Hiring C-Level Candidates For Your Early Startup Executive Team

Hiring C-Level Candidates

Hiring C-Level Candidates

Finding top talent for executive roles at your startup can be one of the more challenging tasks in your talent aquisition journey. And between resumes, interviews, references and test runs, your candidates will be feeding you an abundance of information, which can be just as problematic as not having enough. Knowing what to evaluate, how to collect the information and how much value to place on each component can help you better navigate the evaluation of executive level candidates for your startup. Here are some tips from our executive search team to improve your process.

Find References through Due Diligence: A critical component to hiring for your startup is putting in the research to discover whether anyone from your own network can recommend your executive candidates in play. Endorsements, or a lack thereof, from people that your candidates have worked with in the past will paint a truer picture of who you are interviewing and how they operate. Utilize your own network and connections to get in touch with the people that have surrounded your candidates during their work history.

Identify Experience Within/Related to Your Industry: Experience alone is not a predictor of success by any means, nor does it demonstrate expertise. That being said, experience with and exposure to your specific industry implies a familiarity with it, and is a starting point for assessing the knowledge and expertise levels you desire. The importance of industry specific experience very much depends on your own needs, product, and team. And while it doesn’t always tell you everything you need to know, it is something that, as a recruiting firm, we often look to as an early indicator for an appropriate fit.

Gauge Ability To Complete The Work: As obvious as this item is, the method by which you qualify candidates is not. Experience in a similar role may seem like a solid qualifier, but all too often that is not the case. Because companies are so different from one another, success at one organization does not necessarily translate well to success at another. History of success across multiple organizations is a far better predictor. A useful tool to gauge how well a candidate’s efforts match your needs is the “take home test,” providing you with insight around whether they can get your job done, not just how well they’ve performed at other jobs.

Evaluate Personality, Character, Judgment and Soft Skills: At the executive level, a candidate’s most important qualities are not easily defined in a resume, are often just as hard to capture during interviews, and can become lost in translation when comparing past experience. Ultimately, your goal is to learn who your candidates are as people, what motivates them, and how they think and operate. Evaluate their ability to lead peers and their capacity to manage teams. Determine their level of intelligence, and the wisdom with which they wield it. Determine how they respond to extreme pressure, on top of the onslaught of daily ones. For early-stage startups, these qualities are imperative across all hires, be they executives, management or individual contributors. The weight of startup employment will be felt by everyone in your organization, so you need to confirm your executive candidates can handle and navigate that world.

Confirm Alignment With Your Values: Their caliber, experience and overall talent levels will amount to little if your executive candidates do not buy into your organization and its philosophy. Your executive hires won’t just be completing crucial work; they will be executing your company’s vision based on many unknowns, while leading others to do the same. The HR world continually buzzes about finding employees with the right cultural fit; but for an early-stage startup your hires will be defining your culture. Their buy-in to the product and vision, their methodology and their personality will shape almost every aspect of your organization, from conception to implementation, and from growth and scaling to success and exit.

Take Resumes With A Grain of Salt: There are several issues with resumes. For one thing, resumes are purposefully crafted to display candidates in the best light possible. Aside from the omission of blemishes, the crafting of resumes often leads to exaggerations. Furthermore, some candidates will create an elaborate resume, while others will take the straight shooter approach. As a result, the variety of styles and approaches regarding resumes today makes it difficult to compare them side by side, and can lead to a bias on the part of HR or the hiring party. Another issue worth noting about resumes is that the work and accomplishments outlined do not generally demonstrate the environment or circumstances of that experience, making it difficult to translate success from a prior role to the one you are hiring for. This is not to say that resumes are unimportant, but their most practical application should be in the beginning of your hiring process to determine who earns further consideration. Once they are on your radar, the value of the resume diminishes severely.

No One Delivers Bad References: While it is important that your executive candidates can deliver people who will endorse them, they can often represent a very biased view of the candidate, regardless of merit. Even those who worked directly above or alongside them can present an unrealistic or inaccurate endorsement of a candidate. With the exception of heavy hitting names on a reference list, you should take these endorsements, like most items a candidate hand-delivers, with a grain of salt.

Do Not Rely On Your Own Analysis: Our own biases can be most detrimental to the hiring process, especially for executive hires. We make unconscious judgements automatically when we meet someone, and those judgements will guide future interactions. We tend to like people who align with our own personal values, opinions and social aptitude, but these attributes do not always equate to the best hiring criterion. On the contrary, putting individuals in place with a different perspective than your own can present a great deal of value, and can give exposure to issues that you may otherwise overlook. So don’t take the burden of interviewing upon yourself alone. Get others in your company involved, and discuss candidates openly. You may find the rest of your team identifying tremendous value that you overlooked.

The team at Millennium Search is made up of seasoned C-Level executive recruiters for early stage startups and cutting-edge technology companies. We bring years of expereince and success helping young technology companies build and scale their teams, and have seen many of our clients skyrocket to success. To learn more about we can help your early stage company build its executive team, speak with us today!

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