Recruiting, Talent

5 Ways to Get Intentional with Leadership Hiring in 2020

Management recruiting is a challenging and complex task. Not only do you want someone who can lead others and tackle difficult projects, but you also need to find a candidate who can connect and harmonize with an existing team. What’s worse, research from Gallup found that companies fail to choose the right candidate for management jobs 82% of the time.


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With so many dynamics at play, it’s no wonder leadership hiring presents such a unique challenge. Instead of simply checking the boxes and going through the motions, focus on getting intentional in your search. Try these five methods to hire the right leaders in 2020.

1. Assess Your Organization’s Current Needs

Before bringing on a new leader or filling an existing position, take a step back, and assess your company and what it needs. The landscape might be different from when you first created or hired for this role or even from the past year. This means you need to do more than skim the old job ad.

Instead, outline your goals and expectations for this position. Do you want a new employee to enable growth, increase sales, expand current teams, or boost morale? Assess these needs in conjunction with your 2020 objectives and overall business mission. Are they in alignment? What needs to be added or taken away? Dial in on the goals of this role and how it relates to your business needs before typing out a revised or new job ad.

2. Go Beyond Assessing to Attracting 

Right now, the U.S. unemployment rate is just 3.5%, the lowest it’s been since December 1969. That means that the leaders you’re bringing in for interviews may not be looking for a job, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to look elsewhere once they’ve been recruited by you.

Bernard Layton, Managing Director at Comhar Partners, explains, “Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Candidates aren’t looking, but once they engage with a recruiter, they’re more inclined to engage with other recruiters—the odds of them taking a job from a single recruiter is not high—they’ll do due diligence.”

This means you need to switch your focus from simply assessing to attracting. Remember: You need to interest them enough to not only turn down other offers but also leave their current position. A few ways to do that, explains Layton, are:

  • Arrange a car service.
  • Adequately prepare for the interview.
  • Provide a warm welcome—don’t make them wait.
  • Send an itinerary ahead of time, complete with breaks for checking e-mail and voicemail.

Go above and beyond to show high-quality leaders that you’re ready to help them get to the next level of their career.

3. Understand the Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Beyond just checking boxes for work experience and skills, don’t discount the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) when getting intentional about hiring the right leaders. Tay and Val, Cofounders of M Meditation, asked teams at their workshops, “What makes an outstanding leader?” They found that 90% of the qualities given were EQ-related.

They explain, “Employees look for a role model in their leaders. Someone who communicates effectively and powerfully, and inspires others.” One way to find these leaders, according to Tay and Val, is by asking a candidate how he or she would foster psychological safety in the workplace environment:

“The ideal leader creates an environment where team members feel safe to speak up and share their best ideas, and brave enough to take risks to contribute to the company’s goals and visions. Most importantly, an emotionally intelligent leader creates a space where others feel heard, understood, and appreciated.”

For more behavioral interview techniques and questions to assess candidates’ EQ, check out this LinkedIn resource.

4. Create (and Revise) a Comprehensive Job Description

A thorough job description not only is useful for hiring but also helps further define the role for both the company and the interviewees. Whether it’s an existing or a new position, responsibilities and expectations evolve with your company, and so should your job description.

Julie Chase, Head Job Coach at Dream Job Catcher, explains, “Many executives make the mistake of not investing time upfront to define what they really want for the role. This produces either a vague description or a laundry list.”

Don’t forget to look at the team the person will be managing, in addition to considering the day-to-day tasks and goals. Chase says: “Look at the team as a whole and determine what skills and attributes would complement the team, rather than finding someone who will assimilate. This helps you look for a leader who will both round out your team and raise the bar.”

When it comes to writing a comprehensive job description that will attract the right candidates, Chase suggests these simple tips:

  • Write out the core responsibilities, skills, and attributes for the position.
  • Share this list with key stakeholders. Don’t be afraid to make edits and revisions based on team feedback.
  • Craft those bullet points into a narrative to write a description that tells a story about your ideal candidate. For example, “This person loves analyzing data.” Or, “This leader rallies cross-functional teams around a common vision and aligns efforts to achieve objectives.”

5. Remember There Is No ‘Ideal’ Candidate

There’s no one perfect person for a job, and a candidate with different skills or a different outlook might offer a fresh perspective or new strategies to help your organization or team progress. As Liz Ryan, Author and former Fortune 500 HR SVP, explains, “It’s foolish for corporate, startup and institutional leaders to spend months looking for the perfect candidate when there are wonderfully qualified, smart and capable people everywhere.”

Instead, focus on finding a well-rounded client who’s accomplished in his or her own right. Ryan says, “A smart person with very different experience—gained outside your function and/or industry—can always figure out how to do the job.” Look beyond the boxes you’ve created for this role, and instead dive deeper into whether the candidate can tackle the job, regardless of keywords and previous titles.

Get Intentional with Leadership Hiring in 2020

When hiring for these high-level positions, there’s much more at stake, for both your company’s resources and staff. Instead of getting stuck in the weeds looking for perfect candidates or trying to hire based on an outdated job description, take a step back.

Get intentional with leadership hiring by assessing your needs, crowdsourcing input for job ads, focusing on EQ rather than résumé bullet points, and actively engaging all promising candidates.

Jessica ThiefelsJessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications, including Forbes. She also writes for Score, Glassdoor, and more. Follow her on Twitter, @JThiefels, and connect on LinkedIn.