One Size Doesn’t Fit All—Executive Hiring in Aerospace & Defense

Hiring qualified C-suite candidates with the right experience and security clearances for the aerospace and defense industries has never been easy. As companies begin to ramp up their activities, that means more opportunities for the top candidates, and a more difficult path to get their attention. One key path to finding the right candidates is to recognize that one size does not fit all—each candidate will have their own strengths and react to their own priorities in what’s being offered.

This is especially true in the government contractor sector where competition is fierce. It wasn’t too long ago that government agencies tended to rely on the same handful of government contractors because they had the size and broad scope of services to offer comprehensive solutions in one place- often with former military leaders on their team as well as their boards helping to grease the skids.

But lower barriers to entry have brought in a range of smaller, more nimble competitors from the commercials markets that act more like Silicon Valley start-ups than the established contractors that have been around for decades. They can offer higher compensation and a more attractive set of benefits that make executive candidates sit up and take notice.

Yellow puzzle piece next to many white puzzle pieces

At Dinte, we focus on our client’s position in the market and their visions of growth and opportunity in the defense and aerospace sectors. Our unique process requires us to get a firm understanding of our clients’ vision, and seek out executive candidates who can help make that vision a reality. And not only are we seeking candidates that will drive that growth, we also want to make sure those executives can easily fit into business as well. We employ psychometric testing and other assessment tools to ensure that the candidate will mesh with our client’s culture.

A recent confidential survey of new C-suite hires across leading aerospace and defense companies delivers a stark message: One size does not fit all. When enacting programs to identify and attract the best executive applicants in this competitive field, a successful company needs to employ different strategies for different audiences.

The survey asked candidates who had been hired within the past 12 months why they made the decision to join a particular company, and what was important in differentiating the opportunities they were considering. The answers are surprising but instructive, and here are the top findings from the survey:

  1. Doing work that matters is a large factor when making a decision on which company to join, and making that point across the recruiting process is important. But it wasn’t the number one factor.
  2. Most important was how a company treats its employees across all levels of the company. Knowing that a particular company treats its executive team well, with respect, recognition, and a feeling that team members are considered part of the family was the highest indicator on the list.
  3. Having industry-leading compensation and work-life balance programs such as flexible scheduling was important, but was also taken as a given, as the price of entry. Any employer without those crucial attributes is less likely to be considered at all.

Educating and communicating with prospective team members targeted in the hiring process cannot rely on a cookie-cutter approach, particular in the aerospace and defense recruiting sector. Different types of hires require different messages to convey that number one point: That employees are treated well and welcomed into the family if they take the offer.

And that means different things to different categories of new hires. When coming from the military, for example, new hires thought it very important that they see other former military team members as fully integrated into the company at all levels. Similarly, women recruits want to meet with and hear from other women leaders in the company about their experiences. All of this starts with the right executive search partner who can understand our clients’ vision for the market and what they need to meet their financial and b