What makes executives successful? It’s a rhetorical question, and here’s the answer: The number one reason executives are successful is because they have great people. That’s it. It’s not to say it’s not important for leaders in companies today to have a wide assortment  of competencies and skills – it’s vital – but your skills as an executive are not scalable – you are only one person, with just so much time in the day to get things done. We’ll discuss the value that executives bring to their teams at a later day; for now, let’s look at how to ensure you hire the best people. After all, this is one of the most important processes to master and it’s not easy.

1.  Be involved with selecting the candidates. Do not leave it to just one function such as HR or the Sales organization. Don’t hand the hiring of key employees off to other functions and then allow yourself to be surprised when people join your organization that do not share your organization’s goals and values. Of course, at a large organization an executive cannot be involved in every hiring decision, but that just reinforces the importance of selecting great people so they, in turn, can also select great people.

2.  Have clear hiring objectives. For each position you need to know what you are looking for in terms of experience, skills, attitude, and aptitude. If you need a new hire to be proficient in a particular software program, or to have great sales skills, don’t hire someone without those skills. And remember, hiring for soft skills is essential. If a potential hire isn’t personable in an interview, they aren’t going to transform in a customer facing situation.

3.  Consider the “upside” of each candidate – the #1 problem I see with executives or hiring managers is that they fail to truly understand the upside of an individual candidate. For example, Candidate A may be the most experienced, but is only going to be so good – they will probably always be a steady B level performer. Candidate B may not have as many years of experience, but given some time and coaching will provide more value to your organization in the long run than Candidate A .What candidate would you hire? Think long term and never be afraid to take a risk on someone who you believe can be a great employee.

4.  Take time when hiring. When a key person leaves, or an urgent need is recognized if your first response is to say “we need someone in here now, who can we hire?” you will end up making costly hiring mistakes. Just hiring a body to fill a position without taking the time to understand the needs of the position and do a thorough interview process will result in a poor hire which will not benefit your organization long-term.

5.  Consider assessment testing (SHL.com or hoganassessments.com) or assessment center services where appropriate and valid –  Especially for key employees, appropriate assessment testing based on the type of job, skills needed, personality traits and the additional information about your candidate can help clarify your hiring decision. Balance the investment in testing with the potential value in return.

6.  Be honest about the work environment. Every organization has frustrating aspects of culture and certain situations. It’s okay to communicate both the positives and negatives of the workplace. Otherwise, you will see your retention rates lag behind your industry average. Plus, who wants to work for someone who isn’t honest?  You will be far more respected and trusted if you are honest from the start and set the standard for integrity. And your employee won’t leave after six months requiring you to start the hiring process over again.

7.  Use common sense and don’t make hiring a silo. Get feedback from multiple areas of the business. Get your client service people to interview an engineer. Have your technical people interview someone for a marketing role. You have a lot of great people working for you – why not let those same great people help you select great people?

There’s a tremendous amount of activity now in Talent Acquisition and companies are investing heavily in these systems. Technology is very important for enhancing the Talent Acquisition process, but you, your people and how you manage and lead your organization will be the determining factor for your organization’s continued success.

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company's growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company's global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike's tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.