5 things to keep in mind when hiring an executive

In an era marked by the highest rates of executive turnover in the healthcare industry, selective hiring and effective succession planning are essential for stability at the helm. However, this task often proves to be a tricky one.

To avoid mistakes in the hiring process, consider these five tips to avoid common pitfalls and review proven hiring strategies from real companies and advisers.

1. Hire for the future. Jim Johnston, a C-suite adviser, warns not to let hiring decisions be influenced by the past, according to CFO Magazine. Delaying the replacement of an ineffective key executive, hiring an executive who fits the past but not the future needs of the business, or selecting from a small pool of candidates consisting of only familiar faces are all hazards.

"Recognize that each time your company fills a spot on the senior team, it's a moment for creating the future of your company," Mr. Johnston said.

While retirement, resignation or letting employees go create the need to hire someone new, each is an opportunity to incorporate a new leader than can propel the business forward. Making the wrong choice, however, can be a huge setback.

According to Mr. Johnston, there are several key symptoms of executives who do not fulfill important leadership requirements. These include avoidance, delay, failure to delegate and always being reactive instead of proactive.

2. Seek out entrepreneurs. A successful entrepreneur, by nature, is someone who can lead, take risks, take on multiple responsibilities and think critically. Entrepreneurs represent many of the traits a powerful executive should have. However, it is important to have a balanced approach when adding those with an entrepreneurial mindset and experience.  

According to ReadWrite, Spencer Gerrol, founder and CEO of research and design firm SPARK Experience Design, said adding an entrepreneur to the executive team will work out best if his or her personality and work style complements those of the other executives already onboard.

For example, someone who is a risk-taker might need a more cautious person to keep them in check, while an analytical person may benefit from working with someone who is exceptionally creative, Mr. Gerrol explained.

3. Choose and inform search consultants wisely. According to an article in Businessweek by Joseph Daniel McCool, author of Designing Who Leads, it's important to know when a retained executive search firm should be used instead of other forms of recruitment. These include if your organization wants to recruit an executive who is already working for a competitor, an executive who is not currently seeking a new opportunity or if the search needs to be kept confidential.

Don't let cost-per-hire determine executive search decisions. According to Mr. McCool, many organizations choose the lowest-bidding recruiter to handle executive searches, with cost avoidance as the motivation.

It is also important to research outside consultants to prevent conflicts of interest. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, executive search consultants may sometimes offer an exceedingly favorable recommendation for candidates they found or an overly skeptical view of those with whom they were not involved in sourcing.

Additionally, make sure to specifically request leadership diversity in candidates from the search consultant to ensure they possess a range of leadership traits and experiences, Mr. McCool suggests.

4. Compare data on executive candidates from past colleagues. According to the Harvard Business Review, candid insight on candidates from those who have experience working with them is invaluable. Vetting the views of a candidate's prior colleagues executive boards — while still maintaining confidential— can yield informative and sometimes surprising results, the article said.

5. Don't have institutional amnesia. Improving the organization's future performance partially depends on ensuring lessons learned from past errors aren't forgotten. According to Mr. McCool, it is important to record the performance of external advisors to inform future search process decisions.

"Hiring organizations can begin to reduce cost, accelerate the search process and track results if they know which search consultants [external advisers] are engaging, how they're engaging them and why," he said.

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