Hiring the Best: How to Build Your Executive Team

Fast-growing small businesses need leadership. As an owner and founder, there's only so much you can do to move the business forward. Eventually, you'll find that you can't cover every aspect of the business that demands your attention. At that point, you'll need to hire an executive team to run finance, marketing and operations, etc. Hiring an executive team is a challenging undertaking — especially if this is the first time you've done so. Here is some guidance to help ensure that the executive team you hire will excel in their roles.

Publicize your intentions. To start the process, make your network aware of your search. Consider communicating your decision to hire an executive team via your professional social networks. However, keep in mind that while friends may express interest in a position and possess many of the qualifications needed for the role, managing a friend can prove challenging — especially if they fail to perform at the level required.

Develop a process. Before inviting a candidate for an interview, create a document detailing the entire hiring process. From posting the job to the acceptance by the final candidate, identify every step in the process. This includes:

Identify the attributes of an ideal candidate. Prior to reviewing resumes, create a picture of the ideal candidate, including factors such as education, experience to date and personality type. While an individual candidate may not mirror this, having the picture of an ideal candidate in your mind's eye can help guide your decision and help evaluate prospective candidates for the role.

Prepare for the interview. In their rush to hire an executive team, some business owners conduct interviews with little preparation. To ensure a rigorous interview, develop a list of questions for each position you plan to hire. Ask a broad range of questions, including how the candidate's previous roles prepared them to excel in your company, how he or she deals with conflict and stress, and how he or she plans to stay up-to-date on the latest tools and techniques to help succeed in the position.

Fully describe the role. One reason why some executives in small businesses fail to deliver results stems from a misunderstanding about their roles. Make sure you can describe the position in enough detail to allow a candidate to make an informed decision regarding their ability to excel. That means being forthcoming about the inherent challenges of the role. Use real-world scenarios to detail pressing problems and to test how a candidate might solve them.

Require candidates to provide references. Some business owners decide to skip this step as they put a lot of faith in their ability to evaluate people. Instead, take the time to call or meet with references. If nothing else, they'll help confirm your assessment of candidates. With that said, references sometimes find themselves conflicted. While they may have a close relationship with a candidate, they might also feel compelled to share his or her shortcomings with a prospective employer. Therefore, pay close attention to the words and phrases that a reference uses to describe someone as they may be attempting to drop hints without making definitive statements that will doom the candidate's application.

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