For CEOs

Getting the Help you Need in 2022 - Faster

Last month, I caught up with a good friend of mine, Laura, who is a CTO, and we spoke about how she was hiring two new people onto her team. I was surprised to hear that, in two and a half weeks, she’d moved from job posting to job offer. I’ve worked with leaders for over 20 years, and two and a half weeks is incredibly fast. Usually it’s closer to three months for most roles. Even in Bolster, where we tend to move faster than average, our clients’ average time to fill a job opening is 46 days*. You might wonder why it matters to have a faster time-to-fill? I’ve heard leaders argue that they just need to wait for the right person. Often, though, the person they hire was in the process early. The impact on the organization varies based on the role type. Sometimes it’s useful to leave a role open to better understand what you need in that role. But once you decide to hire for the role, and post it, it’s good for you, the organization and the candidates to speed up the process as much as possible. Here’s why:

It’s good for you: The human brain can only focus on so many things at one time. In The Four Disciplines of Execution, the authors, Covey, McChesney, and Huling explain that with 2-3 priorities, you’ll likely achieve them all with excellence. The longer you have an open role, the fewer other priorities you’ll achieve.

It’s good for your organization: When you have an open role, either something the organization needs isn’t being done, or someone else is doing that work in addition to their own work. And, that person is likely a high performer, and is taking on additional responsibilities because they care about the organization. (and maybe that person is you, in which case it will take you longer to hire, and exacerbate the impact of the open role !)

It’s good for candidates: Especially in this economy with low unemployment, it’s important for candidates to have a good experience in the hiring process. Not only might you lose good talent if you drag the candidate along for weeks on end, you may also give them a negative impression of your company and your decision-making process. Would you rather hire a candidate who’s been engaged in an interview process with you for 3 - 4 weeks, or one who has been in a stop-start process with you for 4 months?

How can you speed up the process and still make a good hiring decision? Here’s a summary of Laura’s process:

  • She defined her needs upfront and got stakeholder input on what they’d like to see in a role
  • She established an interview process which included an “audition” - watching the candidate in action on an important part of the job
  • She created an interview team and ensured all interviewers were available for the week she’d need them
  • She made this her primary focus for the two and a half weeks and held herself accountable to make a timely decision, including acknowledging that there might be other candidates out there who also fit the bill

How can this process apply to on-demand executive roles? There’s a lot at stake when you hire an executive into your company. But what if there was a low-risk way to hire an executive and make sure it’s the right fit? For a later-stage company hiring a full time executive, you can follow the above process by having someone internal drive the process and make sure it’s one of your top priorities before you open the role.

For early stage companies, consider hiring a fractional (part-time) executive - see this blog post for more about the fractional executive. Fractional executives can add a lot of value to an organization - you can afford a more experienced professional when they are only working part time. And, before you hire them as fractional, you can start them on a project so you can better understand their style and skills, and also best determine what you really need in the role. This is a very low-risk approach to the process. Rather than going through the whole hiring process above you can:

  • Define a project for the role. For a Chief People Officer, that might be a culture audit, or implementing a new performance framework, or facilitating a leadership offsite. For a Chief Financial Officer, that might be creating an investor deck or financial model or running a budgeting process. For the Chief Revenue Officer, that might be entering a new market by exploring partnerships, or building a new team and sales processes. If you need inspiration here, check out the projects we defined for all the executive roles in the Bolster platform.
  • Speak with 2 - 3 candidates
  • Select one to define and then execute on the project
  • After the end of the project, either talk with the person about a longer-term engagement, or thank them for the work, and move on to the next executive and next project. If it’s a fit, you’ve both established that it can be a good relationship. If not, your organization will reap the benefits of the completed project

Two questions for CEOs to reflect on:

  • What are you losing by delaying a hire? What’s the impact to your company’s growth and success when you leave a role unfilled for 3 - 6 months? Are you doing that work now, and if so, what else could you be doing with your time? Could you be in-market more, talking with investors or partners more? Spending time with your family?
  • What’s holding you back? Often it’s fear of making a wrong decision. Is there a low-stakes way that you could test whether the individual is the right person for the role?

*46 days includes full time and on-demand roles, tracked from the time we first speak with a client to the time they fill their role. Clients receive a slate of candidates within 24 hours of first speaking with us.

-Cathy Hawley, December 21, 2021