Hiring for the C-Suite: How to Find the Best Fit
Filling an open position within a company is a difficult task. This task brings on a whole new set of challenges when that position happens to be for a C-suite level employee. Whether your company is expanding your C-suite team with a new position or you’re filling an existing vacant position, C-suite level employees have some pretty big shoes to fill. They must set the tone for their employees or staff. They must mesh with other members of the leadership team. And they must share the same values and vision for the company.
The hiring process for C-suite employees can involve anything from HR department members doing initial research to executives and board members interviewing or voting to approve candidates. The following tips can help all stakeholders find the ideal fit.
Discuss the Role’s Direction and Goals
Before you even start searching for your ideal candidate, you need to determine what the ideal candidate looks like. This includes figuring out the overall goals the person in the position will be tasked with achieving and the route he or she will take to get there.
Sit down with other C-suite team members and collectively create an outline of what the open role involves. The outline needs to cover what the qualified candidate needs to bring the table, along with metrics that will determine success in this position. What measurable goals will your new C-suite level employee achieve? Are you looking to reduce employee turnover? Increase revenue? Introduce new processes and technologies?
Seek Out Qualities Your Company Needs
Another essential topic for discussion among your C-suite team members is the qualities your ideal candidate should possess. Your entire hiring team and executive board need to be on the same page. Different companies of different sizes have different needs; a C-level employee from a company with 20,000 employees may not necessarily work for a company of 200 employees.
Leadership qualities are typically a must for C-suite level employees, as are how they execute those qualities on a daily basis, both to their employees and peers. Areas to explore can include:
- Leadership traits your company needs, such as strength in adversity, resilience and tenacity, confidence and commitment, positive attitude, creativity, and ability to inspire
- Decision-making style in both strategic and day-to-day decisions; do they make decisions on a whim or use a calculated approach?
- Communication style, how they delegate tasks, provide instructions, and get their point across
- Past successes, what achievements they have under their belt
- Past education, what and where they studied, and why
Write an Accurate Job Description
If you spent fewer than 10 minutes writing up a job description for your C-suite level position, you probably don’t have a thorough, accurate description aimed at attracting the candidates you want. You want to be painfully descriptive when it comes to qualifications, qualities, and functions of the role.
An effective description will include:
- Job summary
- Qualifications: education level, past job experiences, additional certifications
- Job description and essential functions
- Expected responsibilities: hours of work, travel demands, to whom the position reports, employees the position oversees
Being honest about your goals will go a long way toward weeding out candidates that may not be a good fit, as they’ll be able to tell from the comprehensive description alone.
Focus on Compatibility
When it comes time for interviewing, make sure the candidate is compatible with the entire C-suite team. Using a personality assessment such as The Birkman Method® can be helpful to see how a new candidate would fit into your existing executive team. While you don’t necessarily want a yes-man or woman that simply agrees with everything that’s in front of him or her, you certainly don’t want a team member that constantly causes unneeded arguments or dissention within the team.
The interview process should be collaborative, allowing other C-suite team members to meet, speak with, and weigh in on the candidates. You may even want to consider spending some time with the candidate outside of the office environment before you make an offer.
A quick way to spot check compatibility with a candidate is to ask yourself and team members if they’d be comfortable traveling with this person. Even better, ask if they’d be comfortable if stranded in an airport with no one else but this particular candidate. If comfort levels are high, so are the chances this person will fit into your team.
Don’t Rush the Hiring Process
While the need to fill an open C-suite level position can be immediate, an ongoing vacant position can be much preferable to one filled quickly with the wrong person. Take as much time as your company needs to get the right fit.
Examining a person’s background is imperative, especially when it comes to references. Talk to as many references as you feel is necessary to get a solid picture of the individual. Some may be quick to give glowing reviews, while others may prefer not to comment at all rather than say something negative. Take stock of what the references tell you, or what they don't tell you, about the candidate.
Listening to your gut is another must. Sometimes the right candidate comes along and you just know it. The opposite can also be true. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions that can help weed out those not suitable for the job. Your hiring team’s members are experts on the company’s ins and outs, so consult with them frequently and stay focused on finding the right person for the job.
Hiring for the C-suite is not a task that should be done hurriedly or taken lightly. The person will, after all, have heavy responsibilities within your company. The individual needs to align with the role’s direction, fulfill your company’s needs, possess qualities that help you thrive, and meet the position’s qualifications – all while being in sync with the company’s culture, employees, and executive team. Any amount of waiting is worth the prize of finding the perfect fit who achieves all of the above.