by Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO
As a hiring CXO, you want to get it right. You want to hire the best of the best, and for those senior hires to perform the material impact expected (at a minimum). You want peace of mind with the knowledge that you have great and dedicated team members around you leading others and executing the work of the company’s strategic vision. Settling for anything less is unacceptable. Asking “why should I hire this person?” and “is this person outstanding enough?” are important ongoing questions in an evaluative and competitive recruiting process. You believe your company is special and your opportunity is special so the hired executive must also be especially qualified and interested. All very reasonable.
What is not reasonable is expecting that an exceptional candidate should simply know that you or your opportunity is special. S/he has options and does not “need” your opportunity. Exceptional people are in incredibly high demand and sometimes their seemingly passive interest is a sign that they need to know more for their passive interest to increase to active interest. The fact is that most of the time it’s the passive candidates who are the best candidates, and the most sought after. It’s foolish and arrogant to assume every candidate should pick their heads up from their current scope of responsibilities to assertively pursue your open role. Here are a few suggested rules to live by for effective hiring in a candidate-driven market:
1) Qualifying and courting. Scrutinize your candidates, take no shortcuts, ensure you truly understand their accomplishments and qualifications. But also ensure you’re illuminating why your opportunity should attract a special leader… otherwise, it won’t. You must not only ask the question “why should I hired this person?” but also “how can I attract this person?” and “why would someone amazing want this opportunity?”. If you don’t have thoughtful answers to those questions, you’ll need to embrace mediocre candidates and outcomes.
2) Your baby isn’t as cute as you think it is. It’s tough to accept it, but your company and this opportunity probably have some issues. Did the last VP of XXXX resign or get fired? Have you had additional turnover? Is there a downturn taking place in the sector? Is the founder/CEO a tough personality (is that you?)? This gig isn’t perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect candidate so don’t seek perfection. If a candidate matches 80%+ of your desired criteria and has the intellect and intrinsic motivation to grow, that’s someone worth considering. Vet and test, seek excellence, seek the right fit and mutual inflection point, but do not seek perfection.
3) Don’t play games. If you’re interested in the candidate, let her know. Let her know the expectations of the process, why the role is critical to the company, where the role can go from a career development perspective, and the potential timelines. If they’re truly special, you might have to modify the scope or incentives or timelines or other elements to advance the process and increase their interest. This doesn’t mean to desperately concede left and right, but to inform the candidate that you have a genuine interest and would like to talk further. Please note – all successful marriages have compromises.
4) Make ‘positive recruiting’ part of your corporate ethos. Yes, of course, all companies recruit, but most companies fail to positively celebrate their employees and indoctrinate all hiring influences to promote the company (with integrity) at all times. Certainly, in all interviews, but this promotion should take place in virtually every professional conversation, internally or externally. As CEO, it’s up to you to promote the brand and attract the best people. You want to be that organization where they say “man, there is just something in the water over there” that makes people bound out of bed to work at your company.
Now with all of these suggestions, please understand I’m NOT suggesting for one minute that you bend over backward for any candidate. Candidates need to do some research, demonstrate some insights, and validate their qualifications for your consideration. Your time is valuable. My point is this – it’s a two-way courtship. Like any lasting relationship, the foundation and attraction and interest need to be established by both parties.