Your C-Suite Recruitment Process

Assuming your mission and culture are in sync and your reputation is solid, let’s consider who needs to be involved in the recruitment process.

Depending upon the structure of your company, essential stakeholders may include everyone from direct reports, members of the board, private equity group members, and those currently in top leadership posts. If your C-suite employee is retiring, it is good to have them involved in the process as well.

When you initiate your search, it’s critical to consider who will be involved in the initial screening of candidates, interviews and making the final offer. This cadre of professionals likely have opinions – perhaps strong ones – about responsibilities, deliverables and other functions for the new staff member. Be sure to welcome their input about:

  • What the company is currently doing well
  • What are some of the challenges facing the company
  • What are the goals and vision for the future
  • What is needed from the new hire to fulfill those goals and that vision

By clarifying expectations and setting some parameters, you can define precisely whom you’re seeking and present a more united front to interviewees.

Your C-suite job description

It is time to craft the Job Description. Do your homework to benchmark with industry leaders and competitors, if only through a Google or LinkedIn search for recent, similar job postings.

(Note: It’s important to track and update job descriptions over time, not just in the heat of recruiting. They can be helpful for employee reviews, performance management as well as future recruiting efforts.)

Keep in mind that the description should reflect characteristics suitable not only for the position but also for where the organization is in its life cycle.

For example, if yours is an early-stage startup company, you may think you need a dynamic, entrepreneurial personality for your C-suite post. What you may actually need is someone who has prior experience smoothing out processes and planning for the future.  

Meanwhile a turn-around company working to replace someone in an existing position can fall into the trap of thinking they need a clone of the person who just left. Again, having conversations with key stakeholders about needs and goals can provide some clarity around the ideal candidate’s character.

Where will you find great C-suite prospects?

It’s possible that your next C-suite hire is working for a competitor, in a different field or even in the work-space down the hall. You won’t really know for certain until you start recruiting. With a clear job description in hand, it’s time to begin sharing it in hopes of building a rich, dynamic applicant pool.

Just as job seekers are encouraged to look within their networks for job leads, companies should look within professional networks for great employees. This process can take a lot of different forms, including:

  • Talking to peers in your industry
  • Reaching out to alumni at your alma mater
  • Tapping your own board members for potential leads
  • Looking internally

Wise leaders also look to diversify their pool. Look beyond your existing networks to professional organizations and leaders who can help a forward-thinking company uncover more diverse talent.

Foster an environment that can enhance your company, your brand and your product’s appeal to a wider array of clients and customers in an increasingly global marketplace. Indeed, the issue of diversity in C-suite hiring is so important that it has its own separate question (see below).  

Once you’ve got your job description in hand, you’ll want to post it to your company website, relevant professional organizations and on public job boards like LinkedIn and specialized sites unique to your field.

Utilizing a recruiting process outsourcing company to manage this part of the work can free you up to focus on your business as they identify and engage qualified candidates that meet your organizations goals and objectives. 

Whom should you avoid hiring?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but serious thought should be given to whom you don’t want in a leadership role, especially for an essential role like those in the C-suite.

A good hire knows that the executive team isn’t there to lead in a top-down fashion. They appreciate that a productive workplace runs on collegiality and a sense of shared responsibility.

Conversely, a bad hire in the C-suite may not share the same vision and values as the rest of the organization.  Many times these executives are focused more on the top-down approach instead of the current collaborative workplace already established. In a worst case scenario, a bad hire can:    

  • Damage productivity and morale
  • Collapse even the healthiest company culture
  • Lead to a mass exodus of employees that cripples the company, perhaps permanently

Hoping to avoid this kind of scenario? The key is to remember that sometimes bad leaders interview well and look great on paper. A polished veneer coupled with extraordinary communication skills can mask poor leadership abilities.  Vetting a candidate thoroughly requires:

  • Probing behavioral interview questions
  • Follow-up interviews or assessments
  • Identifying a candidates EQ
  • Thoughtful conversations with previous supervisors and, if possible, recent subordinates

Look for evidence of substance over style. If other team members express reservations, hear them out – even if their intuition runs counter to your own.

Remember: Just because a candidate has previous or similar experience at another company doesn’t necessarily mean that their leadership style will work well with your business culture.

Good leadership requires trust, and if a new hire can’t spark trust because they put their agenda above that of the company’s mission, then your business’s long-term success may be placed in jeopardy.

To discuss your Recruiting and HR needs please contact WhiteWater Consulting LLC at 704-236-3131 or

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