Hiring Mistakes in the C-Suite

With a nationwide shortage of C-Suite candidates and pressure to fill vacancies, you may be tempted to hire available vs. the best-in-class right-hand man or woman for your organization. This is a huge mistake that can have long-lasting negative impact on your business and career.

Executive leadership roles are critical to any company’s ability to innovate, scale and evolve. Many companies fail to identify and pursue opportunities because they don’t have the right executive team in place — or because they hired the wrong one.

C-Level missteps are not only extremely costly, but they also can derail your organization’s progress and growth, jeopardizing staff morale and productivity, and ultimately your own career.

Here are the 7 top C-Suite hiring mistakes:

Thinking inside the box. One of the biggest errors with C-Suite positions is hiring someone based solely on their technical skills and not considering their soft skills. Some examples of soft skills are based on interpersonal communication, problem-solving, adaptability, work ethic and collaboration. Assessing soft skills are key to determine if a potential hire will be fit for the organization’s team and culture. Involve other leaders in the decision-making, create an interview scorecard that include both hard and soft skills, tailor interview questions and ask for specific examples during the interview process.

Failing to define the role. The number of C-Suite positions has tripled over the past 20 years, according to PwC. That’s partly because the traditional positions of CEO, CFO and COO have expanded to include roles such as Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Chief Experience Officer (CXO), and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), amongst others. Examine leadership and skill gaps in your organization to develop a candidate profile that outlines how this hire that will complement you and your existing leadership and drive the business forward. Avoid hiring a mirror image of what already exists today.

Hiring at the wrong level. Even when a role is well defined, sometimes an executive title is too low-level for the role. For example, hiring someone with a VP or SVP title and expecting C-level performance is a business risk and often occurs due to politics, finances or fear of losing control. The result can be a C-Suite hire who is set up to fail before even starting. Ramp up the title to align with the job, invest to create a competitive compensation package with the expectation that your new hire will be making a long-lasting positive impact on your business and career. If you’re unsure of the appropriate compensation package, consult with an executive recruiter dedicated to your field.

Fear of letting go. C-Level executives and business owners who can’t get out of their own way generally hold companies back. They may be stuck doing things the “old way” so their companies cannot evolve. They hire someone who lacks the necessary skills to move the business forward, but makes them look good, maintains the status quo and is willing to do the organizational “dirty work.” It’s a waste of talent and money. Hire the stellar leader who has a vision and new ideas for the next stage of the business and don’t feel threatened or worried they are going to take your job. The best and brightest will make your job easier and allow you to focus on other areas of the business so you can make an even bigger impact.

Not making the investment. The best C-Suite executives are people who have a proven track record of success. That generally means they’re going to cost more. Don’t shortchange your success by cutting costs with your executive leadership team. High-caliber and world-class talent is an investment for a reason, because of the track record of success and business impacts they make.

Hiring too quickly. Hiring when you are desperate or under pressure almost always results in disaster. It’s better to think long-term about your investment in people and resources, and take the time to make sure that anyone joining your executive leadership team has aligned purpose and values and solid professional references. An executive-level hire takes 16-20 weeks and some cases more time, so be realistic and go through the appropriate executive search process to make the right hiring decision, whether this is internally or partnering with an executive search firm.

Poor sourcing and screening. It’s difficult enough to steer a top-level organization to success, much less research and assemble a talented leadership team to work by your side. Most internal recruitment teams are focused more on process and operations, and do not have the capacity to source top, passive executive level talent. Experienced executive recruiters know the market and have extensive networks of individuals who are likely to share your company’s vision and culture. They also have a process that enables them to identify and lure the most qualified talent to your organization.

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