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4 Executive Hiring Rules It’s OK To Break

Posted by OnPoint Consulting April 9, 2018


In any pursuit, there are always some rules that, whether written or unwritten, become obsolete and may even be counter-productive. Hiring people for an executive position is no exception.

While these “rules” may have been considered good advice at one time, things have changed. Nowadays, companies have more access to information about executive candidates than ever before. Also, the job market is fluid and fast-paced—with many companies competing to get the best candidates.

Sticking to outmoded executive hiring rules just because that’s the way your company has always done things is not a good way to find the best talent. Being able to adapt your hiring process can be invaluable for filling your most important roles with the right talent to lead your company to future success.

One important aspect of making your executive hiring process more adaptable is knowing which hiring “rules” should be broken. Some examples of old hiring rules that you can break include:

1: Consistently Consider External Candidates

As a practice, benchmarking your internal leadership candidates against external candidates does have value. However, it isn’t strictly necessary to actively seek out external candidates when you have a pool of internal candidates.

If you have a strong succession management pipeline, odds are that you have several high-potential leaders on the proverbial “bench” who are ready to step into an executive position. The key to finding leadership candidates to fill this bench is a robust leadership assessment process that can identify high-potential employees.

Make sure your leadership assessment process to fill your succession pipeline with high-potential leaders includes:

  • Success profiles for executive roles that define what “good” or “great” looks like for the position being filled.
  • Questionnaires, behavioral interviews, and 360 feedback surveys that collect information about leadership candidates from a variety of perspectives to create a comprehensive, data-driven assessment of each candidate’s leadership potential.
  • Development tools to help guide a high-potential candidate’s growth so they can be ready to take on an executive role when needed.

2: Be The First to Make an Offer

If you do need to hire an external candidate, the general assumption is that the early bird gets the worm. While there is value in being able to approach a strong executive candidate early on to form a relationship with them, it isn’t the most important determinant for success.

For example, in one anecdotal story shared on forentrepreneurs.com:

“When Polyvore CEO Jess Lee was looking for a CFO, she found everything she wanted in Cheryl Dalrymple: incredible experience, shared values about how to run a company, and immediate personal rapport. Yet despite both women recognizing they could form a strong team, when Lee offered her the position, Dalrymple decided it was too early in her search, and turned Lee down.”

Despite the apparent cultural fit and the candidate’s skills for the role, Polyvore’s initial attempt to recruit a CFO was not successful because the candidate had many other offers to consider, and didn’t want to jump the gun in case something better came along.

In today’s ultra-competitive hiring environment, where proven executive-level talent is in short supply but high demand, the competition for a candidate can be fierce. Because candidates are aware of this, they often want to wait and see what offers they get. Eventually, Polyvore did acquire Dalrymple as a CFO, but it was the product of constant effort by Lee to build a relationship with the candidate.

So, rushing to be the first one to make an offer to an executive candidate isn’t necessarily the determining factor for achieving success.

3: Reject “Job Hoppers”

In a perfect world, high performing employees would not leave your company until you have  replacement candidates. When employees leave, it can cause significant disruption as you try to fill that role and get the new person up to speed. So, it’s only natural to want to avoid putting an employee who is prone to job-hopping in an executive role.

However, in today’s fluid job market, it isn’t always feasible to hold out for a candidate who is extraordinarily stable. According to data from Gallup, “Six in 10 millennials are open to new job opportunities.”

Other sources point out that this isn’t unique to millennials. In fact, a recent Forbes article noted that Baby Boomers did just as much job-hopping in their respective 20s as millennials do today.

The majority of the most driven and talented individuals in any generation are likely to be job-hoppers. According to research cited in the aforementioned Forbes article, “Job-hopping millennials are more likely to earn a higher wage, develop their career on a faster track and find a better fit in work culture by changing jobs more frequently.”

So, rather than focusing on a candidate’s previous career path and how many jobs they’ve had with other companies, consider what they’ve gained from those experiences. By assessing their competencies, behaviors, and judgement through a series of interviews, questionnaires, and tests, you can identify the candidate who is the best fit for a particular position.

If that candidate happens to have varied job experiences from job-hopping, consider how you can provide them with opportunities for growth or advancement that can keep them engaged.

4: Give the Role to the Most Tenured Candidate

While there are many indicators that an employee is a high-potential leader, tenure with your company is not one of them. As the workforce becomes more fluid, it’s also becoming more common for leaders to be promoted based on merit rather than seniority.

Discounting a high-potential employee because they’ve spent less time at your company than another, less-qualified candidate is a recipe for mediocrity. Putting a poor-fit candidate in an executive role can have dire consequences. Rather than deciding based on tenure, it’s important to consider the specific behaviors, competencies, and skills that drive long-term success. This success profile can be used to assess executive candidates to see if they have what it takes to perform in the role, or the potential to demonstrate the necessary competencies, behaviors, and skills to do so.

These are just a few of the possible executive hiring rules that have been considered “wisdom” in the past, but get in the way of successfully finding the right people to fill executive roles in modern organizations. By knowing when to bend or ignore these rules, organizations can improve their executive hiring processes and avoid wasting time, money, and effort on poor-fit executives.



Topics: Identify And Develop Leaders

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