Growing businesses need leadership. After reaching a certain level of success, many business owners realize that they can’t comfortably cover every aspect of running the business. At this point, they need to hire one or more executives to handle strategic planning (a CEO), financial management (a CFO), marketing (a CMO) or other mission-critical company functions
Hiring one executive, let alone several, is a challenging undertaking — especially if this is the first time you’ve done so. Here are some best practices to help you excel at executive hiring:
Publicize your intentions. For many business owners, the process should start with networking. Announce your decision to hire an executive to your professional networks. Social media will probably be involved these days, but you can also simply strike up conversations on the topic at an event or gathering. However, keep in mind that, though friends and colleagues might express interest in a position, and they could even possess many of the necessary qualifications, hiring someone you know socially is risky. Working with and managing a friend can prove challenging — especially if the person fails to perform at the level desired or required.
Develop a process. Before inviting a candidate for an interview, create a document detailing the entire hiring process. From posting the job to the final candidate’s acceptance, identify and elucidate every step. This includes:
- When and where to conduct interviews,
- Whether you plan to commission a third-party firm to conduct background checks, and
- How you plan to negotiate with the candidate should they reject your initial compensation offer.
Identify the attributes of an ideal candidate. Before reviewing resumes, create a picture of the ideal candidate for the position. Include factors such as education, experience and personality type. Although one individual might not embody every attribute, painting a picture of the ideal candidate can help guide your decision and allow you to thoroughly evaluate everyone who expresses interest or applies.
Prepare for the interview. In their rush to hire an executive, some business owners conduct interviews with little to no preparation. To ensure a productive interaction, develop a list of questions that covers a broad range of topics. Some examples: How did your previous roles prepare you for this position? How do you deal with conflict and stress? How do you plan to stay up-to-date on the latest news, issues and technology related to this position?
Fully describe the role. One reason why some executives in growing businesses fail to deliver results stems from a misunderstanding about their roles. Make sure you can describe the position in enough detail to allow candidates to make an informed decision about whether they should apply for the job. This means being forthcoming about the inherent challenges of the role. Use real-world scenarios to detail pressing problems and to test how a candidate might solve them.
Require candidates to provide references. Some business owners skip this step if they’re hiring a familiar face or put a lot of faith in their ability to evaluate people. Instead, take the time to call or meet with references. If nothing else, they’ll help confirm your assessment of a candidate.
That said, references sometimes find themselves conflicted. Although a reference might have a close relationship with the candidate, the person might also feel compelled to subtly share the candidate’s shortcomings without saying anything explicitly negative. Therefore, pay close attention to the language used by a reference to describe the candidate. You might catch some hints that will lead you to dismiss the candidate from consideration.