One of the hardest parts of any executive search is crafting “the pitch.” The pitch is the least understood part of the search process.

It is certainly the most poorly executed.

You can take courses to become an expert in networking, and more courses in how to search the net to find names of qualified people (sourcing). You can take courses to become a better interviewer. But your results will always be mediocre if you fail to differentiate your job from all the other jobs that a qualified candidate might be interested in.  Your search will not attract the best and brightest candidates until you give them a compelling reason to talk with you.To better understand what a great pitch is, let’s first review what it is not:

  • The pitch is not a sales pitch: “Jim, let me tell you about a sweet little company called ACME Anvils. They make the best darn anvils in town. Why people are lining up to work with them. You’d be lucky to get an interview there.”
  • The pitch is not about money:  “Hey Jim, how’d you like to come over to ACME Anvils? We could offer you a 20% increase on your salary.”
  • The pitch is certainly not that hollow, meaningless drivel from a typical job ad: ” ACME Anvils offers an exciting and dynamic work environment.” Or worse, the blah, blah, blah of a typical job description, “Day to day responsibilities include…”

To craft a great pitch, you need to know what results the candidate is expected to accomplish. Top performers are drawn to challenge, and want to know what will be the primary focus of their work.

  • In one organization a Director of Communications might be all about cultivating media relationships to place stories. (Within that task, those stories might need to migrate to mainstream media from local media, trade press or bloggers.)  It all depends who you are trying to influence with your communications.
  • In another organization the same job might be about developing an annual strategic communications plan, developing the value proposition, framing the issues, and maybe doing some marketing.
  • In a “think tank” or policy shop, the communications job might trying to influence the public perception of something, and the work might be focused on developing content (white papers, blog posts, speeches, magazine and newsletter content, etc.).
  • Do you want your communications to be steady, on point and noncontroversial, or is controversy good for your cause? Is your work buffeted by current events? Do you need to react to news and events 24/7? Is your audience domestic?  International? Or is your primary focus on swaying regulators and legislators?

A great pitch is like a dog whistle. Most people cannot hear it at all, but the intended recipient hears it loud and clear. So if you don’t work in communications, a lot of things on the list above might sound like similar kinds of work. But if you are a top communications professional, one job will be much more appealing than another.

The secret to a great pitch is that it does not try to appeal to everyone. It uses the language of insiders, and is designed to appeal to only a select few people who love a specific kind of challenge. It viscerally connects with the people who care about the issues you care about and who share your cultural values. When the right person hears it, they say, “This job was tailor made for me,” or “This is a DNA match to my skills.” Everyone else’s job just sounds like background noise by comparison.

A great pitch depends equally on what you put in AND what you leave out. But easy, it is not.