3 Key Things to Do When Hiring for your Executive Team
If your company is scaling and growing, it is likely that you will be adding to the top-levels of your organization. Whether you’ve suddenly taken on investment funding or have been simply enjoying skyrocketing sales, hiring executives is almost always something an ambitious entrepreneur or CEO will be considering.
It may be tempting to bring on an individual focused exclusively on “high-level strategy.” However, especially if you’re still a small business, be sure your executive hire is for the right reason: a need for a strong leader; a champion to elevate one key aspect of your business; a need for access to key connections, investors, suppliers or partners.
If the reasons for your hire make sense, get ready to build out your executive team. But before you begin jumping into interviews for your executive search, here are a few key things to make sure you are finding the best possible candidates for your organization.
1. Make the process agile, short, and fun.
Just because it’s a key, high-impact decision does not mean the hiring and interview process should take months. Remember: your hiring process ends up reflecting your culture. If “innovative,” “agile,” and “entrepreneurial” are part of your brand, having 4-8 interviews, psychological assessment tests, and case-study presentations makes you the exact opposite.
Some methodologies even actively preach a drawn-out hiring process: “Topgrading” by Brad Smart is one popular example. In reality, there’s nothing about Topgrading or similar methodologies which apply to smaller, agile businesses. Keep things fun, engaging, quick, and adapt it to the individual themselves – their experience as a candidate will set the foundation for how the excitement and passion they take into their first months in the actual job.
2. Focus on interviewing for leadership, personal branding, and charisma.
Your executive role might see tons of qualified candidates (there are some really smart, accomplished people in this world, right?) Forget the specifics of the qualifications you thought you needed; instead, focus on finding someone who above all is a charismatic leader. Remember: 80% of employees quit because of their boss. Your executive candidate should be someone who nobody ever wants to quit.
Focus on their soft-skills, on their ability to rally teams behind them, on how well they inspire groups of people. When things get tough in your organization (and they will eventually), the charismatic leader will be your biggest asset. Technical skills are important; but as a highly-visible executive team member, the person you hire should have a strong brand as a leader. People always want to work for (and then work hard for) a thought-leader who has the power to inspire.
3. Include the executive’s direct reports.
If inspiring leadership is the most important quality you should be gauging during your hiring process, why not include your executive candidate’s future reports? Bring them into the room, see how the two interact, and find out from their future employee if it’s someone they’d be inspired to work for.
One client of Pronexia’s keeps a “team lunch” as the final step in the interview process whenever hiring for a leadership-team role: middle-managers, support professionals, and the executive candidate spend a lunch together speaking, interacting, and bouncing ideas off one another. By the end of that lunch, an easy decision if the person is right for the job or not is always made.
4. Find examples of a hands-on, always-doing mindset.
Far too often we have seen companies hire executive team-members who are strictly focused on “strategy.” While strategic and critical thinking is deeply important in an executive hire (arguably, in any role), focus on finding candidates who are exceptionally comfortable being hands-on. No company benefits from anyone who sits alone in their corner office with their computer; teams need hands-on support and presence from their leaders – not only for team morale, but it simply helps make the company a more progressive, supportive, and collaborative place to work. If your candidate talks a big game about titles, obsesses over hierarchy, and insists on focusing on “strategy,” ask them if they enjoy being in the trenches with their team?
One manufacturing company Pronexia works with has a strict policy for all executive/leadership team members: regardless of which department they work in, all leadership team-members spend up to 2 months working everywhere from the production line to the retail store. Leaders who understand their teams can care more about their teams – and lead them with care accordingly.
Ultimately, hiring for your executive team is an exciting and important moment in your company’s timeline. If your hiring process is agile, positive, and focused on leadership qualities over technical specifics, it speaks volumes to the amazing company culture you’re trying to grow – and who wouldn’t want to join in on that mission with you?
Stefano Faustini is Pronexia’s Talent Strategist & Marketing Lead. He holds an MA in English & Creative Writing, and has written articles for the Financial Post, the Montreal Gazette, and others. Connect with him here!