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A 5 Step Process to Hiring Better Leaders

December 10, 2015


Most of my engagements over the past 12 years of working with small, medium, and large organizations have been to help them hire and develop better employees. One of the things I have noticed is that most medium and large organizations have a process for hiring their highest volume positions. Not surprisingly, this means that the most effort to develop processes and standards typically goes into entry-level positions. Sometimes they also have processes for higher level positions, but once you get toward the top of the organization (e.g., VPs, Directors, and C-level hiring processes) it almost always breaks down.

Why does it break down, you ask? I have a number of reasons and theories as to why this happens. But at the core of all of my thoughts is the fact that the CEOs of the world who are involved in hiring don’t particularly enjoy being handed an interview guide and asking structured questions to a candidate. (You CEOs reading this know what I am talking about, don’t try to hide!) They are usually more interested in just having a conversation to get a feel for the candidate, and I do think there is a place for this in the hiring process. In this fictitious example, the CEO is really just trying to get a measure of job and cultural fit (and that can be a good thing – see my fifth step below). However, there must be structured, behavioral-based interviews conducted at some point in the process.

In all honesty, the behavioral-based interview is just one piece of the puzzle, though. I believe there are five key areas that need to be considered when hiring leaders.

STEP 1 - Study the Position

Before building any selection system, you need to do your homework and find out the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed for successful performance in the role. This is just as important for leadership positions. Knowing the dynamics of the work group that the person will lead can help you identify the candidate who is the best fit for the position. A great way to do this is to use a job analysis

STEP 2 - Build the Process

Every position within the organization needs a hiring process or there will be chaos! I am only half joking when I say this. I have seen high-level applicants walk away from potential employers because their hiring process was a mess or it just took too darn long. Here are a few tips to remember when devising the hiring process steps:

  1. Only include steps that add value and measurement in the process

  2. Measure the critical skills and abilities uncovered in Step 1 multiple times throughout the process

  3. Make sure everyone involved in the process (particularly your C-level stakeholders) knows the process and their role within that process

STEP 3 - Use Reliable Assessment Tools

This is an easy one, and most organizations have done a good job of incorporating assessments into their processes by this point. If you haven’t you should strongly consider it. Using structured, online assessments adds a tremendous amount of value in the form of predicting future behavior. Assessments consistently outperform and out-predict all other aspects of the hiring process. If you don’t already have an assessment in place this is an easy one to fix.

Related: How Accurate are Pre-Employment Assessments?

STEP 4 - Behavioral Interviews (Even at the Executive Level)

The number one thing I hear from top level leaders is that they "just want to get to know someone." That is great and probably not a terrible way to assess cultural fit, but also a very bad way to conduct an interview. The research shows that unstructured interviews are two to three times less reliable than a structured process. Structure is the only way to ensure you are obtaining reliable information. It is arguably even more important when you get to high-level leaders because they can have a greater impact on the organization as a whole.

Free eBook: Interviewer Tips and Best Practices

STEP 5 – Measure Motivational Fit

Frequently, organizations miss this very simple step. Companies should be measuring motivational fit (or job fit) as part of the hiring process. This is as simple as ensuring that the candidates likes and dislikes are in alignment with the organization and its values. This seems like a no-brainer, but most organizations forget about this and don’t measure it as part of the process.

Seriously, don't forget about the hiring process for leaders. They're some of the most important people in your organization. If you stick to these five steps, you'll be much more likely to hire leaders who will be effective in your organization. Good leaders will make your individual contributor employees better too!

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Paul Glatzhofer Paul Glatzhofer is the VP of Talent Solutions based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI Services LLC. He works primarily with organizations that are implementing global assessment and development systems at the leadership level. Paul’s work includes leadership development, leadership skills training, coaching, leadership and executive selection, turnover and ROI analysis, and ongoing feedback development.