What’s the number one mistake companies make when recruiting top executives?
Assuming they don’t have other career options.
The best executives have many employment options and aren't confined to one industry. When hiring top execs, remember this: they're evaluating you and your organization as much as you're evaluating them – if not more.
To attract stellar execs, build a persuasive case why your opportunity is not just the best vs. your competitors, but the best vs. all potential employers, including the one he or she works for now. The most exceptional senior business leaders will assess whether an organization has the capability to bolster their careers. An organization must be able to demonstrate key benefits so that it can attract top business leaders. How do you do that?
- Get your team aligned. Start with deep self-examination about what your company truly needs and make sure everyone on the team agrees. A major turnoff for top job candidates is to hear the job profile described differently by different employees involved in the search.
- Define your goals. Before you launch into the hiring process for C-level talent, articulate the metrics of success for the position. These benchmarks will help inform the candidates that you screen and determine the questions that you ask in interviews. Ultimately, knowing the key success metrics will help the executive better evaluate the job fit and succeed in their role.
Finding the best
- Use your current executives and board members. When there is a critical position to fill, current execs should take the initiative and call key people they respect. Executives have executive friends. Ask them for the names of top performers they know or worked with. And don’t stop! Have your whole team generate a slate of candidates.
- Don't be fooled by experience alone. Be careful when hiring executives from large companies to sit in your top seats. Individual success within those organizations is likely achieved by walking a different path than the one your startup is on. Look for someone with experience taking a company from where you are now to where you want to be, and then confirm they share a belief and passion for your vision.
The interview process
- Remember it's not all about you. Avoid the temptation to spend all your time selling the candidate on how great your company is without first understanding what really matters to the candidate. Learn that then build the case why your company is the best choice.
- Why? The main (and usually the most important) question every candidate will be thinking is: Why? Why should I join you and why do you want me? Educate all interviewers in the process to answer both questions. Interviewers should be able to explain why the move to your firm will be in the candidate’s best interest.
- Present a great story. Talented executives want to be part of something special and need to see a compelling story that provides them with strategic opportunities.
Closing the deal
- Stay flexible. The more you can offer, the more likely you are to win your candidate’s heart. Keep in mind that it is never just about money. Top candidates want growth opportunities, development, recognition and a lifestyle. They want passion, but they often want balance, too. No one wants to put in 75-hour weeks then get “the look” when they leave early on Friday to coach their child’s soccer team.
- Check those references! Remember that executives will set the tone for the company. Don't underestimate the recommendations from references: be sure to actually check them. These are people who have worked next to the C-level candidate and can shed valuable light on important personality traits, such as how they respond to stress or friction in the workplace. Ask the provided references for additional referrals.
- Use onboarding. Research shows as many as 40% of externally recruited executives fail within their first 18 months. Help the recently hired executive avoid fatal mistakes and accelerate the learning curve by implementing an extensive onboarding program.
- Don't forget the fun. Hire people you like to be around. Startups require people to wear many hats and interact with others quite frequently. Hire people who will be great coworkers and are willing to support you.
While hiring C-level executives can often be trickier than hiring an interns or salespeople, following these tips can alleviate unnecessary stress involved and make the experience more enjoyable and fruitful for all.