Lack of internal clarity and alignment is the number one cause of a slow or unsuccessful hiring process. Many organizations start searches (or hire consultants to start searches for them) without answering key questions first.
This article highlights eight questions that your organization must answer before starting an executive search. Invest some time upfront to answer these questions, and you are guaranteed to hire better leaders faster.
1. Who are the key people that will be involved in this hiring decision?
Identify everyone involved in the hiring process and gather them to discuss the remaining questions on this list. You will get different opinions on these questions. It is much better to work through them and come to agreement before you start an executive search.
Skipping the essential step of internal alignment will lead to a much longer search process, and it makes you much more likely to make a bad hire. In addition, lack of internal alignment is also a big turnoff to top candidates. They will lose interest quickly if they do not think that everyone is on the same page.
2. Where will this role be based, and is there any flexibility?
The location of a role has a big impact on search strategy and which companies and candidates to target. You typically want to focus most of your recruiting efforts on candidates already living/working in your target geography.
If you need or want to run a national or international search, you or your search consultant should discuss location early on with candidates. In addition, you may need to be flexible or creative with location/travel in order to secure a top candidate.
3. How will the compensation package be structured for this role?
The compensation package for your role also has a big impact on your search strategy. Top candidates rarely make a move unless they can increase their current compensation by at least 10-20%.
While there are many ways to design a compensation package, your organization should establish some parameters before you start a search. Identify a range for base salary, short-term incentives (i.e. annual bonus), long-term incentives (i.e. stock options), and other noteworthy benefits or perks. As with location, flexibility or creativity with compensation may be required to secure a top candidate.
4. How will this position fit into the organizational structure?
Determine who the role will report to and oversee, who the peers will be for this role, and if there is anyone else that this role will work with very closely. All of this might not be clear if you are creating a new position or if your organization is very complex.
By thinking through the other people around this role, you can be more strategic about assessing candidates for the right personality and culture fit (see question #6). In addition, you will be able to provide a clear answer when candidates inevitably ask about the organizational structure around the role.
5. What would this role need to accomplish in the next 1-2 years in order to be considered a resounding success?
Identify the top 3-5 benchmarks for success, and try to be as specific as possible. For example, maybe you want this role to increase sales by 25% in the next year. Or, maybe you want this role to decrease employee turnover by 50% in the next two years.
Clarifying your expectations for the role will help you assess potential candidates and measure performance after someone is hired. Candidates will also want to know how their performance will be evaluated and how they can exceed expectations.
6. What types of people typically do best at your company, and what type of person are you looking for in this role?
Think about the personality traits of your organization’s top performers. What do they have in common?
In addition, use your top benchmarks for success (see question #5) to identify the top 3-5 traits that will be essential for success in this role. Don’t base hiring decisions strictly on someone’s past experience and achievements. Personality and culture fit are a key factor in determining whether someone will thrive in an organization.
7. Why should top candidates be interested in joining your organization, and why should top candidates be interested in this role?
Top candidates need to be sold on why they should consider making a change. The more compelling the value proposition (both for your company and for a specific role), the more likely that you will be able to attract outstanding people. Here are some ideas to consider for your value proposition:
- Unique and meaningful aspects of your company’s mission, impact, and culture
- Your company’s reputation, scale, competitive advantages, and/or recent performance
- Your industry’s growth, potential, and/or recent performance
- The track record of your company’s leadership team and/or the supervisor for the role
- Tangible ways that the role will be able to make an impact in and out of your organization
- The career path for the role
- The compensation package and financial upside for the role
8. Why might your company or this role be unattractive to top candidates?
This might seem like an odd question. However, identifying potential obstacles in advance will help you be proactive in trying to overcome them. No company or role is perfect. For example, maybe your organization is not very well-known. Or, maybe the location or travel requirements for the role are not very desirable.
Be honest about the potential drawbacks for someone who takes on this role for your organization. Then, determine how you will overcome those challenges to engage top candidates.
Summary and final thoughts
Internal clarity and alignment will help you hire better leaders faster. Before you begin an executive search, make sure that your organization can answer the following eight questions:
- Who are the key people that will be involved in this hiring decision?
- Where will this role be based, and is there any flexibility?
- How will the compensation package be structured for this role?
- How will this position fit into the organizational structure?
- What would this role need to accomplish in the next 1-2 years in order to be considered a resounding success?
- What types of people typically do best in your company, and what type of person are you looking for in this role?
- Why should top candidates be interested in joining your organization, and why should top candidates be interested in this role?
- Why might your company or this role be unattractive to top candidates?
About the author: Pete Leibman is an executive recruiter, speaker, and author who helps leaders and companies thrive. He is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work.