Experience Over Ambition: 11 Things to Know About Hiring for a Senior Leadership Role

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Welcome to Recruiter Q&A, where we pose employment-related questions to the experts and share their answers!

Today’s Question: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while hiring for senior leadership positions ?

The answers below are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs.

abeer1. Make Sure Your Values Align

When you’re hiring for a senior leadership position, you’re most likely looking for a long-term addition to your team. A values-fit candidate is more likely to stick through the ups and downs of business because of their belief in your principles, work ethic, and motives. Your values provide a larger purpose for this person to connect with, and that will decrease turnover rates and conflicts.

Abeer Raza, TekRevol 

thomas2. Hire for Cultural Fit

A strong company culture can be a big draw for many of your employees. Company culture is developed and implemented from the top down, so a new senior leader who is simply a cultural mismatch will create tension and growing pains. Take the time when hiring to ensure that the new leadership will be a good fit for your whole organization as well as a capable and talented leader.

Thomas Smale, FE International  

bryce3. Choose Experience Over Ambition

The valuable lesson I learned from hiring senior team members is to prioritize people with long, relevant careers over those who are just highly ambitious. Although ambitious people can be extremely beneficial to your company if they’re creative and motivated, they’re also more open to being poached by another company or pursuing another career after a short period of time. With a senior leadership role, you need someone who is here for the long haul.

Bryce Welker, Accounting Institute of Success 

gabriel4. Hire for Team Cohesion

The biggest thing I’ve learned about hiring executives is to make sure you are hiring for fit on the executive team, not just for the functional area they will be leading. The world’s greatest CFO is worthless to the company if that individual doesn’t also bring out the best in the rest of the leadership team. Achieving business success is 95 percent about people.

Gabriel Krajicek, kasasa.com 

nicole5. Consider the Candidate’s Vision

Leaders need to have vision: It’s one of the critical elements that allows those who work with them to follow them with pride and determination, even if the tasks they are doing may seem less important. A real leader is someone who can create cohesion and enthusiasm on their team by driving toward a shared vision, and if that shared vision has real impact, then the sky’s the limit.

Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc. 

matthew6. Get the Messaging Right

If you decide to hire an external candidate, make sure you speak with internal employees who may have been hoping for promotion prior to the announcement. This shows your respect for their progress and that you value their emotions and work. Have the uncomfortable conversation up front to improve morale and give yourself a chance to outline the reasoning before assumptions are passed around.

Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, PA 

mario7. Meet Your Candidate in Both Formal and Informal Environments

Hiring for a senior management role should not be rushed. Instead, agree on a longer process that includes formal and informal meetings, meetings with the team, etc. Investing in a longer recruiting and onboarding process could yield better long-term results for all parties involved.

Mario Peshev, DevriX 

patrick8. Always Ask for a Cover Letter

A senior manager needs to know how to communicate with employees and their superiors. That means they need great interpersonal and writing skills. A cover letter is a test to see how applicants communicate and how they sell themselves. This will help you screen out more candidates up front.

Patrick Barnhill, Specialist ID, Inc. 

blair9. Follow Up on References

You can learn a lot more about your candidates by following up on any references they give you. This not only helps you verify their authenticity, but it also helps you learn more about their strengths. Personal recommendations and references can be valuable indicators of a person’s performance, and that should help you make the right hiring choice.

Blair Williams, MemberPress  

kristopher10. Start Them as a Consultant

My No. 1 recruiting strategy for hiring senior leadership is to first hire them as a consultant. This way, the candidates need not sign up for a full-time job out of the gate. Instead, they can be challenged with a specific task that is immediately important to your organization. Watching them carry out this task will help you evaluate their fit for full-time employment.

Kristopher Brian Jones, LSEO.com 

piyush11. Make Sure They Are Passionate About the Job

Initially, I had a bad experience trying to hire a lead SEO manager because I didn’t consider their passion for the job. Most lead positions require people who are passionate about the job so that they can overcome challenges and inspire others. Since then, I’ve started evaluating candidates’ passions first, and this has helped me find the right people.

Piyush Jain, SIMpalm 

By Recruiter Q&A