Recruiting the right employees for your organization is one of the most important duties an HR professional has. It’s always necessary to hire people who will help the company thrive. However, this is even more crucial when hiring someone to fill a C-suite or executive role.
Executives don’t just work for companies. They shape them. Choose the right person for this type of job, and you’ll set your organization on the path to success. Choose the wrong person, and you could lose your competitive edge.
That doesn’t need to happen. Although the specific process of recruiting the right candidate for a C-suite role will vary from one company to another and from one position to another, the following tips will help you find the right fit.
Strike the Right Balance Between Speed and Precision
You should never hire an executive on impulse. Taking your time to carefully assess your options is essential, as is performing due diligence: conducting background checks, verifying references, speaking with former colleagues, and so on.
That said, a strong candidate will typically have many other companies eager to hire him or her. If you wait too long to make your decision, the best person for the job may no longer be available when you make an offer.
Discussing this openly with your strongest candidates is an easy but effective way to avoid such problems. Be transparent about your impression of them, as well as your hiring process. Someone might be willing to wait longer for you to make a decision if they understand your approach to recruiting executives more thoroughly.
Develop Real Relationships
All too often, hiring becomes an artificial experience for everyone involved. Although they typically don’t personally know much about each other, both applicants and interviewers often behave as though they’re good friends. This makes sense. Both sides want to make the right first impression, and being friendly and personable is important.
However, this attitude can also result in a lack of authentic connection with candidates. That’s not usually a problem when filling most positions. The opportunity to truly get to know an applicant will come later if you decide to hire him or her.
On the other hand, when recruiting executives, you should modify your approach. This involves personalizing your interactions with candidates, or meeting a few times in casual settings to simply get to know one another. It’s imperative to break beyond that artificial front people can put up—often without realizing it—when they’re interviewing or hiring for a position.
In addition, remember that a strong executive isn’t just someone with the relevant qualifications, industry experience, and skill sets. He or she needs to have the right personality, much more so than any rank-and-file hire. Someone who is an ideal fit at one company may not be successful at yours if their leadership style doesn’t match the culture. And again, because you’re hiring for a high-level, C-suite position, a poor match can cause exponentially more damage.
Recruiting an executive can also require some degree of persuasion. You may need to convince candidates why they should work for your company if they are already employed elsewhere, or if they are juggling multiple offers. This is easier to do when you have a real rapport with them, because you’ll have a better idea of what motivates them.
Have Goals in Mind
Everyone knows that executives play a major role in leading a company to success, but people often disagree on how to assess executive success. You need to understand precisely how you will know if a newly hired executive has actually achieved the goals set out for him or her. For example, what key performance indicators or other metrics will you use? Who will assess the executive’s job performance?
This is also useful to discuss with candidates. If you only discuss their background and what they want to do in the role, they might not fully understand what you’re looking for. When you talk about what you expect them to achieve, and how you’ll measure their success, you both can more easily determine if they’re right for the position.
These discussions also provide you with an opportunity to learn about what motivates potential executives. Anyone who has reached such heights in their professional life is almost certainly going to be a hard worker with passion for what they do. Identify the specific nature of that passion, and you’ll know if someone has the drive to truly support your company’s mission and values.
Involve the Team
Executives typically work closely with certain other executives and/or managers. For example, depending on your industry, your CFO and your lead counsel may have to work closely together on a number of fronts. Making sure the people in these roles get along well is crucial—their ability to communicate and work well together will be crucial to your company’s growth.
Of course, recruiting isn’t a popularity contest. The ability to get along well with other executives and managers is not the only factor worth evaluating when choosing a candidate. Still, assembling a team of interviewers will give you more insight into whether a particular candidate will be able to lead his or her department and work well with other C-suite members. Your team may also notice certain qualities in a candidate, whether positive or negative, that you would have otherwise overlooked. In short, a C-suite hire is simply the type of decision that’s better to make with more input. Even in a small startup where the CEO or founder makes unilateral hiring decisions, it can be worthwhile to consult with others during the hiring process.