Written by: Adam Lloyd

From process improvements to job movements, everything isn’t always as it seems when identifying the next leader in your organization. As the Boomer generation exits and Millennials increase their share of the workforce, succession planning today is a top priority and external hiring is becoming more competitive.

To keep a leg up in this race for leaders that can drive transformation and resonate with a changing employee population, consider these 20 things in your quest to hire externally or promote internally.


1.      Your organization and opening is not as great to the outside world as to you, or at least not yet. You need to present the advantages of joining your company and the opportunities to contribute to creative change first. Then listen to the responses and begin qualifying.


2.      Introverts are leaders too. Rationale, balance, level headedness, reasoning. All great attributes of leaders. All qualities of introverts. Companies need thinkers and listeners that can process information and come to well informed decisions.


3.      Future leaders have an entrepreneurial mindset. Hierarchy is not as important as comradery when looking to the future generation of leaders. It’s no surprise that more university graduates are starting their own businesses. Think of creative outlets, causes and projects that can be led by up and coming leaders to keep them engaged for succession.


4.      Are you prepared to provide a great candidate experience? Accommodate the candidate(s), be conscious of time by avoiding “filler” meetings, and schedule meetings with your existing leaders that will add valuable insight to the candidate(s) decision making process.


5.      Look for diversity of thought. You may not need someone to come in and reinvent the wheel, but investing in a new set of viewpoints and thinking may be the answer to innovation. Executives from a different angle on your company and industry can provide fresh perspective. Think of end-users, suppliers and other indirect, but related sources.


6.      How is your corporate image viewed in the market and how will it impact your search efforts? Identifying this up-front can potentially lead to an opportunity for someone to impact the organization through positive change. Many leaders thrive on challenges and transformations. If it's already positive, then run with it.


7.      Is there complete buy-in from all internal parties involved? It’s tough going to market with a half-baked opening and trying to sell it. If you know the support and commitment exists internally, terrific. If not, revisit collectively and consider testing the market before engaging in interviews. Your reputation will thank you.


8.      Passive talent is not necessarily the best talent. Situations occur, its real life. Somewhere along the way, we decided that the only capable leaders were currently employed. This is not true, especially considering non-competes and the duration of some assignments. Focus on the reasons for parting ways, not the unemployment.


9.      Psychological assessments are an interview guide and tool to structure questions, not a decision maker.


10.   Executives text. One the fastest ways to get a response from an executive level candidate is to send a brief text. They’re often mobile, swimming in emails and unable to talk. Confirming scheduling, yes or no questions, and of course their consent to text, are good reasons to.


11.   Do your homework. Leaders will expect that you have reviewed their experience and can articulate why they would fit into your company. Some organizations go to great lengths and get personal by researching back to executives’ high school and college activities, in an effort to relate and connect with those memories.


12.   Don’t let candidate volume impede your outcome. Presenting an offer to the first candidate that has a positive review is not the best move, but neither is sitting on a great candidate to meet some magical number of others. Executive hiring is not a high-volume transactional process. 


13.   Timing kills deals. Offer negotiations are stressful situations and they can take time. It’s very important to communicate often, especially if there’s a hold-up in the approval process. Nobody wants to put their guard down and both parties just want to come to an agreement. When companies are transparent, it usually favors them in the end.


14.   We’re all consumer facing nowadays. There’s a number of ways to look at this. One is that candidate is a consumer of your company and position. Another is how your organization directly impacts people, not other businesses. Prospective leaders will want to know how you impact both.


15.   What are the performance metrics and goals for the new the leader? Be sure that all stakeholders have reached a consensus on the short-term and long-term objectives and that these can be communicated on the front-end.


16.   What’s happening to the incumbent, if there is one?


17.   Ensure you have the right resources and support in place. If you are leading the search, is there research support or tools to continue building out your talent pool? If you go external, does your partner know the market well and have a proposed plan that can be reviewed with hiring managers? Relying on a database is not enough in the digital age.


18.   Review your messaging. You get one chance to make a first impression, so be sure you’re going to market with honest and enticing information initially. Keep your engagement light and exploratory up-front and then proceed to more depth and vetting. 


19.   People work for people, not companies. Even at the highest levels in organizations, it’s the peers that executives will be working with that is one of the top deciding factors if they’ll join your company. Be sure to know the stories of your internal leaders so you can offer insight to candidates.


20.   Everyone is an asset and a resource. Treat everyone well. Even those that will not be your hire or appear not to provide you immediate value; the world is a small place and word mouth spreads quickly. Besides that, it’s the morally right thing to do.


Consider this a start to building your pre-hiring checklist and you’ll be prepared to engage top leaders in under any circumstances.