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Insights Into Executive Hiring Trends

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Show Notes:

In this episode of the Executive Connect Podcast, host Melissa Aarskaug welcomed Laurie Canepa, a seasoned expert in executive recruitment, to discuss the evolving trends and challenges impacting the recruitment of executives in today’s dynamic job market. Laurie shared valuable insights into market trends, the importance of flexibility, and the significance of cultural fit and preparation in the recruitment process.

Key Points Covered:

00:00 – Introductions and overview

02:20 – Market Trends Impacting Executive Recruitment

  • The increasing importance of flexibility in today’s job market, highlighting shifts towards remote, hybrid, and on-site work models.
  • The evolution of remote roles and the trade-offs candidates must consider between leadership positions and remote work.

09:29 – Navigating Economic Uncertainty and Compensation Negotiations

  • Insights into compensation negotiations, stressing the importance of transparency and understanding the full compensation package.
  • How can candidates effectively negotiate compensation while maintaining focus on cultural fit and long-term career goals.

16:29 – Preparing for Successful Interviews and Building Personal Branding

  • Valuable tips for candidates on preparing for interviews, including thorough research, effective communication, and authenticity.
  • Highlighting the significance of personal branding, emphasizing the role of platforms like LinkedIn in showcasing professional identity and engagement.

30:33 – Tips for Different Interview Formats

  • Practical advice for navigating different interview formats, from phone interviews to virtual and onsite meetings.
  • Discussing the importance of preparation and practice to overcome challenges and make a positive impression during interviews.

From understanding market trends to mastering interview preparation, today’s episode offers actionable strategies for achieving success in executive job hunting.

Guest Bio:

Laurie Canepa began her career in Finance and Accounting in 1997, and transitioned into recruiting in Texas in 2006, earning notable accomplishments throughout her career. Her 17+ years of expertise within the Texas market and her network of top Finance and Accounting talent are key attributes Laurie brings to the Managing Director of Finance and Accounting Search role at StevenDouglas.

Laurie is known by clients and candidates alike for her dedication to excellence in the recruiting process, and her unique ability to connect with the people she works and supports. These qualities have made her a “Recruiting Professional of Choice” in the Texas market.

Laurie excels at placing positions from mid and senior-level F&A professionals to C-Suite roles in organizations ranging from non-profits to global, publicly-traded corporations. Prior to joining StevenDouglas, Laurie spent over 15 years as a Partner and Division Director for one of the top boutique Accounting and Finance Search firms in Texas. As the top producer there, she played a critical role in bringing the firm to its pinnacle, creating major growth opportunities and an array of successful placements. The first 10 years of Laurie’s career were spent gaining hands-on experience in the world of public accounting, as well as executing industry accounting as a Corporate Controller.


About Melissa Aarskaug:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.

Personal LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-aarskaug

Podcast LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/company/my-executive-connect

Website – www.executiveconnectpodcast.com


Narrator  00:08

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded and engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug  00:38

Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m so excited to have my friend Laurie Canepa here today to talk about your jobs, the job industry, the market. Laurie, tell us a little bit bit about what you do.

Laurie Canepa  00:54

Great, it’s so great to be it’s so great when you get to connect with someone on a business level and on a personal level. And that’s Melissa, for me for sure. So my name is Laura, Canepa, I’m based here in Austin, Texas, started my career out in public accounting, and then morphed into a controller role in industry and then stepped in the world into the world of executive search almost 18 years ago. So I specialize in executive search that goes all the way up through the C levels. Specifically my niche is in accounting and finance. Stephen Douglas, who I work for is a 40 year old brand, based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was our flagship employee two years ago, a little over two years ago that they hired in Austin to expand their presence into Texas. In that time, we now cover Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. And we’ve actually worked our way up to be in the top five for both executive retained search and for contingency search in this market. So we’re not function specific, or I mean, we’re function specific. We’re not industry specific. So we cover all genres. And we also have a national presence. We cover over 25 different markets. And even on accounting and finance. We also work in other verticals, as well as information technology, supply chain, human resources, legal, and then we also have an interim resources group as well.

Melissa Aarskaug  02:15

Great, thank you for that. Laurie, excited to have you here today to talk about recruiting. So from your perspective, what market trends have you observed that are significantly impacting recruiting of executives today?

Laurie Canepa  02:29

So the biggest thing in the ongoing conversation is flexibility. Right? So flexibility, you know, I think in this world, it’s, you know, is what are we talking about remote jobs, we’re talking about hybrid we’re talking about on site, and which level of a role is embracing? Well, you know, which side I would say two years ago, if you dial back our remote jobs, the dynamic of those, Rob’s his jobs has drastically changed. If you pulled up our sheet that said, 100% remote jobs, there were a lot of C level leadership jobs, that has changed. And that was really out of necessity, right. So that has now changed, I think just because we no longer have that pandemic attached to it as well. But I also think that companies have quickly realized for the most part, that there is something to say for some type of face time, and creating cohesive culture, some type of camaraderie, everybody kind of being on the same page, collectively, in the Austin area, or in Central Texas, I’d say everybody’s embracing the hybrid. There are some that are going on site every day. But I’d say you know, hybrid three, two or four, one, I always advise companies that are kind of resistant to the hybrid. Like I was looking at flexibilities earned, like baby step, try one day, see how that works for everybody, right. But the dynamic of those C level roles, like I said, has changed. If you look at our remote roles, now, there are more individual contributor roles. They’re more plug and play roles, like technical SEC reporting, you know, anything related to tax. So I think if anything, I think candidates have to catch up a little bit on understanding that you can’t just have that if you want to leadership, you have to choose, do I want a leadership position and be highly compensated or compensated what I think is fair for my skill set? Or is being 100% remote more important to me? Because there’s going to be a trade off. There just is. And I’d say like said two years ago, that was totally different. And if anything, I think I think employers are a little bit ahead of kind of making that pivot. And I think candidates are a little bit behind on that when we talk to candidates and I tell them like it’s fine if you want to be 100% remote, but are you going to have that leadership, C level high growth, opportunity to have an impact position? Not so much?

Melissa Aarskaug  04:35

Yeah, I agree. I think I’m wondering like, are there specific industries that are in like, is there a sector that has a heightened demand for top executives right now that you’re recruiting for?

Laurie Canepa  04:48

I mean, I think it’s so if you dial it back to 2008 right where we cut across the board like nobody was hiring. There was no PPP loan bail out, right. So companies were like trying to stay more cash centric. So they were cutting from the top up, and it wasn’t industry specific it was across the board, if you look now, it’s definitely like I said, it depends on the industry. Right. And, you know, there’s gonna be certain industries in 2024, just like 2023 that are going to be more varied to interest rates, economy. So I think it really just depends on the industry and how that’s flourishing. I’d say retail banking, you know, especially those consumer more facing positions tend to, you know, it’s an emotional roller coaster, depending on the markets going. Technology, it just depends on the, you know, the vertical you’re in, I mean, I have one technology company here specifically, you know, they’ve got a multibillion dollar valuation and 65% profit margins, and then I’ve another one that’s drastically struggling. So I wish there was like more of a black and white answer to that. But I mean, I mean, we, I would say, if I look historically, over the CFOs, CFOs, and CEOs I’ve placed over the last six months, there everything from consumer products, to, you know, it depends on where the position sits as well, like which companies are sitting in the cloud, which is technology driven. We just played you know, we work in banking and financial institutions, we work the startup bank here in Austin. So I’d say it’s a little bit all over the map. But again, me being in the Central Texas market might be a little bit different than some other areas of the country. I’d say, from an economic perspective, my office out of all of our 25 Different off dump 25 different locations has been by far the busiest I would say. And I don’t think it’s because I’m so awesome. I mean, my team is awesome. But I mean, but I mean, I’m just saying, but but I am saying, but I think it’s because we are lucky to be in Texas, there’s more companies coming here than leaving here. I think that we create a lot of you know, I think not just because companies No, it’s a no, it’s for a lot of reasons, I think cost of doing business, regardless of all the things we hear about it being more expensive. I mean, at the end of the day, we have no income tax global companies like this location, just purely because of our timezone. No, that’s silly, but really it is because think about if you have APAC responsibilities, and you’ve got people on the east and west coast, well, if you have someone right in the middle that way, it’s not you know, it’s it’s kind of somewhere in that meeting in between. So I think, you know, we still have a lot of people, more companies, people coming here than leaving here, really, I mean, for the most part, and then from hiring perspective, you know, I was just listening to the editor of LinkedIn, LinkedIn, 85% was 85% of people in 2024, are passively seeking a new role. That’s up 27% from last year. Yeah. So when you talk about it, and we’re not talking about unemployed people, we’re talking about employed people, which makes the market to long answer to your short question and incredibly tight. And I think everyone gets drawn into the we hear RIFs we hear raise, yes, but look at those companies. Those are the very large global publicly traded companies that from my perspective, over hired and overpaid post pandemic, there’s a very, very large company that we all know in the social media space, multi multi billion dollar company, when they came back from pandemic and people didn’t want to come back to work. They were like, kind of almost in panic mode, oh, my gosh, we need people. So and people don’t want to come back. So they don’t ever ready to work yet. They’re still like this PTSD from the pandemic. So they were hiring, and they’re paying like 30% over market. And that’s across the board. So some of this is really level setting, but no one ever talks about it, you know, it’s just, it’s the media pulling into the gloom and doom. But it’s really, it’s a lot of his level setting. I mean, even just a point of reference here in in Austin in my role. Senior accountants is a simple example, for competitive salary will make somewhere between 90 to 110. And that’s like a big four CPA CPA candidate type, this particular company and some of their competitors, the large global publicly traded company, were paying somewhere between 130 to 135. So if you think about it, now they’re looking at where they’re going, it’s gonna be 24. Now they have a chance to breathe a little bit. And they’re looking around, especially in my role, which are non revenue generating positions. So looking at that and saying, Okay, well, we gosh to we overpaid, we’ve got to cut there a little bit. And we over hired. Now in the Austin market, it kind of kept us honest, because most of our companies here are somewhere between, you know, 50 and 350 million, or PE or VC backed. So you know, PEs and VCs were like, Yeah, that’s cute. But we’re not paying Senior accountants $135,000. Right. So kind of kept us honest, which I think also works to our advantage where, what is why we don’t sit? I would say, if you look at some areas of the country, as far as like our unemployment rate, and things like that is pretty low here.

Melissa Aarskaug  09:11

85% is a huge number, I think for people looking.

Laurie Canepa  09:15

I mean, that’s going with what the LinkedIn editor said. I mean, I’m just saying he’s supposed to be the market expert.

Melissa Aarskaug  09:21

So true.

Laurie Canepa  09:22

And that was just that was yesterday, actually. Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa Aarskaug  09:25

Wow. That’s a huge number. And when I think of like LinkedIn as well, you know, everything’s pretty clear, pretty posted of what the job is, what the salary is, if it’s remote or hybrid. But when you’re working with candidates and matching them with compensation for these roles, are there specific negotiation tactics that you you use? So the employer is not overpaying and the employee is getting the right pay?

Laurie Canepa  09:55

Yeah, I mean, I think always being honest and transparent on the front end is always really important. Right, like, you know, in, you know, when I talk to a candidate, and this is more my perspective, you know, often I’ll ask them, you know, in Texas legally, I can still ask you what you’re making, right? I can ask you now that may change down the road, there’s other states, you cannot, unless they’d like to volunteer that, but for me, in order to best help you, I really need to know what your overall compensation package is just so that, you know, I need to know your base is. What’s your bonus? What’s it tied to? What’s your incentive comp? You know, you know, pre IPO equity or pre event equity is always hard to evaluate. I know that, but how much? Or how fully Are you invested in those kinds of things? And I think that’s just a really good starting point. I know, sometimes people are reluctant to share that, because they feel like they’re underpaid or those kinds of things. But again, in my world, I’m kind of the I’m kind of like your agent, right? So I’m up to kind of like, negotiate that, like, hey, you know, here’s Melissa, this is her current compensation, because in Texas, the you’re could still have to go to fill that on a job application. So why are we like, let’s just lay all the cards on the table, right? And is what here, but I know her and I know her industry. And she’s definitely paid 10% before market. So even though this is our current overall compensation package, this is what her target is. Candidates often like to give me ranges too, I always tell them, that’s really cute, but companies don’t pay in ranges. So I love that you’re open to the range, right? But like, let’s talk about what that actually means. Right? So and then. And then the same is, you know, your bonus, you know, you know, did your bonus pay out historically, you know, but one of the things that we talked about, I just give a seminar to the job seekers network here in town is, you know, when you’re talking about negotiating compensation, you remember, honesty on the front end, but we want to really stay, you want them to fall in love with you first, right? They want, you’re gonna have so much more negotiating power, when they are like, not in like with you, but then when they are in love with you, then you’ve had enough conversations to get them to know you. So that you’re a little bit of a proven entity, starting right out of the gate would like like saying, Hey, this is what I’ll take, or I won’t take would like come this ultimatum, ultimatum, it’s just never a good approach anyways, because then you’re just going to be, you know, clients, at the end of the day want to know you’re running to something, not from something, right. And so at the end, even if you really are running from something, but they want to know that you’re looking for a career and not a job, right. And so I think part of it is really knowing when to really understanding when it’s time to have that compensation conversation, and not shooting yourself in the foot either way, like coming in, you know, you don’t want to undervalue your stuff, you’re doing the opposite yourself. But on the flip side, you don’t want your salary and your compensation to become so overly like that that’s just a focus that they’re missing out on everything else about you. And there’s a time and date to do that. I mean, time and date a time and day to do that. But you have to be really strategic about when you do that in the process. And often it’s not as hard to explain, as people think, you know, salaries are tied to revenues, you know, and so I mean, at the end of the day, so for instance, if I’m talking to someone from Dell, who likes the idea of working in a pre revenue, early stage, $10 million fund, you know, funded startup, well, if you’re making 200k, at Dell, like that’s probably not happening, you know, so there has to be a little bit of a trade off. I’m not saying that you don’t have to make something that’s competitive, and everybody’s financial situation is different. But you’re going to have to know that it’s not apples to apples, right? I mean, everything from a benefits perspective. And I do a lot of that. I mean, majority, the companies here in town, for the most part are not we only have 50 publicly traded companies here. So they say I’d love somebody to actually count those. But that’s you won’t get traded companies here in Austin. And so for the most part, most companies are not on on the, you know, on the larger side of compensation, but I think it’s just really understanding and then asking away, it is amazing to me, how often C level executives that I’ve talked to in my world, it’s CFOs, and CEOs, it’s VPs of finance that, that get into a company and say, you know, I didn’t know my, my equity was tied to that, or I didn’t know that my equity was really worth that, or I didn’t know, invested annually. I just assumed invested quarterly, I think they’re afraid to ask the question because they feel like they’ll come across like, you know, uneducated or, you know, not knowing how to you because you’re a numbers person, and especially if you’re coming from a company where you’ve never had that type of equity, because there’s so many, you know, I’d love in my world, I have wished clients would share their cap, nobody’s sharing their cap table with me. Okay? No, one. No, because that would be much easier conversation, we’re meeting negotiate. So I think as a recruiter, I also have to know when I step out of the process, because clients will share with me enough, but often, so there’s no miscommunication, or you know, miscommunication about the valuation, I usually let C level execs have that conversation. I’d say I’ve seen here in Austin C level, I’ve seen a little bit of a mix most recently, a lot before, there have been a lot more of like number of options, you know, number of shares, and most recently, I’ve seen a trend more towards percentages. Typically my CFO roles usually are as percentages. It’s anything at the chief accounting officer or CFO, you know, CFO level. But again, you’ve got to know what does that percentage mean? Like what’s the outstanding shares, you know, what’s the vesting schedule? What’s the dilution, like all knowing all those things? And unfortunately, you know, clients often don’t share that much with me. They share with me enough like you know, they call it meaningful equity. which, which is, you know, meaningful equity does. And when I tell candidates it’s meaningful equity, we mean there’s an exit or some type of like planned exit, depending upon if it’s VC PE backed, or we’re doing an IPO. Because, you know, there’s companies I worked with here and also been doing this for 18 years, that have been telling me their pre IPO for 10 years. So let’s talk about how meaningful that equity is. It’s not it feels good. But it’s not.

Melissa Aarskaug  15:24

You know, I think you touched on a really good point I wanted to circle back on, there’s the resume that has the information to get you the interview. And there’s the actual interview, which are completely separate things I know, I’ve read resumes, many times, and I’ve been hiring for many years, where it says attention to detail, and there’s like grammatical errors all the way through their resume. More things are wrong. And I think you nailed it, it’s, you know, you got to find it’s a it’s a DNA fit for you. And it’s a DNA fit for the company, and you gotta, they gotta fall in love with you, you have better negotiating power when it works both sides. And, you know, I always I always when interviewing people, I a lot of times look at the resume, but I don’t interview a ton off the resume, because it gets you the job interview. But really, what gets you the job is your personality and what you’re going to do for that company? Absolutely. Okay, go ahead. I was gonna kind of switch gears a bit. And we talked about money. And I know you touched on it a little bit at the beginning, was LinkedIn, you know, personal branding, and your professional networks are starting to become huge on LinkedIn. So when you’re, you know, you’re interviewing for roles, do you look at, you know, really how pivotable how pivotal is branding, professional networks, for executive candidates looking to stand out and differentiate themselves for a position.

Laurie Canepa  16:59

It’s huge. And you know, today’s LinkedIn tomorrow might be do something different, right. But LinkedIn is the go to right. And I would say, you know, hiring managers or my clients are looking for any reason to rule you out. So don’t give them that reason. You know, I know a lot of my hiring managers, whether we start with my preference is to work directly with the hiring manager. But often, sometimes larger companies, we have to go through, you know, internal, the process, internal recruiting HR, the first thing they’re doing is taking this resume, and they’re gonna see if it matches your LinkedIn. Like it says, tell them, you know, you may say, Well, you know, I’m not gonna social media on LinkedIn, but it tells them a little bit about you’re how tech savvy is this person, right? Like, you know, like, I know that maybe they’re not spending all day on LinkedIn. But are they usually they’re not on LinkedIn, because it’s something they’re afraid of, or don’t want to post or people they match, they literally want to match to make sure that your resume is identical to what’s on LinkedIn. If it’s not, it gives it’s back to the attention to detail, like you know, how important is and I think for them, even when they’re if we’re talking about C level execs, they’re not when they’re when they’re hiring you they’re hiring your network too right. So if they hire you, Melissa, they’re gonna say, Well, okay, so let’s say they’re working with me, they’re like, we’re paying, we paid a fee for Melissa. But hopefully, we don’t pay a fee for the next four or five, because she’s gonna bring people that she knows, and that she trusts. So that’s part of it, too. And people don’t think that far ahead. But really, when they’re looking, they’re looking not only and does she does that person really kind of well known in their own, like in their own are they subject matter expert and respected by their peers in their space. So yes, and LinkedIn and don’t think they’re not looking at your other social media either. Like, trust me, I tell candidates when you’re, when you’re interviewing, I know you have things hidden. But remember who your audience is. And remember what’s out there. Remember what you comment on and what you don’t comment on LinkedIn. You know, Facebook, yes, it’s a personal, personal, vertical, you know, a personal platform, I get that. But be very, very careful on LinkedIn, what you actually like what you comment in, and how you do that, in a way, we’re not saying, Don’t be authentic, we’re not saying don’t do yourself, but don’t give a hiring, a potential employer a reason to rule you out. When it comes down to that very close race between three and four candidates, two and three candidates. It’s just little, there’s looking for a little small reasons to say, you know, what I saw Lori commented on something and I don’t know if that would really fit in here. And Melissa didn’t really do that. So that’s going to be I like both, they can both do the job. Well, that’s going to be my deciding factor. I know it sounds so simple. I mean, it’s so it sounds so silly, but it really is. So really branding and being authentic on there and commenting on things that you feel like you know, they want to see you comment on things relevant to their you know, to your world and to your audience, they want to see how up to speed you are especially if you’re in a technology, you know, technology space like like your Melissa like really making I mean, I see your posts all the time, right? I mean, you’re always up to speed on the newest, the latest and even if you’re not really sure about it, you’re like What do you think right, like, so I think there also it also sells loud people about your communication, your ability to engage. If you go up there, I mean, even in my role, I’m in accounting finance, if I go up there, and I see someone’s LinkedIn profile and there’s no photo. And they have like two connections. Hmm. Because there’s fake. There are fake profiles out there, right? There just are just in like any space. And so that also makes me think like, okay, like, you know, again, it just tells people and how serious are you really about your career search? But LinkedIn is really I mean, it’s a very and being part of other groups and networks. But yeah, so that’s a long answer to a short question. But it’s really important.

Melissa Aarskaug  20:24

It’s really good. I think. I agree. Like, I’ve looked at resumes, and I’ve, the resume said, they’ve been at a company for eight years, I go on their LinkedIn, and they’ve had a new job every year for eight years. Right, so it makes you question, Are these people honest? Are they transparent? And so I think it does, you’re right, it does leave different nuggets of information when you’re an interviewing manager. So for for executives that are looking to stand out for jobs, is there anything they could be doing on LinkedIn, like anything you suggest that they do on LinkedIn, or maybe second, secondly, anything they could do for their own brand that helps them get jobs?

Laurie Canepa  21:06

I think C level execs it’s about being consistent, right? Because there is, you know, we have the luxury of having this incredible technology team, yes, I’m gonna give a prop to Dave Burlison, woo, he does this incredible algo, he has done a deep dive on algorithms within LinkedIn. So we actually have this incredible profile about posting, when to post times to post, how many more views you’re gonna get, like, all these kinds of things, because there is a rhyme to that, right? Like, you’re gonna get more looks, you’re gonna get more views, and you’re always gonna get that if you’re consistent, right? I mean, I’d say on average, just as if even if you’re in a job search, or you’re hiring manager, you know, to be relevant on LinkedIn, you’ve got to touch it at least three or four times a week, at least at a bare bare minimum, right. And it’s got to be something relevant to your audience, you know, like in tagging, you know, tagging companies, but branding, you know, a picture that’s, that’s, you know, my world conservative, easily accessible, you know, if you’re, if you really want to, you know, if you’re really out there and you’re actively looking, make it easy for someone to contact you, um, don’t make me have to go through LinkedIn recruiter to find your contact information and go back there make it pretty easy for me to find you. So when you click on contact information, whatever you’re comfortable with, like, maybe you don’t want to advertise your cell phone number out there, but at least put an email or something in your contact information, so I can easily find you. And then remember, when you’re doing searching through LinkedIn, whatever your title that you’re looking for, that’s got to be in your head or somewhere, right? Because that’s what that’s what they’re pulling up, right? Whether it’s, you know, like, if I’m looking for like SaaS CFO, like, you know, if I pull up SaaS, CFO, the ones that says, SaaS CFO, we’re gonna come up first, or it’s just CFO. So I’d say really, in really spending time, instead of, you know, a lot of times people will put just like the name of their company, what they’re doing, you know, their their title, and then nothing about what they’re doing. Again, that’s where all the search comes from. So the more than you spend time and putting there, and the more key words that are like within your industry are going to be you know, more easily, you know, more, I guess, more discoverable. And then being part of those those groups as well. But also, like I said, sort of being present. And I’d say if you’re C level exec, writing original content is huge to writing something content and specific to your industry, that really gets a look in posting those in groups being part of groups, a lot of people don’t think about when you post, you can also tag you probably see my Melissa. And I think you probably do the same thing. When I post I use that post, I repost that thing, probably 10 to 12 times, but I just tag different groups. So for me, for instance, by tag if I post a controller job today, I posted on my main feed, but then I go back and I share it directly to the Texas CPA group CPA society. So when you do a post, and you do something, that’s original content that you think people interested in, you know, it’s working smarter, not harder, take that post and reuse it 10 to 15 times tagging in those groups that would speak to you. Now, when are people going to get people you might, you might start networking to people you haven’t before. But it’s also a way to really dig up on, you know, potential job opportunities to for recruiters like myself looking for you. Again, make sure you’re staying in groups that are relevant to yourself. I think the other place that you know, being consistent and keep your title what your title is, I mean, I just been doing this for 18 years, honestly, is always the best policy. Like it don’t create 15 different versions of your resume. Again, it’s you know, here specifically in Austin, I think in any market, you can over saturate the market with a resume pretty easily more than you would think. And if you start and if you don’t think hiring managers and CEOs and CFOs and CEOs talk they do they talk about oh, Melissa, and I’d be like, Oh, I got like three different versions of Melissa’s resume for four different roles at my company. That’s a little concerning, because they’re the same person three different versions, three different roles. I haven’t even talked to this person but it clearly they don’t know what they want to do. You know, and I’m not really looking for that I’m looking for somebody who knows who they are, knows their brand knows what they’re looking for, you know, and so being very strategic about that and I think that’s an easier conversation with people who are employed or passive candidates but I do speak to a lot of people who are unemployed, but and I know you have to work but the more strategic I was kind of give them homework I send them morning, pick the four or five jobs companies want to see where you can add value from day one, hands down, whether that’s industry, you know, industry relatable for sure. Especially if you’ve spent a good period of time in one specific industry there, that’s definitely going to speak to them. So look for that three or four jobs that you want, apply to those. And then, and then switch that in the afternoon, take more of a proactive approach, instead of just blindly spinning resumes go to the industry, to the companies that you want to work for, and directly approach someone and that overbearing way just saying, hey, you know, I see that you’re working at XYZ company, you know, I have 10 to 15 years experience in this space, I’m not really sure if you’re looking to hire, but I’d love to have it, you know, if anything, we can have a, you know, talk about, you know, you know, talk shop about, you know, about, you know, your particular industry. And you’d be surprised how much more of a casual approach that opens up than just, you know, trying to apply for you try apply for 15-20 jobs, like I said, especially, I think at any market, but specifically in this market, people will literally say, You know what, I don’t know what’s wrong with that person. But they’re like, they’re really like applied like 15 jobs that are at our one company. And so clearly, they don’t know what they want in the resumes are different, and you know, all those kind of things. So I think I think staying true to yourself and true to your brand. But taking a little bit of a different approach in both ways. And so just applying to postings and kind of reversing that a little bit. I know that that really resonates. If it resonates with me, because people do that with me, too. They’ll reach out to me and say, hey, I saw that you’re with an executive search firm, I don’t really know what you have yet. I’m not applying to a posting, I’m just ready to start my search. And I’d like to talk a little bit about market or what you’re seeing out there, I would say I probably placed 20% of the people I work with, not because the company has a job order. But because I know that what the company looks for in candidates from a cultural perspective. And I know when someone has industry experience, well, you know, reach out and say, to hire manager I’ve known for 10 years, you know, I don’t know if you’re hiring. But I know from working with you before what you’re looking for in candidates, and this person’s got 10 years of industry related experience, your space is that someone you might be interested in speaking with, there’s a good chance that either they’re just interested in the candidate, which is always a good conversation. Now we have another C level contact in your market, which is never a bad day, or there’s a role that they’re getting ready to kick off next quarter. But now they’re gonna move up that timeline because you already live there. So I think taking a two pronged approach first, just waiting for some perfect job posting to pop up, especially in the C level world. So I would say most of my I just picked up a CFO search this morning, I’m not posting it. Because it’s a retained search, right. Like, I don’t think people understand like, like, you know, C level searches, for the most part, you’re not going to find those online, those are going to either be through retained search firm, or a confidential search. So you know, you creating that network is where you really dig those up. You know, if a company thinks they’re going to get their next CEO by posting a CEO job online, like you might want to question working for that company. So because I know, the only reason that I post in this market is so that people can tie me to this brand. That’s not really where we get our candidates for the most part. For the most part, we’re really like, target recruiting people. But I think that at the C level, you got to do a little legwork on the front end or create those networks and those connections. I think, if you talk to most C level execs, that’s typically where often opportunities come from.

Melissa Aarskaug  28:08

Yeah, I agree. And just one thing came to mind. So I know you’ve been staffing and recruiting for many, many years. What are the top skills that you? I know? That’s a bold question, because there’s hundreds of skills out there, like in the world of hiring today? What are the top skills employers are looking for? Whether it’s a C suite role, or a VP role or a director role? What are those top skills they’re looking for in a potential candidate?

Laurie Canepa  28:34

Do you mean more? Because my world is specific to accounting and finance, do you mean like specific skill sets are like newer, like, like things like ESG that are out there, like ESG is like a big one, right? Like the, you know, even in my role, like, you know, being an ESG controller, which is, you know, employer sustainability. I always remind myself, employer sustainability, I mean, sorry, environmental, social, and governance, like that’s become, you know, in depending on what industry, like we have a, I have a company here in town, this is going to be looking for an ESG controller. And obviously, that’s the accounting and finance role, but it’s all tied directly to the, you know, to the impact that that company specifically is having on the environment. So that’s, that’s kind of a newer one. I mean, that’s even a newer one for me, like, yeah, I love this business, because you always have to learn new things. I heard a little inkling of it last year, but because we don’t have the larger publicly traded companies here in Austin, that’s where you’re gonna typically find them. There wasn’t a majority of them, but now I’ve heard about two or three this year. So I’d say that’s, that’s one area of AI Of course, right? I mean, AI is just kind of a kind of a way to go. Skill sets as far as C level goes, I mean, you know, being tech savvy, if I knew, I mean, I can speak probably more to my world as far as you know, the, you know, being any, any type of ERP system or ERP platform more than you know, just a QuickBooks scenario is going to always be good. The you know, the what the go to here in Austin is NetSuite for sure, but I’m working with a company right now that is going through a conversion to SAP for HANA and literally, they need someone who’s an accountant, but it also is tech savvy and the implementation of SAP for HANA. Yeah, if you know anyone let me know.

Melissa Aarskaug  30:06

Point is I have some friends that are currently looking for C and VP roles. And they say you should they send me some of these jobs descriptions. And they’re like, they’re looking for unicorns. And so I just funny because I see some of these job descriptions with friends of mine that are interviewing and they’re like, yeah, you have to like, very specific role very specific time. And so. But any final thoughts, like maybe top three things that potential candidates in any fields can do to enhance their ability to be more either likable on social or better with their resume? I guess any closing thoughts?

Laurie Canepa  30:49

I mean, I think the biggest thing, and I gave this presentation the other day, and it’s one they’ve asked me to do, like four or five times, I think the biggest what I hear when, like, in my mind, when I submit candidates to a to a job, I, in my mind tests myself to say, I wonder how they’re going to rank them. Right. And I wonder who loves shoes? And sometimes, you know, I’ve had a lot time for prom kind of on point. But a lot of times that’s yeah, I mean, more often than not, but but. But the time that I’m not, it’s because my candidate didn’t prepare, or take the time to prepare. Like, it’s like anything. And that’s the biggest thing that I hear about companies, when they when they pass on a candidate where I’m like, wow, you passed on that candidate. I kind of thought that was a ringer, right. And they’re like, worried he didn’t hear she didn’t know about anything about the company that didn’t know anything relevant. So I think really, truly with a deal breaker is companies will hire anybody’s nine times out of 10 on culture fit passion over technical any day of the week. So make sure and you as a candidate, I think your ability to tie yourself to the mission to the product to the service will make your job that always feel like so much of a job. So I think it’s a win win for both. But do your homework, do your research, don’t try to cram the night before. I mean, when I prep our candidates we prep our days before we do a lot of legwork for them because they’re working we did a lot of that. But do your due diligence, know about you know, if you’re not good on an engaging conversation, don’t bring 10 questions, bring 15 questions, you know, know something relevant about the industry know, something, you know, see if you know other people that work there, if you know you’re uncomfortable talking to someone, go look on their LinkedIn profile, see where they went to school, we’ll see where they were raised. You just don’t want that weird, awkward silence. Because again, then you have that lack of engagement and in a role where you have to be cross functional, or especially in C level roles where that’s just inherent. And you have to be able to work and know your audience and work across the organization and literally be very visible, you’ve got to have that two way, like knowing how to knowing your audience. But being able to speak to it in a way that people understand is really important. And I’d say that’s probably the biggest complaint I get from it’s the it’s the most as it’s the majority, the biggest reason that clients push back on a candidate that on paper is purely qualified, but literally hasn’t taken the time to prep, or really, you know, things like don’t answer what is your weakness with a strength? Like don’t do? Like, what is your weakness? Oh, I work a lot. Okay, no, no, no, no, don’t do that. It was like the biggest thing like everybody has a weakness, I don’t care what it is. No one’s listening. I’m working on it. Right. So, you know, for me, like I’m always thinking about the next thing I want to say instead of like, trying to make sure I’m being present and being in the moment with the person, but I’m usually it’s usually because I’m really excited about what they’re talking about, which isn’t a bad thing. But you’ve got to be a little bit more self aware of those things. Yes. Don’t answer, you know, your like your strengths, your weaknesses, this,

Melissa Aarskaug  33:38

I love that. It’s so true, though. And I think getting to know people not just for the role, but who they are like, what are their characteristic traits? What are their personality traits? What are they like, typically how they engage? You can pull some of that information out outside of just the resume. And yeah, it baffles me, Laurie, that people still, I’ve interviewed many times where people had no idea what our company did anything. And I’m blown away by that if you want a job or you want anything, whether it’s anything, you would do some research on it. And you’re right, as a hiring manager, the minute that they have no idea about anything that we do, or the company like they’re absolutely not even to the next step, because that basic thing that they should be doing.

Laurie Canepa  34:23

And it really blows me away, because I’ve literally prepare them for it like here, like the night before, like, here’s the company, here’s recent articles, I know they’re working, right? So they’re coming home, they’re working by passive candidates and then it’s like, the last thing you want to have to do is read books on the outside when you get home, right? So and the fact that they actually didn’t do that it tells me a lot about them. They’re not really serious about making a change the probably a huge counteroffer risk to stay with their current company for that reason, like maybe they’re just trying to negotiate an offer with another company to get a better one than where they, you know, they’re not really committed to the process. So definitely questions whether I’m gonna you know, actually work with them going forward. Also in the interview process you know, you have to really emotionally prepare, if you’re coming from a situation that’s negative or toxic, you got to stay PC and you sometimes to really emotionally prepare that I don’t care how great of a camaraderie you feel with somebody that you’re hiring, that you’re just that you just met 30 minutes ago, they’re trying to see where, you know, where is Melissa going to be dramatic, like, you know, we’re like, they’re trying to get to pull you into that. So don’t, you know, make sure you stay in, they might even try to drill down on that and say, Hey, listen, you checked off the box, I really would love to know why you’re looking to leave. So you know, again, it was just time. You know, I’ve been there for a while I kind of outgrew my role, you know, I just the culture kind of shifted, it just I just didn’t fit there anymore. You know, those kind of things, but don’t all of a sudden be like, hey, you know, just because you feel a good rapport with the person they’re trying to see, you know, because that’s the last thing they want on their team is someone who’s going to create what they consider you know, that that banter of drama and everything else, right.

Melissa Aarskaug  35:57

And the other thing I was thinking that just popped in my head, I’ve been on interviews where people are like this, and you’re on their head or their body language and another thing like smile you’re not going in for a root canal. Show them your personality, I’ve had multiple times like I like I’m like really a my that engaging where you’re be mindful of your body language, it says to the person that’s talking, and if it’s you’re nervous, or you don’t understand the question, ask, Would you mind repeating this? Or what do you mean about this question? And I think people that are interviewing appreciate that maybe they didn’t ask the question, right? And they want to get your answer. But I’m always baffled when people do. Like, can you hold on one minute, I got a call. Like, I’m like, I mean are they serious. These kinds of things are common sense, but not always common.

Laurie Canepa  37:00

Yeah. And you’re staying staying clear and concise to the point, right? Like, especially C level for sure. C level, most level, execs don’t care how you got to the bottom line, they just want what the bottom line is, right? And so if they want you to expand, they’ll ask you to expand, but don’t get to, like, answer the question first. And then if they’d like you to expand on that topic, great, but stay clear. Because again, it’s going to tell them, how’s my internal communication with Melissa? Is Melissa going to be one of those people that’s like, hey, I need a minute. And it’s more like, you know, like, you know, you know, 50-60 minutes, right, like those kinds of things. So, I think really sticking to that when you’re talking and really making sure that’s like staying in the moment, because often an interviewer or a hiring manager is testing you, they may say something earlier in the conversation. And if you’re not really paying attention, they may circle back at the end, and ask you what you thought about that, or how you related that to some other aspect of your career. And if you’re not really paying attention, and really in the moment, and really staying engaged, you won’t even know what they’re talking about. Right? And so, and I think really being make it easy on yourself, have your resume there, write down questions ask, tell, you know, tell them say, Hey, I like some of the things you’re saying Do you mind if I take notes that way? They know if you’re doesn’t look like you’re distracted, you’re just taking notes on what they’re saying? That’s not always a bad thing. I always tell candidates ask first, so that they don’t think you’re just like writing something else. But like I said, I think it’s just some of this is just I mean, some of this is just common sense. I mean, even on a attire. You know, it’s where what you would normally wear to a professional interview. I don’t know, how are there other way to explain that, you know, it’s you know, and I’ve actually prepared if, if you want to share the audience, I’m fine with that. I’ve prepared a PowerPoint on the three different types of interviews and how to prepare for them differently. Because a phone interview is one of the hardest interviews ever, because they can’t see you. They can’t see any in flight they you know, they can’t see your face, they can’t see it. I think phone interviews are really hard. And I think they’re also I always try to deter my hiring managers from ruling someone out just based on a phone interview, because I do think that that doesn’t give you anything about the soft skills, telling someone to smile, although it’s really hard. And you know, even see that inflection in your voice sometimes. But also that we have one that’s virtual, and then an on you know, an onsite one and I have these tips and tricks about preparing for them and those kinds of things because they’re all very different. And I think they’re you know, some people are comfortable in front of a camera some aren’t so practice so don’t don’t make it a dry run the first time you’ve been interviewed because the last thing you want to do is a hiring manager. So you know, I really liked everything about Melissa like to resume but she was kind of awkward on screen. She was like, you know, like you know, you know, and then you’ll be kicking yourself because you’re like, you know, if I just practiced that a couple of times, like with my family, my friends, gosh, is that the reason that again, they’re looking for the little differences between you and someone else else who prepared much better.

Melissa Aarskaug  39:39

I love it, all good information. We’d love to share any extra information. Laurie, I love talking to you. You always have so much great information. And the speed at which you can get it all out is amazing.

Laurie Canepa  39:52

Northeast. I’m from the northeast. Originally I’m not a born and bred Texan, but I’ve been here for 20 years. That’s probably a bad excuse.

Melissa Aarskaug  39:57

I love it. I love it. I follow all of it. Thank you so much for being here today. I appreciate all your insights and all the information you shared with our listeners connect with Laurie. She is always willing to help. And until next time, thanks for listening to the Executive Connect Podcast.

Laurie Canepa  40:15

Thanks Melissa. Appreciate it.

Narrator  40:19

You You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level, email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com And don’t forget to subscribe so you can catch every new episode. Until next time.

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.