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Written by:
Zoe Boyd

C-suite Recruitment: Tips & Tricks

Hiring the right C-suite candidates is crucial to get right, and taking on the wrong person can be catastrophic. Here are some tips on recruiting the best talent for your C-suite.

Most businesses don’t start off with a C-suite. Smaller companies – particularly start-ups – might only have a handful of employees, and the founders take care of most of the roles that a C-suite team would play. While that’s fine when the company is small, significant growth or investment can turn a new business into a shooting star that all of a sudden has more staff, more turnover and more expectations than it can manage.

At a certain point, a C-suite becomes necessary. Being able to split the overall job of running the company into several separate roles with their own responsibilities ensures the CEO can focus on the firm’s overall strategy. A startup CEO is often required to manage strategy, finance, tech, HR and more, and it’s very rare to find a CEO who is an expert in all of these areas.

Hiring a C-suite means these roles can be filled by specialists, who can bring their own expertise to the table and take on the strategic decisions for specific areas of your business. You can also hire people with experience in C-suite roles, which is especially important for startup owners who may not have any background running large companies.

Of course, the challenge is finding and recruiting the people with the right skills, experience and attitude to fill your C-suite roles. At this level, candidates are at the top of the business world, so enticing them to your company can be difficult without a solid recruitment plan. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you fill your C-suite roles with the experts your business needs to succeed.


C-Suite Definitions

The term ‘C-suite’ refers to any of a company’s top management positions. These job titles usually begin with ‘chief’, which is where the ‘C’ in C-suite comes from. Each position is responsible for the overall management of a specific area of the business, although there can be overlap. Here are the most common C-suite positions you might have heard of:

CEO: Chief Executive Officer

Generally this is the first C-suite position to be filled, usually by the business’ founder. Startup founders become de facto CEOs when they set up their companies. While they might start out as being solely responsible for the entirety of the organisation’s performance, with an effective C-suite they should be able to reduce this to less than half, while still having overall responsibility for the company’s success.

CFO: Chief Financial Officer

In short, the CFO manages the company’s finances. However, this is not a bookkeeping role; the CFO is responsible for managing financial risk and value creation, including engaging investors and developing a financial strategy.

CTO/CIO: Chief Technology/Information Officer

There is a lot of overlap between these two roles, and their exact nature depends on the company, but in short they are responsible for your company’s technology. Generally, a CTO is responsible for external tech and a CIO for internal.

CMO: Chief Marketing Officer

The CMO manages your company’s marketing. However, more specifically they are in charge of ensuring your marketing is actually driving sales, revenue and growth, which is a much more strategic role.

CEO: Chief Operating Officer

While around half of Fortune 500 companies had a COO in 2000, that number dropped to around a third by 2018. However, the COO is not obsolete; they manage the way your organisation delivers its product or service to market, and take responsibility for the more practical aspects of your business.


Sourcing Quality C-Suite Candidates

Once you understand the need for C-suite positions, you need to find people to fill them. This is much easier said than done; the skills and abilities you will need in order to recruit an effective C-suite are in short supply. The first step is identifying the precise talents your organisation needs. A good place to start is with looking at what’s lacking; is there a skill your current management doesn’t possess?

You also need to think about your organisation’s culture. This is more than just the personalities of your staff. Facebook’s motto for a while was “move fast and break things”, and its C-suite needed to be on-board with that as their goal. Think about your organisation’s philosophy and how your C-suite will carry it out.

You likely already have a small talent pool for your C-suite roles, so don’t limit it to people in your local area. There are plenty of candidates all around the country or even abroad who would be happy to move for the right role, and are capable of doing it remotely. International talent can often be a great solution for hard-to-hire roles.

If all this sounds overwhelming, it might be a good idea to partner with a specialist. A recruitment agency specialising in sourcing executive talent can provide you with the expertise, technology and knowledge needed to find and hire the right C-suite candidates for your business.


Interviewing C-Suite Candidates

Once you’ve managed to shortlist candidates for a C-suite position, you will need to think about how to interview them. These roles are some of the most important in your company, and will play a huge part in its success or failure. This means you can’t rely on simple interviews to properly assess each potential hire.

An interview only gives you a short period of time to assess a candidate’s personality, work ethic, approach to your business and more. While you can – and should – take longer on C-suite interviews, you still can’t expect to learn all that about a person from a simple conversation. Instead, it is important to assess them more objectively.

Assessments and exams are one way to do this. Provide candidates with an exercise that will indicate their knowledge, understanding, attitudes and skillset. These can then be reviewed later. Any candidate can say they will bring success to your business, but an assessment lets them prove it.

Another option is a simulation. This is harder to achieve, but often provides more useful results. Set up a situation with your employees that the candidate has to enter into and act as if it was a real task. This could be a strategy meeting, a crisis or anything they would likely have to deal with as part of the role. 


Negotiating The Terms

As mentioned, good C-suite candidates are not always easy to find. This means when you find one, you will likely have to pay a premium salary in order to attract them to the job. However, you will want to get the best available deal rather than paying whatever they ask for, which is where negotiations come in.

The first important thing to remember is that negotiations are two-way. You can offer a salary and benefits package to a candidate and if they don’t want to accept it, encourage them to come to you with a counter-offer. That way, you can work out terms that are acceptable to both parties.

You should also remember that salary is not everything. Plenty of companies have benefits packages that are in many cases more attractive to candidates than the pay raise the job would provide them. Think about things you can offer your candidates that will be more valuable than an increase in salary to them, but less expensive for you.

Finally, negotiations are always stronger if you have multiple options on which to fall back. Try not to fixate on one candidate, and prepare a final shortlist of several that would all be good options for your company. Then, you can be more confident offering what you are comfortable paying with the knowledge that if the negotiation fails, you have other people you can potentially hire instead.

Finding C-suite candidates is not easy, but they are some of the most important roles in your business. A good C-suite can help your company reach new levels of success, so hiring the right people is essential. If you need help recruiting executive talent, Allen Recruitment is a specialist recruitment agency with years of experience hiring C-suite candidates for their clients. Get in touch today to find out how we can help:



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