By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO
Every company hires people and every company loses (or rids) some of those hires. Hiring is inherently flawed. There has never been a “perfect candidate” in the history of hiring EVER; it actually makes me cringe when I hear that expression by hiring executives. He or she doesn’t exist! And your company is also imperfect as is the role you’re looking to fill, and (respectfully) so is your leadership as CXO. Ok, now that I’ve alienated everyone reading this only a couple sentences into the blog I’ll make a point. Seeking out excellence should absolutely be your charter in hiring leaders for your team, but not perfection. Otherwise, your opening will remain open and you will not scale.
We are talking about human beings where every one of us is different. We are complex, we are all at unique inflection points of our careers and lives. I’m not suggesting a touchy/feely recruitment path should be taken, but consideration of factors unrelated to your role need to be evaluated within the candidate pool and within the criteria for candidate selection. Consider a few scenarios:
1) Is it better to hire someone as your next SVP of Sales who has already managed significantly larger teams because you want s/he to scale your company from 20M to 100M over the next 3 years? Ideally, you’d want someone who has done that multiple times, right? But if that candidate has already made a lot of money and doesn’t want to do that heavy lifting again, is s/he the right candidate for your business today? Or are you better off hiring someone who is mid-career and has crushed their numbers consistently for the last decade as a manager and is now looking for a next level opportunity? Which profile is riskier – the one with the track record who might not have the same motivation or the one with something more to prove?
2) What if you’re hiring for a difficult role that will take a few years to really develop or make significant income (like Executive Search!), is it better to find someone with significant recruiting experience and plug them in? Perhaps, but what if their previous recruiting experience was only above average or worse? Or is it better to identify business leaders with sector expertise and teach them the vocation of executive recruiting? Maybe, but it’s possible their skills won’t transfer or maybe they simply won’t like the business.
3) What if the complexity of your company’s solution or process or tech is complicated? Should you only hire people from Ivy League schools to reduce the risk of intellectual capacity concerns? Or does it make more sense to identify someone from an honors program at nearly any state school who couldn’t afford Harvard? Will the state school candidate be a harder worker and have more grit so, therefore, s/he is the better candidate? One of my best friends went to both undergrad and business school at Towson State University, only to ascend to some of the highest ranks at Goldman Sachs managing the entire blue-chip telecom fund for the company (and had many Ivy MBA’s working for him!). He sold windows door to door in college to make money by the way.
Every company and every candidate and every hiring exec and every situation have unique differences. No matter how good your hiring practices are, your company will experience turnover. If someone is at your company for 2+ years and does excellent work, an invested executive should do anything within reason to keep that person on board. Find out what they want! Seek out their opinion, give them latitude and responsibility and incentives and respect.
If someone turns over in the first year of employment, whether they resign or get fired, it’s your fault as the hiring manager. There are certainly many exceptions, but in general, you should have done more to make them successful to retain them or never hired them in the first place (my next blog will be devoted to this subject).
All said, when hiring leaders, it’s equally important to examine your situation as it is the candidates. The situation should be challenging, but if it’s not winnable then it’s not winnable. Don’t do that.