Angie Henson - August 29, 2023

7 Strategies for Executive Hiring: Find and Hire the Right Fit

Learn how to find and onboard the best candidates for C-level roles

Executive recruitment has become more competitive than ever. That’s partly due to a talent shortage, and partly because today, some executives are opting for nontraditional options like portfolio careers. Since their talents are in demand among companies of all levels, how can you attract the best candidates?

Let’s discuss best practices for the executive hiring process, allowing you to select candidates aligned with company culture and goals.

Definition of executive recruitment: Recruitment of C-level talent to fill top roles in a company, like CEO (chief executive officer), CIO (chief information officer), CFO (chief finance officer), and COO (chief operating officer).

Why Executive Hiring Matters

Executive hiring has a significant influence on business outcomes. As such, making poor hiring decisions can incur heavy costs. And executive recruitment brings some unique challenges. Aside from navigating the shortage of C-level talent, finding someone who fits the culture is especially imperative at the executive level.

This process can prove quite time-consuming, impeding your company’s success. And making the wrong hire can be extremely costly—in some cases, even jeopardizing a company’s future. Consider that 40% of executives in new positions fail in their first 18 months. And this turnover may cost as much as $2.7 million per executive. But a solid hiring strategy can ensure you select the right person and help them excel from day one.

Developing a Hiring Strategy

Begin by defining the role and its requirements. Identify critical success factors for this position, establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to business goals. For example, quantify changes in revenue growth, employee satisfaction, net promoter score, or return on investments that you want to see.

Creating a Candidate Profile and Job Description

Identify what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate, based on these KPIs. Talk with stakeholders throughout the company to help define these qualities. Then, create a profile illustrating these skills and characteristics. Using these points, craft a compelling job description.

Define your employer brand as well, then incorporate it in the description. What do you have to offer a top candidate? Showcase the company culture and vision, explaining what drives you as an organization and where you aim to go.

Attracting Top Talent

Now it’s time to start connecting with candidates. Utilize online platforms, including LinkedIn Talent Solutions, the Ladders, and Enlist the help of recruitment agencies as well—often they already have relationships with the most qualified talent in the field. They can reach out to “passive candidates” who haven’t yet started looking for their next role.

Conducting Effective Interviews

Dazzle your candidates with a streamlined interview process and thoughtful questions. Structure the process to ensure fairness, making sure each candidate goes through the exact same steps and questions. For instance, script your questions rather than using a free-form approach, as The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests.

Ask Behavioral and Situational Questions

Such questions provoke thought and reveal leadership experience. Here are some examples:

  • “How would you keep a team motivated and focused while navigating a crisis?”
  • “Describe a time when you used your influence to implement an initiative you believed in.”
  • “What strategies have you used to lead during times of change?”

You can also ask questions about industry trends and opportunities, revealing critical thinking skills and industry knowledge.

Evaluate for Cultural Fit and Soft Skills

In many cases, an employee doesn’t need to fit the culture exactly. They can learn to adjust, while also contributing something unique. But an executive needs to strongly fit the existing culture in order to ensure continuity—unless you need to make major changes to it. In some cases, you might look for a mix of “cultural fit” and “cultural add,” seeking a person with qualities that will complement and enhance the current culture.

Look at whether candidates seem aligned with other leaders in values and approach. Also evaluate their human skills, like whether they display emotional intelligence and have strong problem-solving abilities.

Using Assessments and Skills Tests

A variety of assessment tools can help evaluate candidates’ suitability for executive positions. Leverage scientifically based assessments that align with role requirements. For instance, use them to gauge candidates’ problem-solving and strategic thinking abilities.

Making the Right Offer

Have a competitive salary range and benefits package in mind, but be willing to negotiate. Also share how working for your company will provide robust growth and development opportunities. Strive to answer the candidate’s questions thoroughly and address any concerns. Highlight any unique selling points that may especially appeal to the candidate, considering their motivations and priorities. Executive-level candidates often enjoy particular types of challenges that stretch their skills, for example.

Onboarding and Integration

Design a comprehensive onboarding plan to help your new hire excel in their role:

  • Prioritize cultural integration as well as understanding of organizational systems and processes. Discuss cultural norms in regard to communication, meetings, project management, talent management, and other key aspects of business.
  • Assist the new exec in conducting situational analysis of the various factors affecting operations, as Korn Ferry suggests.
  • Provide executive coaching and mentoring to help the new hire gain greater competence and confidence.

Remember that the new leader isn’t meant to become a carbon copy of their predecessor. By sharing this support, you’ll empower the executive to make their own distinct contributions to the organization’s success.

Key Takeaways:

  • Define KPIs for executive-level roles to build your hiring strategy.
  • Create a candidate profile centered on these KPIs.
  • Leverage the help of recruitment agencies to target passive candidates.
  • Design a well-structured interview process to ensure fairness.
  • Use assessments to test candidates’ skill set.
  • Make a strong offer, but highlight other perks of the job as well (like training opportunities).
  • Provide robust onboarding support, like guidance in understanding cultural norms.

Through these strategies, you’ll strengthen your executive team, positively shaping your company’s future.


AAFA, “Why Business Leaders Choose to Partner with Executive Search Firms”

The Chronicle of Higher Education, “How to Manage the First-Round Executive Interview”

Forbes, “Challenges and Strategies of Hiring C-Level Talent”

Forbes, “Culture Fit vs. Culture Add: Hiring for Growth”

Gallup, “Find and Hire More of Your Ideal Employee”

Indeed, “8 Possible CEO KPIs to Measure CEO and Business Performance”

Indeed, “What Is Executive Recruiting? A Definitive Guide”

KornFerry, “Best Practices: Executive Onboarding”

SHRM, “SHRM’s Guide to Leadership Assessment Tools”

Statista, “Executive Search Industry: Leading Challenges 2022”

Tags: Business Growth Business Leadership

  1. About the Author:

  2. About the Author:

    As a Principal at Valesco, Angie Henson serves in key roles related to new investment origination, portfolio management, and investor relations. She directs the firm’s strategic acquisition planning and program management as acting head of research and business development operations since 2002. Angie holds a Bachelor of Science from Tarleton State University and a certificate in entrepreneurial studies from Southern Methodist University.

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