Seven Steps to Hiring a New Executive

Turnover is always costly, but the loss of a key executive is particularly daunting since the difference between a good company and a great one is often determined by who sits in the executive offices. With some thoughtful preliminary work and a plan, the stress of finding a new executive can be minimized. Please enjoy these seven steps to hiring a new Executive!

·         Establish a Timeline

Establishing the hiring timeline is the first step. If possible start early; for example, if you know your Executive Director is retiring at the end of the year, the timeline should start 9-12 months before his or her departure date. Think of this as a project with milestones that are clearly outlined. Include enough time for all of the preliminary work suggested below. Build in time to start the search over if your first batch of candidates is not desirable. This protects you from hiring the wrong candidate because you ran out of time and allows for a second search in the event that your first one was unsuccessful.

·         Interview the Board of Directors and Executive Team

Interview the Board of Directors and current Executive Team before you create the executive profile. Discussions with the current executive team and board will provide insight into their expectations for the new leader, thereby helping you to establish hiring criteria. Create a list of questions and meet with members of the team individually to get open and honest dialogue from them. An underlying problem or area of concern may arise as a common thread among the group and this can provide direction for your profile. 

·         Clarify organizational direction and strategy

Having interviews with the board and executives will also give insight to their thoughts about where the company is headed, where it should be going and other business initiatives. If the company is looking to do a merger or restructure, the new leader should have a background in finance and/or operations. If the organization has been stagnant in its growth recently, they may want an innovative and strategic thinker to remedy this. It is also important to interview the incumbent to clarify his or her vision of where the organization should be in 5, 10, and even 15 years in the future.

·         Define challenges

Find out what challenges exist for the organization as well as what roadblocks the new executive might face. For example, you may find that keeping on the current executive director as a consultant would be more challenging than helpful. Scan the external environment looking for information that might be important to the creation of the candidate profile. If instability and dynamic change are in the forecast for your industry, the candidate profile may need to contain traits such as flexibility and adaptability.

·         Define the desired characteristics and weighting

Before jumping in and starting the list of attributes for the executive position, create a list of categories such as cognitive, business, social, interpersonal, background, and strategic. Once this is complete, organize desired competencies and traits into the categories. Rate each attribute and assign a weight to create a scoring system for each candidate so the hiring decision is not based on interview notes and resumes alone.

·         Define pre-employment assessments

How will you assess and evaluate the candidates? There are a number of personality and leadership potential assessments that can be helpful with your hiring process. Be sure that any assessment used is both validated and reliable. Employers Council has a suite of assessments available to assist with this step. Contact your representative for further information.

·         Deciding on the interview style

Finally, what interview type(s) will you use? Each interview style will have different outcomes, as well as advantages and disadvantages. Advantages to a structured interview, containing a set of predetermined questions, include a focus on situations and behaviors. The questions will remain the same for each candidate. A job-related interview asks very specific behavioral questions about past job-related instances. An unstructured interview may not reveal much about the candidate nor be a predictor of success.

Once the steps above are complete, you can be confident that the decision makers will have enough information to make an informed hiring decision.