You have grown your business to a point where you can’t directly supervise all your staff. It’s time to hand off not just tasks but a whole area of responsibility so you can further grow your business.
Maybe you …
- enjoy doing sales and want to hire someone who runs end-to-end operations
- need someone to take over the customer service or marketing department
- want to hire a CFO who can oversee all business finance and accounting matters
To hand off a big piece of your responsibility, it is critical to find the right match.
How Do You Assess Candidates for a Critical Leadership Position?
It makes sense to look for people who have the right abilities based on what they have learned and done in the past.
An operations or customer service leader ideally has several years’ experience leading people in similar operations. For finance related jobs, there might be mandatory qualifications such as a CPA or a FINRA license.
But basing you hiring decision merely on work experience, industry knowledge and existing skills can lead to a lot of trouble down the road.
There are two additional aspects to consider when evaluating candidates:
1. Personality and Fit
A person’s work ethic, leadership style and communication habits will determine the level of change your team will experience. Make sure you have clarity and are intentional with your questions when interviewing candidates.
Maybe at this point, it’s important that she has the same perspective on leadership and a similar engagement style with your team so you can maintain a level of continuity. You are looking for someone who has the exact same “wavelength”.
At another time, you want someone who is different from you. Maybe you are too formal and want to loosen things up. Or, you are seeking someone who stands for more structure.
Know yourself and have clarity before you start the selection process.
During the interview ask the candidate how she handled specific situations, such as:
- engaging with a direct report who has made a mistake
- developing team capabilities so they could handle different work
- dealing with office banter that got in the way of productivity
- celebrating with her team
Ask the candidate to provide a specific example to illustrate the point.
2. Right Motivation
Your business is too important to be a 2nd choice or even a gap filler for someone until something better comes along. Figure out WHY a candidate wants to join your company.
Is his heart in the right place? Does he want to make a difference now and in the long run? Can you detect true passion for the type of service you are selling? Does he have tenacity or is he looking to coast along?
To evaluate motivation, ask the candidate to tell you about a time when he
- had to deal with setbacks
- realized old solutions didn’t work
- quickly had to learned new skills
- handled a crisis
Inquire about his least and most favorite jobs and what specific interest he has in working in your business.
Obviously, there are no universal wright or wrong answers. That can only be decided in the context of your business and what you need right now.
Here’s the important thing to keep in mind:
Skills can be developed – personal fit and motivation cannot.
Let me tell you – I made several not so good hiring decisions throughout my career.
And I learned one lesson:
No Leadership void or gap in team capacity is bigger than the trouble you encounter when you hire the wrong person.
Only on rare occasions, does a candidate check all the boxes. After all we are all different. At the end of the day, you have to compromise.
So how would you make a tradeoff knowing what you know now?
Would you select the candidate with the highest knowledge and skills even though you are not sure that he leads with empathy and will support you in good and bad times?
Or, would you take the candidate with some gaps in skill and experience who has the heart in the right place and the tenacity to quickly learn and adjust?
Here’s what I recommend:
If the candidate has the right skills and experience but otherwise doesn’t seem to be the right fit, do not more forward!
But you may decide to give someone who has never led people a shot at your operations job if you are convinced that he is motivated and the right fit for your business.
Never compromise fit and motivation for skill. It’s best to wait and start over.
- Evaluate your candidates based on skill, motivation, personality & fit!
- Make sure you hire a leader and not an individual contributor.
- Be deliberate about choices and tradeoffs you make.
- Don’t rush the process.
Once you have hired the right leader you have taken a first huge step towards building a resilient team so you can scale up and win in the market place.