Hiring for CEO Jobs: 10 Expert Tips for Great Results

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Hiring for CEO Jobs: 10 Expert Tips for Great Results

Getting it right in recruitment matters. But getting it right at the highest levels is absolutely critical. When it comes to CEO jobs, there is no room for error. A positive outcome will lead the business forwards to greater success and growth, along with a harmonious and productive board. Getting it wrong can have stalling impacts at best, and dire consequences at worst. It’s a high pressured recruitment process as a result, and takes the skill, experience and dedication of a talented headhunter.

Here we share with you 10 of our expert tips for great results when it comes to hiring for CEO jobs. Follow these tips and you’ll get the CEO that the business needs for today, but also the right leadership for the future when the next CEO moves on.

1.     Know where the business is going

This is a fundamental cornerstone of successful CEO hiring. The CEO’s most influential role is to direct the business going into the future. This means there needs to be a very close alignment between where the company and all owners and directors believe it is going, and the right direction and strategy for that, and the agenda, outlook, skills and drive of the candidates for the CEO job.

Furthermore, the candidate’s ability to actually drive strategy is pivotal. They need the skills, talent and resources to guide the business to where it’s heading.

2.     Employ hiring systems that are highly evaluative

It’s a mistake to approach recruitment for CEO jobs in the same way as you do even for those at managerial level. A different method is needed. It’s no longer a simple matchmaking game where certain skills are ticked off and personalities considered. Instead, you need to be able to truly evaluate the individual’s capacities.

Crucially, this involves evaluating evidence. It’s one of the reasons why headhunting is so effective. You aren’t simply relying on the word of a candidate on a CV, but you’re able to identify the individual already performing in the way that you want, just elsewhere. Each element of what makes a successful CEO – from shareholder return to personal integrity – needs to be evaluated.

3.     Implement CEO succession planning alongside new hiring

Often it’s necessary to look outside the organisation when selecting the next leader. However, this should never be a forced choice if you can help it. Instead, consider how you can develop future leaders from within the business. Keeping your eye on the next generation of leaders and nurturing their talent ensures you don’t lose them.

4.     Take the process seriously

Knowing you’re in need of a new CEO can leave an organisation feeling rudderless and pressured. Many don’t want the responsibility of recruiting for this critical position. However, recruitment for this role should be taken most seriously. Indeed, a board leader should be in charge of the process, working closely with a trusted headhunter, to ensure that the selection is successful and in tune with the dynamics of the board.

5.     Realise how much culture matters

Organisational culture matters in recruitment, but at the highest levels it is arguably more important than something like technical skill. This may seem bewildering, but as experienced headhunters, we can assure you that this really is true.

This is why it’s important to evaluate the skills and experience of the candidates (as explained above), but to always place greatest importance on the candidate that simply ‘fits’ best. They need to be right for your organisation and that comes down to individual qualities, not just box ticking.

6.     Clarify and check everything

When it comes to such an instrumental hire, you can’t make a mistake. The right candidate will be highly in demand so they cannot be ‘put off’ by a poor recruitment or onboarding process. Likely being passive candidates, their tolerance for mistakes or untimely communications will be low. Treat every candidate like a VIP, and more so as the process narrows.

Additionally, check everything that the candidates say and provide too. Thorough vetting is essential. Mistakes at this level are painfully costly in the long run. A headhunter can be the third party you need to create the distance needed to verify information without jeopardising future relationships.

7.     Go well beyond the formal interview

A formal interview can do little to give more than a brief insight into the capability of an individual. You need to learn more about the potential candidate. From informal chats and social-style arrangements, to obtaining as much feedback from others as possible, you need to take a 360° approach to CEO jobs.

8.     Think about conflicts of interest

A CEO search may reveal a few candidates as prime precisely because they have a conflict of interest. Uncovering these and eliminating the conflict is essential to being able to move forwards.

9.     Put diversity at the heart of the search

With CEO recruitment there’s a real danger of ‘recruiting in our own image’ and failing to actually select the best candidate for the long term growth and success of the business. It is only through approaching the process with a keen understanding of diversity issues at board level that we can transcend past barriers and transform the business into greater success.

Again, this is where a third party recruiter is worth their weight in gold. They are able to view and approach candidates without the blind drive of accidental or incidental prejudice.

10.                        Work discretely and confidentially

Lastly, but by no means least, it’s essential to work with utmost discretion when it comes to CEO jobs. The best candidates will be performing elsewhere and jeopardising their standing or your own is far-reaching danger. News gets out quickly when high profile roles are being recruited for.

Again, a headhunter can provide the discretion that you need. They can work with potential candidates on your behalf long before needing to reveal your identity.

Hiring for CEO jobs is tough. No candidate is ever as perfect as you want them to be. It’s a case of being able to balance trade-offs without actually compromising on any important aspect. The success of the business requires the chosen new CEO to be accurately placed, without any shadow of a doubt.

Are you looking to find your next CEO? Call us on 0203 582 2663 and let us provide an expert service that incorporates all of the above and more.