Questions you should ask to help you master executive hiring

7 April 2021
executive hiring

Hiring executives and senior staff is no mean feat. It’s a challenge that both scaling businesses and more prominent names will have to undertake at a certain point, yet hiring senior-level team members can alter the company’s dynamic from how teams are managed to the company culture.

With scaling businesses, senior hires have a lot of influence over the company’s direction, helping to make crucial decisions as they grow. Therefore, it’s vital that when undertaking exec hiring, growing companies take it seriously and take the time to hire an individual who is both a cultural fit and passionate about the future of the business.

The problem is, all leaders and senior stakeholders have different ideas of the type of candidate who will succeed in an exec role. Before hiring, you need to make sure that all leaders are on the same page when it comes to influential hires, or the recruitment process could be much more lengthy and costly than you imagined.

At Talent Works, we specialise in exec hiring for scaling tech companies and beyond. We know the qualities that hiring managers and executive teams should be looking for when hiring people of influence. We also know that it’s not as simple as asking, “who is right for this role?”. Hiring for an executive role requires much more research, planning and investigation.

Before you can even begin considering the recruitment process for an executive role, whether you’re using an RPO provider or recruiting in-house, there are specific questions that your leadership team should try to answer.

Why are we adding this role?

It’s no use hiring senior talent for the sake of it; they’re costly hires, and in a scaling business where recruitment budgets may be tight, you cannot afford unnecessary hires. Before you even consider going to a recruitment provider or hiring for the role in general, you need to ask yourself why. Why are we adding this role, and why do we need this person? Identify the problem and see if there are any other solutions before investing time and effort into hiring. This way, you know the senior hire will be an essential addition. Plus, it will align the senior team’s vision, so there will be no doubt over the role this person will play and their purpose in the organisation.

Why is it mission-critical for us at this moment in time?

There’s never an ideal time to hire a senior team member, as, let’s face it, they’re going to shake things up in some way. However, sometimes it’s critical that you make this hire. Before beginning the recruitment process, consider why you need this person now. If the only reason you’re hiring a VP of Product is that you’ve seen that your closest competitor is, then that’s not a good enough reason. You need to align senior hires with your business strategy, and therefore, there must be a reason for the hire. Whether you want to take the business in a new direction or specific teams are stretched, as long as you can justify why the time to hire is now, you should proceed with the recruitment process.

What direction do we hope this role will take the company?

Along with knowing why you’re hiring, it’s also essential to have an idea of what you expect this person to bring to the table. Executives within a scaling business make a lot of impact. The decisions they make can influence the future of the entire company, not just their immediate team. Consider the direction you’d like your company to go in and how you expect this role to impact the businesses future; then, you’ll have a clearer idea of the type of individual you need to drive this and their purpose.

Your senior team all need to be on the same page and understand the expected impact that this position will have on the company; to do this, you all need to have the same vision for the future of your business and understand how this individual will fit.

How will the person in this role interact with existing leadership?

Next, you should look at your existing leadership team; you must know where a recruit will fit within this team and how they’ll interact. Take a look at the personalities within your leadership team, too; this will help you understand whether the executives could benefit from more diversity and what personality types will match them. Hiring someone too similar to the rest of the leadership team could lead to groupthink and limit your potential as a business. It would be best if you had different viewpoints and perspectives, but also, growing companies need an executive who can stand their ground within the leadership team. Plus, having diverse voices on the leadership team will improve your employer brand efforts and improve diverse recruiting across the business.

Remember, you don’t necessarily need a loud leader to stand up to your leadership team, but one that will ensure their opinions and voice is heard without getting lost in the crowd.

What does it mean to be great at this role? 

Whether you’re hiring a VP of Product or a CTO, you need to know what it takes to succeed. This is where market research can come in handy. You can talk to recruitment experts or other leaders who have made similar hires within your industry; they’ll know what qualities to look for. But most importantly, you need to consider your business goals and what skills and experience will help you achieve them. If you’re trying to scale your tech product offering, you need someone with tech experience and building out these systems. Whereas if you’re looking for someone in marketing, maybe you need a more creative and strategic flair.

 The criteria for these roles aren’t always specific, and you could be trying to tick boxes that are entirely relevant to you. Instead, the skills you look for will be individualised and tailored to your idea of success, but it helps to have these in mind before you begin recruiting. Again, all of your stakeholders will have their ideas of what this means, which is why coming together to achieve a collective vision will help you to align your recruitment efforts.

What will their success look like in the first six months? 

Once you know what skills and personality traits will generate success, you need to understand how you’ll measure it. It’s OK to bring someone into your business at a senior level with an idea of how they can revolutionise your business and help it throughout all stages of growth. However, you need to measure their success. With all senior hires, measuring achievements is difficult. You have to appreciate that results may not be instantaneous. However, when the hires are so costly and impactful, it helps to set realistic goals so you can collectively gauge whether the hire is worthwhile.

 If you make these goals clear to candidates, too, they may be able to benchmark themselves against these criteria. If it seems manageable, they’ll join you, but if it isn’t in-line with their capabilities, they should eliminate themselves from the running. This will help both the candidate experience and your employer brand image.

Who are the people doing this job well?

Look at your competitors. If they have people in similar roles, what experience do they have? Talk to other people within the industry and other business leaders about these positions to see if they can identify the top players or even look at the industry press. Finding the people who do this job well and determining makes them a success can give you something to benchmark against. Although you must be prepared to be flexible in your idea of the candidate (you’re not going to find an exact replica of Apple’s senior team), this initial research when you’re not used to hiring executives will help you to underpin the qualities and experience you should be looking out for.

These questions should provide an entry point into your search and give you a more strategic vision for your executive recruitment. Everyone in your business will have their own idea of the type of candidate who will succeed in this role, so putting in the groundwork to make a mutual decision will help create a more streamlined and cost-effective search. Having a collective vision will manage expectations, guide your search and take your candidate pool from infinite to manageable.

Answering the above questions will help you underpin whether the role is essential and see how this new senior team member will fit into the business. It will ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page when recruiting someone who will play such an integral role in your business’s growth.

At Talent Works, we’re experts in executive search and hiring for senior tech positions. With an in-house brand and insight team as well as an experienced sourcing team, we’re able to conduct the research needed to form these hiring strategies and benchmark your business against your competitors. We then have the industry knowledge to find and recruit the best talent for even the most complex senior roles. If you’d like to know more about our vi.tal recruitment service, contact our team and begin a conversation.

Menu