The ultimate Charles Aris guide to executive recruiting

Learn how your organization can hire transformative executives.

Hiring a senior-level executive at your organization can feel daunting.

From division heads to CEOs, these individuals make decisions that will affect the entire company, and their executive presence can make or break your team’s culture.

With over 50 years of experience in executive search, we’ve identified strategies that will ensure your next executive hire will help transform your organization for the better, and it starts with determining whether the right candidate is truly qualified, available and interested (QAI) in doing so.

How to find a QAI candidate

Q:

To be truly qualified, a candidate must have the right technical and cultural qualifications. This means a candidate has the right experience and abilities to do the job well while being able to join and contribute to your organization’s culture.

Your hiring team can determine what makes a candidate qualified by agreeing on the core competencies a candidate needs to possess in order to be successful in this role.

This qualification is also a vetting mechanism for determining who proceeds in the interview process. Without these specific qualities, an applying candidate should not move on in the process.

A:

Availability is the second piece of the hiring equation and the next step in determining a candidate’s mobility through the hiring process.

Even with the right qualifications to serve in a role, it’s critical your hiring team determines whether the candidate can relocate (if required), does not have a non-compete that would inhibit their ability to change jobs, has the right immigration status to legally work in the required location and there are no triggering events (such as a pending bonus or stock vesting schedule) that would hinder the candidate from accepting a role now.

I:

Lastly, interest is a critically important aspect when finding the right executive candidate. It’s common for organizations to begin interviewing a candidate with the perfect qualifications and the right timeline/availability only to learn further into the process that this individual is not truly interested in joining their team.

Eliminate uninterested candidates early in the hiring process by digging deeper into their motivations for joining your team. Or, as we like to say at Charles Aris, “peel the onion.”

But how can you truly determine a candidate’s interest in your role and organization? Start by examining the four reasons top-performing candidates change careers and check if this person’s reasoning fits into any of the categories.

The four reasons A-players change jobs

Successful executives change careers for four key reasons: the company, the people, the job and the opportunity.

Even the most senior individuals will pursue your role if they believe in the mission and story of your company.

You can reveal how interested someone is in your team by asking questions that directly reference your organization’s history.

If the candidate shows they are familiar with said history by adding context or repeating biographical information, this can be a good indication they have done comprehensive research and are interested in your role due to the opportunity it presents.

Skilled candidates will also consider a new career opportunity if your role offers access to successful people and a strong company culture.

A strong candidate will know details of your organization’s culture and reference them during the interview process. They will show they are interested by naming colleagues they look forward to working with.

Another key reason executives switch careers is to pursue impact and exposure. Your role will be more attractive if the winning candidate knows they can enact meaningful organizational change.

The most compelling candidates will likely share an idea of what they want to accomplish in this role during the interview process.

Finally, career progression is a key component in an executive hiring scenario. It may seem premature to reference a candidate’s next steps before they receive an offer letter, but having an idea of promotion structure is important for both parties.

A-players will want to know the door is open for upward mobility, and your role will be more attractive in the marketplace if you share these details early in the interview process.

Identifying how your candidate fits into each of these categories is an effective way to vet their true interest, and it provides a template for the four key areas you should focus on when selling the candidate on your opportunity.

Applying the “QAI” and “four reasons” frameworks during the interview process

Once you’ve identified candidates who appear qualified, available and interested in your role, and who are seeking a new opportunity based on the four reasons framework, it’s time to dig deeper by scheduling interviews.

First, establish whether your interview process will be virtual or in person. Typically, organizations utilize a combination of both, with in-person interviews reserved for round-two sessions.

Online interviews through video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams are useful for initial face-to-face interactions, but it’s important that your interview panel is experienced in operating these tools. Otherwise, assign an administrator to host the meeting and prevent any technical hiccups.

For in-person interviews, consider assigning candidates a “buddy” who is not part of the official interview panel to meet them at the door, show them to the meeting room and answer any initial questions.

This will ensure candidates feel comfortable throughout the day and have a good first impression of your organization.

Once you’ve determined the format of your interview, provide candidates with a clear timeline and explain what they should expect when meeting with your interview panelists.

Next, we’ve identified three types of interviews that reveal a candidate’s qualifications for the role at hand:

Experience-based interviews:

This style seeks to identify why this person chose previous roles, if this person has demonstrated upward progression in their career and whether their reason for changing jobs makes sense.

Common questions include: “What were your primary roles and responsibilities?” or “What are the accomplishments you’re most proud of?”

Behavior-based interviews:

These interviews revolve around the premise that past actions are the best indicators of future performance. This method covers situations candidates experienced and how they managed them.

Common questions include: “Please describe a couple of long-term strategies that you devised and implemented” or “Tell me about a work situation when you had to stand up for a decision you made even though it was unpopular.”

Case-based interviews:

These interviews focus on critical thinking skills. Candidates solve business problems by asking questions and proposing solutions.

Here’s one example of a case study:

Your uncle is the owner of a prominent industrial light bulb manufacturing company in Portugal. Knowing your great experience in business, he calls you for advice as his company’s revenue has been declining for the past three years. He needs your help to diagnose the problem and establish a turnaround plan that will lead to renewed growth.

Next in the interview, ensure your candidate is truly available for your role by asking “housekeeping” questions on their location, immigration status (if applicable), potential noncompete agreements and compensation expectations.

Finally, assess true interest by observing whether the candidate has high energy levels, provides forward-thinking answers that focus on why they are excited about your opportunity, have conducted due diligence on your organization and ask you, the hiring authority, thoughtful questions.

Selling your opportunity:

It’s also important to fully sell your organization’s opportunity with candidates, just like it’s their job to sell their skills to you.

During the interview process, dig into the four reasons framework to highlight why an A-level executive would want to switch careers and join your team.

Top performers value the job, the company, the people and the opportunity when considering a career change, so it’s imperative that you prepare to address these topics of interest with each candidate.

We recommend assigning one member of your interview team the responsibility of selling your organization on a particular topic while conducting that team member’s portion of the interview sessions.

By doing so, your hiring team will show a united front focused on attracting the right professional to your organization.

Offer negotiation

Congratulations, you’ve identified the winning candidate! This person aced the interview by showing they are truly qualified, available and interested in joining your team. Now, you’re ready to send an offer.

If you effectively assessed this candidate’s availability to join your organization, you likely discussed compensation. But what if this person’s compensation expectations have changed since that discussion and they plan to counter your offer?

The best way to prepare for potential offer negotiation is to manage compensation expectations from the very beginning of the hiring process.

Be transparent about what your organization can offer and identify any incongruencies in their expectations and yours early on. It’s also important to reiterate these expectations when appropriate throughout interviewing to avoid any confusion.

But, even when practicing transparency throughout the hiring process, there’s always potential for a candidate to change their mind and counter your offer at the last second.

If this is the case, the most important rule is not to delay your response. Whether you’re accepting, denying or countering, do so quickly; most of these situations can be negotiated in good faith, but time kills all deals.

Onboarding:

After an offer acceptance, it’s important to have critical members of the interview team — including senior leaders — reach out to the candidate to congratulate them again and express your excitement about their acceptance.

Quickly set the wheels in motion for final hiring activities such as background checks and drug screens. Even if they don’t start immediately with your team, new hires often wait until these boxes have been checked before resigning from their current organizations.

Continue to check in with the new hire early and often in the days leading up to their start date to ensure everything’s on track — and that they’re receiving the support they need during this critical transition.

Delivery of recently developed team content, project materials and meeting minutes will help your new hire feel part of the inner circle and get up to speed quickly.

While you never want to send truly confidential information ahead of an official start date, sending semi-confidential material will help your new team member stay committed to the offer acceptance.

Strive to have multiple new hires start on the same day and go through onboarding together. This creates a natural bonding experience that will help retain new team members.

Quickly assigning a project for your new hire to tackle can also help ensure they’re effectively integrated into the team — and it gives them an opportunity to immediately contribute and add value.

Extending your onboarding process well beyond the first month is key to a new team member’s long-term success in your organization. Too many onboarding schedules stop before or at the one-month mark, which can lead to loneliness, especially for remote hires.

To remedy this, set up a strong feedback loop with official check-ins with your new hire at 30, 60 and 90 days. These conversations can help your new hire’s development and remove any unnecessary hurdles.

The takeaway:

Finding and hiring top executives requires a strategic approach that examines the candidate’s qualifications, availability and genuine interest in your organization. By utilizing the QAI framework and understanding the four key reasons executives switch careers, you can effectively vet candidates and ensure a successful hiring process.

Remember, the interview process is not just about assessing the candidate but also about selling your organization’s opportunity. Highlighting the aspects that align with the candidate’s motivations can significantly increase the likelihood of a successful hire.

Lastly, effective offer negotiation and onboarding processes are crucial to securing and retaining top talent. By maintaining transparency, prompt communication and ongoing support, you can set your new executive hire up for long-term success within your organization.

Implementing these strategies will not only streamline your hiring process but also enhance your organization’s ability to attract and retain top-tier executive talent.

To learn more about our executive search capabilities, contact us