What to Keep in Mind When Hiring Executives

Executive hiring and succession planning. There are all kinds of opinions out there on how to go about this process, which candidates you should be targeting and which missteps you should avoid. Ultimately, though, it can be difficult to determine the difference between sound advice and basic hearsay. How are you supposed to know the best strategies for recruiting and hiring a new executive for your company?

Perhaps the best way to nail down a firm executive hiring strategy is to learn lessons from other, similar companies. First, it’s important to understand some of the potential pitfalls you may encounter during the process. Jim Johnston, who has held executive financial titles for a number of years, recently gave CFO Magazine a list of ways that companies can shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to bringing on an executive.

1. Delaying the Replacement of Ineffective Executives
This is a big one, as it can really set back your company in the long run. Sometimes, it can be difficult for hiring managers to clearly see when mistakes have been made. However, once it is determined that a hire is not panning out, it is critical to act immediately and begin the search for a replacement.

2. Hiring for the Past, Not the Future
A common mistake. The candidate who would have been your ideal fit a few years ago suddenly may be nearly obsolete for your firm. When considering whom to hire, it’s essential to look ahead at where you want your company to be in five, 10 and even 20 years.

3.  Drawing from a Small Pool of Candidates
If we’ve learned anything from the proliferation of social recruiting via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, it’s that you shouldn’t limit yourself to a select, familiar group of potential candidates. This is particularly true for executive positions, where it can be easy to have a limited group of loyal candidates who have been with the company for a while. Even with a number of horror stories about external executive hiring failures, there’s no harm in bringing someone in for an interview.

Recruiting Entrepreneurs in a Balanced Way
Now that we have some of the pitfalls out of the way, let’s focus on a unique strategy that can be employed when recruiting executives: Identifying and bringing aboard so-called “entrepreneurs,” who come with ideas that may be against the grain, but could ultimately boost the organization to new heights. A recent ReadWrite blog explored this concept, and asked several corporate leaders about seeking out fellow entrepreneurs for executive jobs within their business.

Perhaps the most telling response came from Spencer Gerrol, founder and CEO of research and design firm SPARK Experience Design, who told the publication that hiring people with entrepreneurial skills can be extremely beneficial, but that it is important to have discipline and balance with this approach.

“I recommend the following two questions to know if you have the right person in mind: One, is the person just like you? That’s not always a good thing,” Gerrol explained. “A risk taker may need someone who is more cautious to balance them out. An analytical person may need someone with great creativity. A technical person may need a charismatic figurehead. It’s all about striking the balance. Two, do you share trust and values? You must respect each other to grow side-by-side.”

Ultimately, one thing is clear when it comes to executive recruiting and hiring: There isn’t one correct approach, but having an entrepreneur in your back pocket can likely have tremendous benefits. There are also, however, a number of pitfalls that can be easily avoided, and it is critical for companies to be conscious of the future of their business and avoid limiting the scope of their executive search.


Alison Brody-Smith

Alison Brody-Smith
As a principal with Allegis Partners, Alison Brody-Smith is in charge of its hospitality practice. She has years of experience conducting executive searches with leading lodging, casino and travel companies.

Alison Brody-Smith

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