting Goods