Courting a New Executive: 6 things that will increase the likelihood of getting the right person to say “yes” when you pop the question.

In a previous post we began a discussion about the Courtship of Senior Executives and how to Talent Targetensure that we get it right.  These relationships are a lot like a marriage and it’s important to take significant time and investment on the front end to maximize the likelihood of long term success.

Now that you have a pool of candidates, how do you determine which ones are “right”, and once you think you found them, how do you get them to say yes to your offer to leave what they are currently doing and join you on your journey?  These questions are best answered by doing these six things.

  1. Drill Deep.  We narrowed the search from a couple hundred to about a half dozen candidates that the CEO would screen through a telephone interview with prepared screening questions.  This involved a simple resume review asking the candidate to walk through their experience, and share the research they had done to this point.  One candidate that I liked a great deal was disqualified by the CEO because his interview was so filled with “I” messages to the point that all the CEO could hear was a sense of ego and arrogance.  The process allowed the CEO to identify three of these candidates that he wanted to bring in for face to face interviews.
  1. Drill Deeper.  Before these candidates were brought in they were asked to complete a comprehensive selection assessment that would provide insight into their leadership style, personality preferences, potential performance challenges, and motives and values.  They were also asked to review the competencies that we had created, the same ranking exercise the CEO completed.   This step was designed to help us determine whether the process was taking us down the right track.  These two exercises could tell us if we had missed it completely or not.  Thankfully, we confirmed that we had found some quality candidates who were closely aligned with the CEO when it came to business, leadership and values.
  1. Don’t wing it.  Develop the right questions to be used in the interview.  We developed and agreed upon a series of situational and behavioral interview questions based on the position, their resume, their background, and the assessments.
  1. Conduct a Comprehensive Structured Interview.  We dug into their background as much as we could, checked their references, reviewed their social media accounts, and then brought each of these three candidates to join us for a five hour interview and a meal together.  We wanted to get answers to our questions, but we also wanted to see this person in different settings and situations.  Short of a comprehensive and expensive Assessment Center, an in-depth, structured interview will ensure that you ask all the questions that are important to you.  The CEO and I prepared for the interview ahead of time.  Our two-person team interview allowed us to alternate asking questions and kept the interview focused and on track.
  1. Ask for a Second Date.  This process allowed us to narrow our selection.  We asked the primary candidate to return with their spouse for dinner with the CEO and his spouse, and for an extended visit with the executive team they would be responsible for leading.  This wasn’t designed to give the executive team a vote, though I am sure they could have vetoed the selection, but it was designed to allow the CEO to get to know them further, and in different situations.  We also wanted to utilize this trip to provide the candidate and the people who would relocate with them an opportunity to visit the area with a Realtor to see if this is a place they might enjoy living.
  1. Compensation:  Don’t lose ‘em now!  You have made it this far, so you don’t want to lose them in the negotiation process.  In the midst of this process we had conducted a compensation study, and had inquired about their compensation expectations.  We wanted to be certain that we knew what the position was worth, and what a person of this candidate’s skills and experience would command.  We also discussed this with others who had been through similar processes to help the CEO be as comfortable as possible with the decision he was about to make.  The CEO also used this time to prepare his executive team for the leadership transition that was about to occur and to share with them his philosophy of leadership that had developed through the process.

All in all this process took approximately six months.  That’s a long courtship in today’s fast pace of business.  Some will say, too long, but not this CEO.  This was not the first time he attempted this.  His first pass involved a less structured approach.  Needless to say, that didn’t work out so well.  This time he wanted to make sure he did it in a way that would have a greater likelihood of success.

I know you’re asking, Is this a success story?  Time will tell.  A lot will depend on the CEO’s ability to adjust to his new role and the company’s on-boarding process, along with the President’s ability to solidify their relationship with the CEO, gain the confidence of the executive team, suppliers and customers, and to achieve or exceed expectations as planned.  However, we are definitely confident that the stage has been set for the greatest likelihood of success.  And that’s really about all you can do.

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