The Key to Hiring a Truly Impressive Executive

Contributed by Andy Farrell, Principal, Howard Fischer Associates. 

In my work across the sphere of high-tech executive recruiting, I’ve had the privilege to meet a diverse population of leaders. Some I’ve met on the conference and speaking circuits, some have been clients, and others have been cherished coworkers. Most have been charismatic, intelligent, and passionate individuals, with a genuine sense of concern for the wellbeing of the people under their command and a vision for the future of their organizations. While many people in executive positions would likely earn a similar description, a much smaller portion of executives can be described as “truly impressive.” So what makes the distinction?

In my experience, and based on anecdotal evidence, the difference between a successful leader and those that fail usually has something to do with their ability to rally the rightpeople around an initiative and keep them engaged. Isolating and identifying that quality in an executive, however, is often not a priority during the hiring process. Companies face a tremendous amount of pressure when filling an open executive slot. The focus on hiring someone with the right industry experience, proven success rate, and educational pedigree can sometimes feel so aggressive that it becomes easy to forget that an executive’s job isn’t about “doing the work” – it’s about building and managing the team of people that “do the work.”

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Assessing Cultural Fit – Key to Successful Hiring

Contributed by Howard Fischer Associates

When filling a vacant role, many companies are inclined to promote a current executive. This is not surprising given the number of benefits that make this approach attractive:

  • An internal candidate has established credibility as well as institutional knowledge about key stakeholders, company processes, and the industry in which they function;
  • Promoting an internal candidate can be a relatively quick and cost-efficient process;
  • Promoting from within shows goodwill. Employees appreciate company loyalty. Knowing that internal succession is possible will decrease turnover at all levels of your company;
  • Most importantly, an internal candidate understands your company culture and most likely already fits well within that culture.

External candidates are unknown, so many companies assume that they are making the right choice by promoting within. However, before you fill any role, you should always consider if an external search would be a worthwhile pursuit.

For example, if your company is in a disruptive industry, an external candidate might be the change agent and innovative thinker you need to pivot your company in a new direction. Or, if your company is currently experiencing slow growth, an external candidate may be the turnaround specialist you need to help push reset and find new footing within the marketplace.  Your company may prefer conducting an external search simply because an outsider brings a needed fresh perspective.

One of the biggest concerns (and often the biggest indicator of success) is how well an external candidate fits into a company’s existing culture. If you’ve decided to pursue an external hire, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the risk and find a cultural match.

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