Leadership Recruitment: How to Hire Executives at Your Business


Aug 03, 2022

Leadership recruitment is one of the biggest challenges for business owners. Just as hiring the right staff can help drive growth, investing in the executive team can accelerate your organization’s ability to meet and exceed its objectives. In this guide, explore the executive recruitment process to prepare for this important step in your company’s expansion and improve your chances of finding the right person for the job.

Skills and qualities to look for in a leader

Successful leader recruitment requires an understanding of the necessary experience and talent. At a minimum, your leadership hiring requirements should include:

  • About a decade of management experience, including time spent in your industry or adjacent sectors
  • Demonstrated quantifiable success in other leadership roles
  • The ability to communicate effectively across diverse stakeholder audiences, from potential investors to your team members
  • A strategic mindset toward setting, tracking, and achieving key performance indicators
  • A master’s of business administration or an advanced degree in a related field (or comparable work experience)

Beyond these basics of how to identify a leader, consider each candidate’s functional expertise as you evaluate their experience. Questions to ask yourself include: 

  • Have they served as a respected expert and mentor in current and past roles?
  • Do they fit your current staffing needs based on the size and complexity of your organization? In other words, you may not need to hire a CFO known for guiding initial public offerings if you’re just beginning to scale your business and seek private funding.
  • How have they handled failure in the past? 
  • How well do they understand the common challenges in your industry?

You should also spend time with each person away from the traditional interview setting. How do they interact with others in your organization outside the conference room? Do they display curiosity about your operation, your mission, and your people? A simple tour of the building or lunch meeting provides significant insight into a candidate’s ability to truly connect with others, a key component of leadership.

Techniques for effective leadership recruitment

These methods of recruitment and selection can increase your chances of connecting with the right C-suite-level talent.

Develop leaders among your team

Internal executive recruitment costs much less than an external CEO search, and leadership development builds motivation and morale among your team members. Establish the key attributes you’re looking for among your leadership team and focus on identifying and cultivating those qualities in interested managers. You don’t need a formal program; rather, concentrate on creating a culture of continuous growth and improvement. 

Seek referrals from subject matter experts

Review your network and look for leaders in your industry who have experience hiring for similar roles, working closely with people in similar roles, or filling these positions themselves. If they have time to chat with you, find out how they hire leaders and what they’ve learned about the executive recruitment process over the years. It can be illuminating to find out what really worked – and what didn’t – from someone who has been in your shoes. Ask about qualities that matter, terms to look for when reviewing resumes, and benefits that attract high-level candidates to executive positions.

Clearly communicate culture, mission, and vision

Not only do you need your leadership team to align with these three organizational attributes, but you also need to express these elements clearly to attract quality candidates. Most effective executives would avoid an otherwise promising position if they felt the company couldn’t articulate how and why they operate and what they hope to achieve. In a 2021 report by the IBM Institute for Business Value, 41% of workers said they consider employer ethics and values during the job search process, giving this factor the same weight as compensation and benefits.

Prepare the C-suite for success

In a survey of nearly 3,000 Fortune 1,000 executives, 55% said they received insufficient or even nonexisting coaching as new high-level corporate hires. What’s more, 76% of those surveyed said they received no formal evaluation or development in their new roles. This lack of structure leads about half of new executive hires to fail in the first 18 months in their roles at emerging organizations. 

Before bringing a new executive on board, develop processes to set them up for success. Create a robust onboarding plan with clear KPIs for the person’s first few months and years on the job. 

Create a competitive compensation package

Another important piece of due diligence before engaging in an executive search is the total rewards package. Conduct market research so you know what similar organizations in your industry pay their leadership teams. At the executive level, you need to make sure you can compete with local, regional, and national offers not only in base salary but also in:

  • Health insurance and life insurance coverage
  • Retirement plan offerings and matching contributions
  • Stock options and profit-sharing plans
  • Incentives for loyalty to improve retention
  • Bonuses for meeting annual performance objectives
  • Miscellaneous perks, such as flexibility in location and schedule

Practice proactive searching

Unlike hiring for lower-level positions, top executives typically expect companies to approach them. Most quality C-suite candidates already have a job; according to Business Insider, 97% of executives said they would prefer to be discovered by a recruiter or hiring manager in order to switch to a new role. In other words, you can’t just post a job listing and expect your next great hire to show up at your doorstep.

Hiring leaders who see your vision and work with you to build your business can be one of the most difficult aspects of entrepreneurship. A proactive approach will help you lay the foundation for an effective executive recruitment strategy, whether you’re trying to fill a brand-new role or replace a mainstay of your leadership team.

  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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