Executive-level hires are arguably the most important type of hire for your business, as they bring with them a wealth of experience and industry contacts that could have a huge impact on shaping the future of your company. That's why, as a founder, you must take the utmost care when vetting a prospective hire to determine if they not only have the expertise you're looking for, but also fit in with the culture of your company.
Ten entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share the techniques they use to ensure a potential executive-level hire possesses the qualifications and personality traits that would make them the right fit for the team.
1. Conduct executive-level reference checks.
At Y Scouts, every executive recruiter speaks to the candidate's prior direct manager(s) as part of their hiring process. Executive-level reference checks give recruiters an understanding of the candidate's personality, values, where they excel or struggle and where the candidate ranks among other executives the reference has managed. This insight helps identify truly exceptional candidates.--Brett Farmiloe, Marketing Auditors
2. Ask them to talk about their core values.
Asking them to discuss their core values and how they complement the business' core values is a great way to understand their deeper motivations, how they navigate challenging situations and where potential clashes may occur. It also enables you to see how well they might fit into the team and what gaps they can potentially fill.--Lea Woodward, Inspiring Ventures
3. Interact outside the office.
An executive-level hire brings a sense of urgency. They more often than not are early on their own deadlines. By taking them out of the office, you show them you value them on a much more personal level. The walk to and from a less formal breakfast/lunch/dinner/coffee interview challenges them to think on the move, which is exactly the type of environment they should thrive in.--Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind
4. Create opportunities for unexpected interactions with staff.
Have someone on your team who holds a junior or associate level position interact with the candidate out of your presence. Then, get their feedback on how the candidate treated them. An executive level hire has to be an effective leader, and that means being professional with everyone in your organization -- not only with important people when they think someone's paying attention.--Jared Brown, Hubstaff
5. Conduct a panel interview.
Executive-level candidates are typically seasoned at the interview process. When vetting a candidate at this level, it is best to have multiple interviews conducted by a panel consisting of various members of the company. This allows each panel member to offer their unique perspectives of the candidate that are a result of their individual interaction with that candidate.--Christophor Jurin, Construct-Ed, Inc.
6. Have them meet your executive coach.
Executive-level job prospects have to meet with my executive coach. She deeply understands the kinds of people that I need to be surrounding myself with based on my personal goals, strengths and weaknesses.--Christopher Kelly, Convene
7. Conduct a personality test.
Someone can interview extremely well -- but that only means they're good at interviewing. This is especially true for experienced C-level executives. You need to avoid the bias of an interview and see someone's true colors with a personality test. A Keirsey test or others will really allow you to see if someone is naturally suited for a position. Of course, this should be just one of many data points.--Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital
8. Put them to the test.
When really digging deep and examining an executive-level candidate, it's important that you put them to the test and see how well they do right off the bat. Have them meet with prospective clients, cover a project, host a meeting -- involve them in an activity that will reveal their strengths (and weaknesses) as a C-level player. This is the most revealing method when going above and beyond.--Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com
9. Have board members or investors meet them over lunch or dinner.
Have the candidate spend some time with your key board members or investors that you respect. A lunch or dinner is especially telling if this person is dynamic, intelligent and personable. Throw in a couple bottles of wine to really open up, share some horror stories and get to know each other. This is a strong test for cultural fit.--Costin Tuculescu, AnyMeeting
10. Vet their softer skills.
Often most forgotten is the basics: sometimes, we might be wrapped up in their "technical" experience that we miss out on simple factors. Do you like them? Can you sit next to them on a four-hour plane ride? What do their references truly think about them? Can you get a "back-channel" reference? Any extra insights into the "softer skills" of your prospective hire will go a long way.--Peggy Shell, Creative Alignments