Recruiting your leadership team

What do you need to consider when hiring your senior team? Here, Davina Greene explores in brief some important considerations for before, during and after the recruitment process.

Q: I am the MD of my own business. As we enter a period of expansion, I need to fill some Senior Management roles quite urgently. How should I approach this? My past recruitment experiences have brought mixed results, but these particular roles will be critical to our development.

Firstly, congratulations on your success! Secondly, well done for asking the right question at the right time.

We often mistakenly think of recruitment as drafting a technical job description, reviewing CVs that tick those technical boxes, and then meeting with the applicant to confirm the basic truths of the CV (whilst also checking for general sanity!). The role is then offered, with a sense of relief at having filled a perhaps intimidatingly vacant seat, and the process is considered complete. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Technical skills should be a given; it’s the everything else that will really make the difference.

Some questions for you to consider now are:

1.     Who are you, and with whom do you work best?

“Know thyself”, and do not underestimate the importance of this. The concept of fit is extremely important during recruitment – if you will drive this business for a long time to come, your team needs to fit well with both you and your vision. If you do not truly understand both of these things, finding a match becomes difficult.

Do not succumb to urgency if you are not entirely comfortable with any of the candidates you have met so far. Extra time spent searching for the right person for a senior role could save you weeks, months, or years of difficulty later. A certain chemistry needs to exist; a suitability beyond mere eligibility, as we say.

If the person is not right for you or your business, any friction that develops may ultimately prove contagious within their department. Do everything you can to avoid this through careful selection now.

2.     What skills will complement yours?

An extension of the above – but here, you appreciate the differences. Do you love detail to the point that you really need someone who can pull you back to the ‘big picture’? Do you dread conflict so much that you need someone who is very comfortable confronting – even firing – when necessary? Know what suits you, your behaviours and your strategy, and fill the gaps.

I recommend using psychometric testing for your key positions, preferably during the interview process. Understand your team members on a chosen scale, and then understand them relative to each other. Then let them understand their similarities and differences, teaching them to adapt to each other. This is extremely powerful.

3.     Can you succinctly define your vision?

Explain your vision to any senior candidate, whilst making clear your enthusiasm for them to contribute to its enhancement. Allow them to play a role in deciding if they will fit and whether they are comfortable fostering the intended standards and culture within their department. Be honest! To use a common example, are you really “building a buzzing and creative environment”, or are you just describing your own current emotions about your business?

Identify and communicate the truth early, to avoid disappointment later. And really listen to that truth. If what you are saying about your business sounds uninspiring to you, then I recommend doing some soul-searching on this point. But do not embellish the truth just to lure someone through the door; test instead whether the challenges you face genuinely seem to spark enthusiasm.

There remains a further, critical consideration: When you have these new leaders on board, what is your strategy for the longer term? What steps you will take each week, each month, each year to keep your team – and, consequently, their teams – engaged, focussed, and strategically aligned? If unsure, then please do give this vital question your attention very soon. Vision counts for nothing without actual execution, demonstrated from the top down.


This Q&A was first published in Irish Tatler magazines.

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