As a company founder, selecting your senior leadership team is one of the most critical decisions you’ll ever make. This is an opportunity to look at your enterprise’s top priorities, so you can hire accordingly.
Good executive teams have the expertise you need in order for your enterprise to reach its fullest potential. And good leaders have the ability to inspire team members to do their best. In contrast, bad ones can drive employees away, damaging a business’s reputation in the process.
Who should you hire first?
In startups, the founder usually retains the title of CEO. If the founding leadership doesn't have financial expertise, the first hire would typically be a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
There's no requirement that your most senior financial person be a member of the C-suite. In fact, many startups save money by having their financial affairs taken care of by a controller or a certified public accountant (CPA). So, if you've already got a bookkeeping person, you might want to hold off on hiring a CFO.
For most companies, it might be better to have their first hire be a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO). That’s because these positions usually have responsibilities that encompass several areas, making them more crucial to the enterprise than a CFO.
The nature of the work and company size will usually dictate whether you need to add additional C-level positions.
Creating an executive-level job description
The first step to building a top-notch executive team is creating a compelling job description. Effective job descriptions are engaging, encouraging the right people to apply. Include keywords that identify the specific capabilities you need, including soft skills.
A candidate should be able to look at a job description and know exactly what a job requires and entails. It should give individuals a sense of how the position fits into the company and what will be expected of the person who fills it.
Do your homework by researching similar jobs at similar companies to see what they’ve posted as a job description.
What a job description should include
A job title needs to make sense for the role it describes. Start with the job duties, requirements, and skill set required for the position. Next, match your specifications to existing jobs. You can use a resource such as O*NET or the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook to do that.
In a few short sentences, provide a role overview, its responsibilities and requirements, and how it fits into the enterprise.
This section outlines the overarching responsibilities of the position. Explain how and when the candidate will carry out job tasks and how their work will fit into the overall corporate strategy. Include what the supervisory responsibilities are, such as how many direct reports are attached to the job.
For this section, start by asking yourself what this candidate must have in terms of education, experience, skills, licenses, and certifications. Add a preferred qualifications section if you want. That way, you can include abilities that are nice to have.
A solid job description is the basis of an effective job posting. A job posting needs to include what the company culture is like, the benefits and perks (such as health insurance and retirement plans), and continuing education benefits.
The posting should also include an equal opportunity and affirmative action statement, such as "ABC Company is committed to inclusion and diversity and is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer."
Where can you find good C-suite possibilities?
It’s time to share your compelling job description so you can build a rich, dynamic applicant pool. You can do this by posting it to your corporate website, on public job boards like LinkedIn, and specialized sites unique to your industry.
Tips for growing your executive team
While recruiting top-tier executive talent can be challenging, there are some things you can do to improve your success rate:
Sometimes, the best way to build your management team is through internal promotion. If you regularly promote from within, you’ll send a signal to all employees that upward mobility is always possible, helping to motivate team members to do their best.
As you go about your daily business, keep a close eye for signs of leadership talent. Try to spot individuals who exude confidence, have excellent communication skills, and have the ability to work as part of a team.
Create a vibrant company culture
These days, prospective employees want to work for a company with a vibrant company culture. This is particularly true at the executive level. That’s why you should consider creating a company culture that’ll attract the type of management team you want.
All too many enterprises are complacent about their workplace culture. This kind of attitude isn’t going to attract top-tier executive talent. If you want your business to become a talent magnet, consider taking steps to build and then continually evolve your organizational culture.
The more vibrant your company culture is, the more team members will be satisfied with their work. It's not sufficient to offer competitive compensation and compelling benefits and perks. This won't boost job satisfaction or entice an employee to remain with the company long-term.
Cultivating a strong sense of mission and building a culture that genuinely reflects that purpose is crucial. If your culture doesn't reflect your overall values, it can be challenging to attract decent candidates.
At the same time, a company with a vibrant company culture may find itself swamped with applications from top-tier talent.
Focus on soft skills
Sometimes, enterprises become too results-oriented when looking for new recruits. When that happens, there’s a tendency to value hard skills over soft ones. However, soft skills such as the ability to communicate well, delegate, and use emotional intelligence are also essential to managerial success.
Hire for diversity
Hiring individuals who think exactly the same way as you probably isn’t a good idea. That’s because you won’t have the diversity of ideas you need to fuel innovation.
It’s best to cultivate a managerial team from widely different backgrounds. That way, you’ll benefit from a stunning richness of perspectives that can provide your company with the creative ‘oomph” it needs to retain its competitive edge.
Expand your search
When putting together your executive team, don’t limit yourself to a specific geographic area. Relocation costs for a talented team member can be well worth it if they bring a lot of value to your enterprise.
Who knows—you might even be able to find someone interested in relocating to your city!
Fine tune your interview process
The standard way of interviewing candidates might not be getting you the high-caliber talent you need. In that case, consider coming up with more creative interview questions.
Candidates expect interviewers to ask them the typical, run-of-the-mill questions every interviewer asks. To throw them for a cognitive loop, dream up some decidedly out-of-the-box queries.
However, keep in mind that C-suite candidates are interviewing you just as much as you’re interviewing them. They want a clear picture of your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Since they’re expected to be open and vulnerable, they expect your enterprise to be too.
Offer excellent compensation
Companies must be prepared to compensate well for top-tier executive talent. This includes base salary, bonuses, and long-term incentives.
Compensation must be at or better than the current market rate to attract top C-suite executives. Compensation packages should exceed traditional salary and insurance benefits. Perks such as unlimited sick days, generous vacation, and paid sabbaticals can be a big plus for C-level talent.
Management by objectives (MBOs) should be a part of every compensation plan beyond base salary. That’s because ensuring C-suite executives can see that their outstanding performance is awarded is crucial to hiring and retaining executives.
However, you shouldn’t target more than five objectives. Consider targets that are most important to your enterprise when drafting MBOs.
Make sure to outline performance bonus information in an executive's employment contract so that all parties know and agree on objectives, scales, and milestones.
Target passive candidates
Even if you don’t currently have an open position, start building relationships with passive candidates now. That way, you can bring them on board when you’re ready. You can do this using confidential referrals and online sources such as LinkedIn.
However, it’s probably best if you don’t use an overly aggressive approach. This means not asking for a resume when first meeting a prospective employee. While it might take a while to build rapport, doing so could pay off handsomely.
The ideal individual for your management team could be already working for another enterprise. That’s why you should think about searching for exceptional candidates at networking meetings and industry functions.
If you happen to come across someone you think might be suitable for your C-suite, don't hesitate to mention your organization. Write down their name and file them away. When you're ready to grow your executive team, you'll have at least one possibility to look at.
Keep the lines of communication open after you’ve forged a trusted relationship. That way, when a good opportunity presents itself, it’ll be easier to find them.
Here’s one good way to grow your executive team
If you're a startup founder looking to hire executive-level talent, consider enlisting the help of Hunt Club.
We’ll help build a robust pipeline of top-tier talent you can tap for all your open roles.