Don’t Shoot Yourself In The Foot With Your Next Senior Hire

Written by EO Executives on Feb 03, 2015

How much of a risk do you take when you make a senior hire? Maybe a little, maybe a lot...maybe you don’t really think about risk?

I see first hand the impact of a great hire on a business, and hear stories of the de-energising effect of a hire that doesn’t work out.

With so much at stake, it really is time to do everything in your power to take as much of the risk out of your next hire as possible. Your success in 2015 will be largely based on your ability to hire and mobilise superior senior talent better than the competition.


Because people are the driving force behind any great business and management leader, and your competitors will want the same talent as you

Senior Hiring is traditionally a risky and very expensive business - I have seen many leaders learn this the hard way having spent over a decade in Executive Recruitment. As it turns out, Senior Hiring is even more expensive than the basic figures would initially suggest.  It’s those sneaky hidden costs that really rack up.

Things like:

  • Training costs
  • Lost time in the job
  • Team time burnt up during hiring and induction
  • Marketing costs – PR, Business Cards, Website Updates etc.
  • Technology
  • Opportunity costs with clients
  • Damage to internal and external relationships

Most studies suggest the real cost of a senior hire that goes wrong is upwards of three times annual salary – scary stuff.

So what strategies can you employ to de-risk the hiring process and ensure that you get far more right than wrong?

My top 5 tips are below:

Tip 1 – Don’t Just Try And Find A Carbon Copy Of The Predecessor

Often hiring processes are biased towards finding someone exactly like the incumbent or predecessor in terms of demographic or background.  This is often counterproductive as you are comparing someone who has been with the business with someone who is unknown.  Instead match someone for the future needs of the team regardless of the past.

Tip 2 – Hire on Behaviours Over Experience

Companies tend to hire on skills and fire on behaviours - previous experience is no longer the best predictor of future success.  Getting the cultural and behavioural fit correct should be the number one priority of the recruitment process from the start – this means more than a token psychometric test at the end when the decision has already been reached!

Tip 3 – Don’t Overpay for the “Sure Thing” Candidate

Like most leaders I have succumbed to this a number of times.  It is oh-so-tempting to try and buy yourself out of a problem by paying way over the odds for a proven performer from a competitor.  The trouble is (and the humble high achiever will agree with this) previous success is a combination of hard work, success, circumstance and a bit of luck. I have witnessed many an individual arrive with a huge reputation (and pay packet) and yet for some reason fall flat.

Previous stardom is certainly a huge positive but even the highest performer never comes with a 100% guarantee.

Tip 4 – Involve Key Stakeholders in the Interview and Decision

If there are hugely important internal stakeholders, suppliers or customers who will be materially affected by the appointment you are about to make, then it is madness not to include them in the assessment process. Set your new hire up for success by gaining them the political sponsorship and endorsement they’ll need before they start.

Tip 5 – Get the Onboarding Right

39% of executives have considered walking away in their first three months – this shows us that onboarding is still an area of importance that is not always executed appropriately. Most new hires decide very early whether they are likely to stay the course so make sure you make a killer first impression.

What Next?

Although these five tips are simple, it’s not easy to do them well. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at our ‘Talent Gamble’ slideshare where we lift the lid on what we perceive to be the main obstacles to surrounding yourself with great people – and teach you how to break those obstacles down.

Also take a look at our ‘Deception and Detection’ ebook where we go into more detail on the tools and techniques you can use to minimise the chances of making a bad hire.

hire smarter, find better candidates

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