Hiring A CEO? Use These 5 Methods to Find A Leader You Can Trust
This hire, more than any other, will set the culture and direction of the company and be most responsible for its success.
You have the perfect business idea. It may even be working. And you are now at the crucial juncture where you want an experienced executive at the top.
It’s time to hire a CEO.
What do you do? This hire, more than any other, will set the culture and direction of the company and be most responsible for its success.
For such a vital hire, a standard interview and case study simply aren’t enough.
At Juxtapose, this is a situation we consider every day. We are an investment fund with a unique approach: We develop business ideas, then find experienced CEOs to run them. As a result, our partners have gone on to create over $2 billion of value in the last five years.
This means our team must be very good at hiring CEOs — and a lot of what we’ve learned can be used by any entrepreneur who’s seeking a steady hand at the top.
Here are five of our favorite methods that can be used on any executive level hire.
1. Hogan Test
There is no “perfect” personality to be looking for in a CEO. Different businesses need different things from the people who lead them. That’s why our focus is on finding the right fit — and after working with a number of different personality indexes, we settled on using the Hogan Personality Assessment to help us do that. It identifies a candidate’s underlying motivators, risk factors and strengths. The value of doing this assessment is in the conversation it generates between the candidate and your team about how they feel about the results. It is during this conversation that they often share what they believe the test got right and what it got wrong, which can tell you how self-aware they are as leaders.
2. Unconscious Bias Review
There are multiple firms to choose from that specialize in diversity and inclusion work and who can offer a quantitative assessment that uncovers potential oversights in a person’s perspective. These reports result in conversations, flags for potential experiences or team members that we need to surround them with, and a chance for the interview process to be one that provides space for real learning.
3. Spousal Perspective
You want to understand a future CEO — not just as a leader, but as a person too. To do this, we often have a spousal dinner (or other casual meeting) with them: They come with their spouse, and someone from our team comes with theirs. We treat this less as an interview and more as a social engagement. These moments are the foundation of a personal and professional relationship and a chance to showcase our own commitment to family.
A flip-the-direction session is a chance for the potential executive to have time dedicated to ask the whole team questions to probe and understand the company they will be joining. Often in junior hires, this session is just a token one-line at the end of an interview. For executives, it is helpful to dedicate a whole hour or two to a session and set up clear frames prior to meeting. Share as much information with them as possible, tell them they are in control of the agenda and to come with questions. In this session, we reverse the power dynamic. We are also able to get a sense of how they are grasping the business idea and how they run a meeting, all qualities that are important in an executive hire.
5. Ego Appraisal
This isn’t a single step, but is instead more a criteria that we discuss after every interaction. We want to understand a candidate's relationship to their ego. How attached are they to the ideas they have? How willing are they to be wrong? How do they respond when challenged? To find out, we find ways throughout the interview process to push or challenge them, or to have them think through a particular situation or exercise. This way, we can see how they relate to the world. By focusing on this criteria, and choosing candidates that have a low sense of attachment and are low-ego, signals a lot about the culture they are going to create at the company they helm.
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