AIM: How to Hire World-Class Tech Leaders

Superstars are out there. Here’s how to find them.

Whether you realize it or not, the entire talent ecosystem driving today’s innovation economy has undergone radical transformation over the past decade. As a result, the traditional approach to recruiting and hiring simply no longer works. 

One challenge is that the best people to fill any key position usually aren’t looking – even passively. They still have great jobs and don’t yet realize their next career opportunity is about to knock.

With a 98% success rate on our most recent 300 retained search engagements, we think it’s fair to say JJA has cracked the code on a better approach. We call it AIM – short for Alignment + Intel + Momentum

After executing thousands of high-pressure, high-stakes searches, AIM is the most reliable way to guarantee success for those critical hires that can make or break a company. Think beyond the C-Suite to crucial roles like Architects, Sr. Tech/Product Leads, Data Scientists, FP&A or Sales Enablement specialists, to name just a few. 

AIM has been fine-tuned to maximize effectiveness and speed while minimizing surprises. This is as close as you can get to putting a search on autopilot.  And once a business leader gets a taste of it, there’s no going back. 

“This is as close as you can get to putting a search on autopilot.”

Kicking Butt has Never Been Easier

Spend a minute or two with the AIM blueprint, and you’ll realize that following it religiously entails a ton of work, discipline and tenacity. That’s where we come in. When you put JJA on the case, life actually gets easier. We’ll always pull you in for the moments when your attention is essential, but the process itself keeps flowing whether you’re thinking about it or not.

Analogy time: imagine that you work as on-air talent for a news network. Naturally, you’ve got other people doing the legwork, handling all the writing, editing, graphics and a million other details. Your role is to waltz in just before airtime, sit down in front of the cameras and deliver the words from a teleprompter knowing nothing’s going to slip through the cracks.

That’s the mindset we apply to executive searches.

One Mission, Five Sprints

We’ve broken our process down into a series of five sprints. Each includes elements designed to ensure continued alignment between you and your JJA Partners while building on a body of relevant intel and maintaining momentum. Here’s the basic flow: 

1. Strategize

Begin by clearly establishing expectations, ground rules, and timelines. Transparency wins.

  • Two JJA Partners personally lead each retained search.
  • Hold initial conversations with the client’s key stakeholders.
  • Record and transcribe the kick-off video call where the CEO or other leader pitches the company’s story.
  • A dedicated Search Coordinator (think Scrum Master) optimizes the sprints for speed, selection, and resiliency.

2. Visualize

Who is the ideal candidate? What qualities matter most? How do you pique that person’s interest?

  • Weigh desired requirements and experience to create an Ideal Candidate Profile (ICP).
  • Translate this into a comprehensive interview/screening Scorecard – this becomes the lens for the search.
  • Curate a heat map for laser-targeted sourcing and recruitment. This includes high-priority sectors and companies, often getting as specific as a product or business unit.
  • Craft a compelling narrative to sell the company’s origin, mission, vision, ethos, and culture. So important, we use a professional copywriter to ensure the message isn’t lost in a sea of noise.

3. Prioritize

Finding a few incredible people means sifting through hundreds of really good ones.

  • We launch a three-channel outreach campaign to feed the funnel:
    1. Talent relationships within our proprietary network.
    2. Laser-targeting within specific companies.
    3. Qualified referrals from trusted sources.
  • Partners direct the research team as they review hundreds of candidate bios.
  • Partners also conduct their own highly personal outreach, evangelizing the story to hook great candidates who are not actively looking.

4. Realize

We’ve all learned a lot by this point. Now it’s time to get every aspect tightly dialed in so we can start driving the best candidates down the conversion funnel. Constant iteration drives this process.

  • A JJA Partner sits in on initial interviews to refine the requirements while zeroing in on personality and culture fit.
  • We tweak the pitch, refine the scorecard and accelerate the search (think of this as the equivalent of a code freeze in software dev).
  • From this point on, we only present candidates who check most or all of the boxes on a client’s checklist.
  • The campaign yields a robust set of options, making for a difficult choice.

5. Finalize

Landing a top candidate requires tight collaboration between the client and the JJA Partner.

  • The Client selects finalists from the shortlist our campaign has delivered.
  • Rigorous due diligence is critically important at this stage.
    • More interviews with company leadership, board, and investors.
    • The client spends non-interview time with finalists to gauge chemistry and fit.
    • We perform confidential reference checks. But we also go deeper to identify red flags for racism, intolerance, criminal behavior, harassment and more. This involves a combination of secure, compliant screening of social networks, web search results, and paid databases.
  • JJA provides counsel/coaching on final selection and deal terms, managing all communication while choreographing negotiation and closing.
  • We add peace of mind by monitoring each new placement after the hire, backing up our work with a full one-year replacement guarantee.

“This process continues to prove its value…every search delivers multiple stellar options.”

So that’s all there is to it?

If only it were that simple. The good news? Though AIM involves a ton of effort, this process continues to prove its value again and again. Every search delivers multiple stellar options. So if your top choice declines (or fails the due-diligence test), you still have active candidates in consideration, with more being added daily. This allows you to immediately extend an offer to another finalist rather than finding yourself all the way back at square one.

While you’ll always pay a heavy price for making a poor hire – up to five times a bad hire’s annual salary, according to a study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) – the costs of plugging the wrong person into a mission-critical position can be catastrophic. You simply can’t afford to screw up. So many JJA clients partner with us on indispensable roles, letting their internal teams adopt our methodology as a roadmap for in-house talent acquisition.

When you truly commit to embracing Alignment + Intel + Momentum for landing critical hires, we’re confident you’ll get better results, and you’ll get them faster. And if this sounds like something you’d prefer to leave to the experts? Our team is always here to help.

Hey – my name may be on the byline, but the ideas I share are always the product of a team effort. JJA is on a mission to raise the bar in high-stakes recruitment, from retained searches to corporate talent acquisition. We approach life like an open-source project, driven by the belief that there’s always a better way. If you have ideas you’d like to contribute, please email us. To download some of the free tools we’ve developed, visit the JJA website.